ESPN delivered a high quality slate of college football games for Week 1 of the 2021 season. Four of the top five teams in the preseason rankings took center stage in the ABC tripleheader on Saturday, which obviously drew in quite a lot of attention from around the country.
The television ratings reflected that fans were wildly interested in the three games on the schedule for the network. Across all three match-ups, ABC averaged 5,040,000 viewers, which marked the best Kickoff Saturday tripleheader since 2017.
Each individual game also produced better ratings than the three comparable games in 2019. The Alabama–Miami contest, which kicked off at 3:30 p.m. ET was up eight percent from two years ago and averaged above five million viewers throughout. The blowout peaked with 6.1 million viewers at the end of the first half.
However, the real highlight of the day for ABC and ESPN came during the Georgia–Clemson game. The contest averaged nearly eight million average viewers, which puts it on track to become the second-most viewed Kickoff Saturday game on any network in the last 15 years.
Saturday's @ABCNetwork 🏈 tripleheader 𝐃𝐄𝐋𝐈𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐄𝐃:
– Georgia/Clemson on track to become the 2nd-most-viewed Kickoff Saturday game on 𝐚𝐧𝐲 network in 15 years
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 5, 2021
Georgia and Clemson was a nail-biter throughout, as both defenses prevented the game from ever getting out of reach. The lone highlight, and touchdown, came when Bulldogs defensive back Christopher Smith intercepted a pass and took it the distance, just before the end of the first half. Both schools kicked field goals in the second half, making the final result 10-3.
ABC and ESPN clearly made a splash with their Week 1 line-up and will now look to follow it up next weekend. Florida vs. South Florida at Raymond James Stadium will kick off the slate on Saturday at 1 p.m ET, followed by the College Gameday match-up between Iowa at Iowa State at 4:30. Washington at Michigan will close out the Week 2 tripleheader at 8 p.m. ET.