Week Zero may have featured a dud of a game, but don’t tell that to the fans who were excited to have college football back in their lives.
According to an ESPN press release, Saturday night’s game between the Miami Hurricanes and the No. 8 Florida Gators was the network’s highest-rated regular season game in nearly three years.
The primetime game earned a 4.1 overnight rating, which was the best for any non-playoff game on ESPN since Ohio State-Michigan State on Nov. 19, 2016. It was also the top-rated game for any Saturday in August or game over Labor Day Weekend, which has typically been the first week of each season.
Viewership peaked at 4.9 around 10:30 p.m. ET when the Canes embarked on their final drive. Down four points with four minutes to play, Miami defensive back Romeo Finley picked off Florida's Feleipe Franks, which gave them the ball on the Florida 25. However, a trio of Miami penalties cost them precious field position before they eventually turned it over on downs with 12 seconds to play.
The state of Florida did the heavy lifting ratings-wise, with six of the top eight markets watching the game. However, Birmingham, Ala., came in as the highest-viewing city with an 18.7 rating.
Viewership was up for the day as a whole, ESPN said, with the first FCS game between Samford and Youngstown State also seeing a 50 percent increase from last season.
ESPN’s pregame show “College GameDay” — which hosted UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton for an interview — saw a similar 60 percent increase in viewership from last year’s season opener. That was partially thanks to increasing the run time from one hour to three hours.
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