At least this season, college football TV storylines are superior to the NFL

On3 imageby:Eric Prisbell11/29/23


Alabama vs. Georgia Preview and Prediction

The NFL is still king – just not this season.

Last weekend demonstrated in vivid detail what has been apparent all season: College football 2023 is a superior product to the NFL 2023 – and by a wide margin.

Saturday gave us a Jim Harbaugh-less Michigan team delivering Ohio State coach Ryan Day yet another defeat in an electric atmosphere as every Gus Johnson call made it sound like the fate of the world hung in the balance. It gave us another Iron Bowl miracle with Alabama converting on 4th and goal from the 31. It gave us Washington and Florida State both holding off rivals to remain unbeaten.

Sunday gave us a lackluster assortment of NFL games featuring a lackluster assortment of mostly struggling starting and backup quarterbacks. Only the Philadelphia EaglesBuffalo Bills game was compelling. The rest? A great cure for insomnia.

As expected, Michigan-OSU on FOX Sports’ “Big Noon Saturday” attracted a huge audience – 19.07 million, the most-watched game this season. That is the largest viewing audience in the rivalry since 21 million watched the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in 2006.

Make no mistake, the NFL remains in a class by itself when it comes to viewership. More than 41 million people watched the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving afternoon, according to SportsMedia Watch, making it the most-watched regular season game on record. In fact, all three Thanksgiving NFL games – as well as Bills-Eagles – eclipsed Michigan-Ohio State in viewers.

And that massive number for Cowboys-Commanders almost certainly will dwarf viewership numbers for the College Football Playoff championship. The CFP championship has not garnered more than 30 million viewers since Ohio State-Oregon in January 2015.

Millions of people are still watching the NFL this season. But because of parity run amok or a dearth of healthy, capable quarterbacks, the product just isn’t up to its usual standards. Even retired Tom Brady recently said on “The Steven A. Smith Show” that “I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL. I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past.”

There will be no mediocrity in this year’s CFP

Meantime, college football just authored its most-watched regular season across all networks. As we enter conference championship weekend, four power conference teams – Georgia, Michigan, Florida State and Washington – are undefeated and looking to secure berths in the four-team CFP. And right behind them are formidable once-beaten teams in Ohio State, Oregon, Texas and Alabama.

Unlike the 14-team NFL postseason tournament, there will be no mediocrity in this year’s CFP.

What happens next season, the first year of the expanded 12-team CFP?

It remains to be seen if there is a regular-season ratings dip at all because teams will still be able to make the tournament despite absorbing a loss or two. The safe bet is that the big brands will still produce robust ratings, especially as fans tune in to see new intraconference matchups in the expanded conferences.

In 2023, look at college football and see intriguing storylines nationwide. 

Georgia is trying to be the first team in the modern era to win three straight national titles. Michigan is in pursuit of a long-elusive title as its coach still sucks up all the oxygen in the room. And Oregon and/or Washington could give the crumbled Pac-12 its first CFP berth since the 2016 season in the final year of the 108-year Conference of Champions.

A tad more than 9 million watched Alabama-Auburn on CBS. That is a 45% increase from Iron Bowl viewership last season but the third-lowest for the rivalry over the past decade.

Regardless, you weren’t going to find a finish like that on your television or preferred mobile device Sunday. At least in 2023, college football is a superior product to the NFL — and it’s not close.

Record-setting Thanksgiving for college hoops on FOX

Men’s and women’s college basketball are seeing particularly strong early-season viewing numbers on FOX.

Some 5.2 million viewers tuned in to watch Michigan StateArizona, making it the most-watched regular-season college basketball game on any network since 2008. It was the most-watched college basketball game ever on FOX.

In addition, 1.1 million viewers watched TennesseeIndiana women’s basketball, making it the most-watched women’s game ever on FOX and the most-watched women’s game on any network so far this season.