“Ohio State’s game with TCU performed 48 percent better than last year’s Week 3 game at the same time between Clemson and Louisville.”
TV may be struggling, but Ohio State’s ratings are not. The Buckeyes’ matchup Saturday versus TCU was the highest-rated college football program of the young season, earning a 4.9 overnight rating nationally. The top-25, primetime matchup was one of just three this weekend, but ABC and ESPN’s ratings got a boost. Each progressive timeslot on ABC, which included a noon matchup between Iowa State and No. 5 Oklahoma, a 3:30 p.m. between BYU and Wisconsin, and the Ohio State matchup at primetime, produced progressively higher ratings.
No. 1 Alabama’s matchup with Ole Miss Saturday night, aired on ESPN, was the second-highest rated college game on cable this year, behind ESPN’s week two game between then-No. 2 Clemson and Texas A&M.
Peak viewership for the Buckeyes-Horned Frogs matchup, naturally, came from Columbus, which had a 41.1 local rating. Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Oklahoma City rounded out the top-five viewership regions. Dallas-Ft. Worth was seventh, with a 9.1 overnight rating. The highest-rated game of last season, coincidentally, was Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma.
The Buckeyes have an opportunity to continue to boost their ratings on a national scale, as they are scheduled to play Penn State at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 on ABC. It will also be a white out game for Penn State. This season will mark the fourth time the two teams have squared off in primetime in the past five seasons. Most recently, despite Penn State leading the entire game, Ohio State mounted a massive fourth quarter comeback to defeat Saquon Barkley’s squad.
“It’s not for everybody. Some people would rather play fewer conference games or FCS, but we believe in strength of schedule because we’re trying to do a variety of things.”
It was a brutal weekend for the Big Ten up until the time Ohio State took the field Saturday night. Half the conference lost, all to unranked opponents. Wisconsin, who had been sitting at the No. 6 spot in last week’s AP Poll, took the hardest hit, falling to BYU 24-21 in Madison and dropping a dozen spots in the AP Poll. Northwestern lost to Akron in Evanston 39-34, just a week after falling to Duke at home. Purdue is 0-3 on the year after dropping another home game to Missouri 40-37. Illinois, Nebraska and Maryland all fell to teams from non-Power-5 conferences. But the most cringe-worthy loss of the weekend was definitely Rutgers, with the Scarlet Knights falling to Kansas 55-14. Yes, the same Kansas that went 1-11 last season.
This weekend was a microcosm of how the Big Ten as a conference has fared this short season, which, overall, is not well. Michigan fell on national television to Notre Dame. Michigan State lost to Arizona State (which lost this weekend, by the way). Penn State barely escaped Appalachian State. There are only five undefeated teams in the conference as the majority of the Big Ten exits non-conference play (Ohio State, Indiana, Penn State, Iowa and Minnesota). And now, with the loss by Wisconsin, Ohio State, as it stands, remains the only hope for the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff.
While it has been a rough go for the conference in the past three weeks, the fact remains that most of the Big Ten teams have consistently played challenging non-conference schedules. Yes, there are a lot of MAC opponents involved, but the MAC is not the worst of the non-Power-5 conferences. Ohio State in particular has not been shy about scheduling premier competition a la TCU and Oklahoma. Running the table against these schedules means a major resume boost when it comes to playoff selection.
“It was Kent State, so let’s not get too excited. But Penn State is getting untracked.”
Speaking of playoffs, Ohio State still looks like a contender after their Week 3 win over TCU Saturday night, according to USA Today’s most recent projection. Though it took two quarters for the Buckeyes to get their offense in gear, Dwayne Haskins was able to prove himself against the toughest defense in the Big 12.
Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia round out the quartet of teams, locking out squads from both the Pac-12 and ACC. The Crimson Tide had a massive win over Ole Miss this weekend, despite talk that the Rebels might actually be able to put up a fight against Nick Saban’s squad. Oklahoma, meanwhile, had a closer than expected call against Iowa State in Ames, and Georgia took care of business against Middle Tennessee State.
Clemson, ranked No. 5 by USA Today, beat Georgia Southern over the weekend, but remained outside the top-four. LSU, however, has boosted its stock with two top-10 wins in its first three games.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, only Penn State looks to be a serious playoff contender at this point. With Wisconsin having lost to BYU Saturday, and Michigan falling in week one to Notre Dame, it once again appears to be a race between Ohio State and the Nittany Lions. Despite a scare versus Appalachian State, James Franklin’s squad looked to be back on track after a massive win over Kent State.