The numbers are in…according to Sports Media Watch, what follows is a breakdown of the games that drew the most TV viewership during the regular-season portion of the 2022 college football season.
Of the 20 clubs that participated in the top five most-watched Power 5 games and the top 5 non-conference contests, nine (or 45 percent) hailed from the SEC, five (or 25 percent) were Big Ten members, three were Independents, and two represented the ACC. That leaves the Big 12 and the AAC, each with one team in the mix. The Pac-12 was not represented at all.
Three elite programs participated in more than one of the most-watched games – Alabama and Ohio State each played in three such games while Florida State appeared in two.
The network/time combo that attracted the most viewers in 2022 was evenly split between a trio of options, each making the most-watched list three times: FOX’s noon ET offering, CBS’s 3:30pm ET timeslot, and then ABC’s 7:30pm ET fixture.
Of the five most-watched games featuring two Group of 5 programs (other than Army/Navy, which made the big boards), three were played on a Friday, with two coming the day after Thanksgiving. Of the ten participants, five were AAC members, four hailed from the Mountain West, and one was an Independent. Two of the five games were non-conference affairs, both featuring military academies. The Sun Belt, MAC, and C-USA were not represented.
POWER 5 CONFERENCE GAMES
1. (3) MICHIGAN at (2) OHIO STATE – Week 13, Saturday, Nov. 16, Noon EST, FOX
Viewers: 17.14 million
Also the most watched regular-season contest in 2022, only three games – the CFP National Championship and the Semifinals – attracted more viewers than did Ohio State/Michigan.
2. (2) TENNESSEE at (1) GEORGIA – Week 10, Saturday, Nov. 5, 3:30pm ET, CBS
Viewers: 13.06 million
Tennessee/Georgia was also the second-most watched among all regular-season games. It, like Ohio State/Michigan, also outdrew all the bowl games, except for the CFP action, as well as the entire offering of conference championship games.
3. (3) ALABAMA at (6) TENNESSEE – Week 7, Saturday, Oct. 15, 3:30pm ET, CBS
Viewers: 11.56 million
Alabama/Tennessee was also the third-most watched regular-season game overall and, along with Michigan/Ohio State and Tennessee/Georgia, outdrew all but the CFP portion of the postseason.
4. (10) ALABAMA at (11) OLE MISS – Week 11, Saturday, Nov. 12, 3:30pm ET, CBS
Viewers: 8.71 million
More viewers tuned in for the regular season clash between the Crimson Tide and Rebels than did the Orange Bowl (Tennessee vs. Clemson), which attracted 8.59 million.
5. (2) OHIO STATE at (13) PENN STATE – Week 9, Saturday, Oct. 29, Noon ET, FOX
Viewers: 8.27 million
1. (1) ALABAMA at TEXAS – Week 2, Saturday, Sept. 10, Noon ET, FOX
Viewers: 10.6 million
Overall, Alabama/Texas was the fourth-most watched regular-season game in 2022, attracting more viewers than did the Rose Bowl (Penn State vs. Utah) with 10.19 million viewers
2. (5) NOTRE DAME at (2) OHIO STATE – Week 1, Saturday, Sept. 3, 7:30pm ET, ABC
Viewers: 10.53 million
Notre Dame/Ohio State was also the fifth-most watched regular season game in 2022.
3. FLORIDA STATE vs. LSU (at New Orleans, La.) – Week 1, Sunday, Sept. 4, 7:30pm ET, ABC
Viewers: 7.55 million
Florida State/LSU also came in as the sixth-most viewed regular season game in 2022 and was the most-viewed clash between squads that were unranked at game time.
4. ARMY vs. NAVY (at Philadelphia, Pa.) – Week 15, Saturday, Dec. 10, 3pm ET, CBS
Viewers: 6.94 million
Army/Navy was also the most viewed Group of 5 vs. Group of 5 matchup in 2022 and outdrew the Pac-12 title game (Utah vs. USC) which attracted 5.97 million.
5. FLORIDA at (16) FLORIDA STATE – Week 13, Friday, Nov. 25, 7:30pm ET, ABC
Viewers: 6.71 million
GROUP OF 5 vs. GROUP OF 5 GAMES (other than Army/Navy)
1. (19) TULANE at (21) CINCINNATI – Week 13, Friday, Nov. 25, Noon ET, ABC
Viewers: 1.72 million
Tulane/Cincinnati out drew Nebraska/Iowa, which was played that same day at 4pm ET on the Big Ten Network, pulling in 1.47 million viewers.
2. UTAH STATE at BOISE STATE – Week 13, Friday, Nov. 25, Noon ET, CBS
Viewers: 1.44 million
Utah State/Boise State outdrew Oklahoma/Texas Tech, which was played that same weekend on FS1, attracting 1.21 million viewers.
3. TULANE at HOUSTON – Week 5, Friday, September 30, 7pm ET, ESPN
Viewers: 1.26 million
More people watched Tulane/Houston than did West Virginia/Texas which was played the next evening at 7:30pm ET on FS1, with 1.19 million viewers.
4. AIR FORCE at ARMY (at Arlington, Texas) – Week 10, Saturday, Nov. 5, 11:30am ET, CBS
Viewers: 1.23 million
Air Force/Army outdrew Minnesota/Nebraska, which aired on ESPN2 in the same time slot, drawing in 1.07 million viewers.
5. NAVY at AIR FORCE – Week 5, Saturday, Oct. 1, Noon ET, CBS
Viewers: 1.13 million
More viewers tuned in for Navy/Air Force than did Purdue/Minnesota, which aired in the same time slot on ESPN2, attracting 829,000.
The most-watched regular-season ACC conference game:
(10) NC STATE at (5) CLEMSON – Week 5, Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30pm ET, ABC & ESPN2
Viewers: 4.98 million
The most-watched regular-season Big 12 conference game:
(4) TCU at (18) TEXAS – Week 11, Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30pm ET, ABC
Viewers: 5.03 million
The most-watched regular-season Pac-12 conference game:
(7) USC at (16) UCLA – Week 12, Saturday, Nov. 19, 8pm ET, FOX
Viewers: 4.53 million
Roughly 12 million fewer viewers tuned in for the biggest ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 matchups in 2022 than did the most-watched Big Ten game. Compared to the SEC’s best offering, eight million fewer viewers watched.