The Ohio State Buckeyes (No. 3 in the preseason AP poll) took down Notre Dame (No. 8 in that poll) 21-10 Saturday, and they did so in front of a whole lot of viewers on ABC. As Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors noted, the 10.5 million viewers for that game were higher than every regular-season 2021 game except Ohio State-Michigan (which drew 15.9 million viewers).
Ohio State’s season-opening win over Notre Dame drew more TV viewers than every regular-season college football game last year except for Ohio State/Michigan. https://t.co/azz5lJxKnP
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) September 7, 2022
The 10.5 million here didn’t beat last year’s Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl by much (that game drew 10.4 million), but it did beat it. And the 10.5 million here stacks up quite favorably to regular-season games in several other previous years, too.
In the pandemic-altered 2020 season, Ohio State-Michigan wasn’t played, and the top regular-season game was Clemson-Notre Dame (10.1 million), with Georgia-Alabama second at 9.6 million and the Iron Bowl third at 6.7 million. In 2019, three games beat this mark: Alabama-LSU (16.6 million), Ohio State-Michigan (12.4 million), and the Iron Bowl (11.4 million). In 2018, only two games beat this number, Michigan-Ohio State (13.2 million) and Alabama-LSU (11.5 million). So that makes this the seventh-highest regular-season viewership number in the past five years, only beaten by those five games from 2019 and 2018 and the aforementioned 15.9 million for Ohio State-Michigan last year.
As that last paragraph shows, the viewership numbers for any individual college football matchup can change pretty dramatically from year to year, with team rankings (and thus, stakes) and competition from other games among the factors there. But it is notable that Ohio State was in three of these six other games, all against Michigan. So this number adds to the Buckeyes’ status as a big draw (and also adds to the case for how much Fox, CBS and NBC just paid for future Big Ten rights), and to their status as a draw against teams other than the Wolverines.
It’s also a notable number for the Fighting Irish, who reportedly have the only specifically-written-in escalator clause in those new Big Ten deals (but seem likely to stay independent, at least for now). Their viewership numbers haven’t hit quite the peaks of Ohio State’s over the last five years, so it’s certainly significant to see them posting another regular-season game with more than 10 million viewers. And while Notre Dame and Ohio State haven’t played all that often (before this, their last regular-season games against each other came in 1995 and 1996), they’re set to play again next year at Notre Dame. And that game may wind up doing numbers as well.