Connect with us

Football

Predicting Weeks 1-3 of the 2024 CFB season TV schedule

Published

on

As we learned last year, attempting to predict kickoff times comes with massive potential to backfire. If you get one game wrong — say, the noon ESPN game — it has a hammering ripple effect. We still wanted to try again, though, for educational purposes.

The Weeks 1-3 lineup the networks will unveil Thursday will look different. First: ESPN now owns all of the SEC’s rights and will begin showcasing the conference on ABC. The network gave a sneak peek earlier this month, when it announced SEC afternoon/prime-time double-headers in each of the first three weeks. Second: CBS will air its first full-season Big Ten schedule in the SEC’s former window. It will not, however, be the first pick most weeks, as those slots rotate among Fox (Noon ET most weeks), CBS (3:30 p.m. ET) and NBC (7:30 p.m. ET). Third: There is no more Pac-12. This will become most noticeable in ESPN’s “After Dark” window, which might feature a lot of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — all now battling in the Big 12.

We only forecasted games for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1. NBC will place a few Big Ten games on Peacock, but it’s impossible to guess which ones. We did not attempt to guess which ACC games will appear on The CW. All times Eastern.

Week 1

The SEC has a stacked opening weekend, and nearly every game has been announced. That includes ABC’s trifecta of Clemson-Georgia in Atlanta at noon, Miami (Fla.) at Florida (3:30 p.m.) and Notre Dame at Texas A&M (7:30). ESPN also airs Colorado State at Texas (3:30 p.m.) and Western Kentucky at Alabama (7:30 p.m.). It doesn’t leave much speculation, although Virginia Tech at Vanderbilt deserves a decent spot, and we gave them ESPN at noon.

Four marquee football programs enter the Big Ten this fall but only one of the league’s 18 teams plays a Power 4 opponent at home — and none on a Saturday. Luckily for Fox, which also has a deal with the Big 12, it snags a quality matchup for Big Noon with Penn State traveling to West Virginia. The Minnesota State Fair traditionally sends the Gophers’ season opener to Thursday, and they face North Carolina that night. Fox has aired a season-opening Thursday night Big Ten game in each of the last three seasons, two of which previously involved Minnesota at home. This might become an annual tradition.

The Big Ten has a draft among Fox (its primary rights holder), CBS and NBC. This is a week when Fox can air a 3:30 p.m. game alongside CBS. NBC has announced defending national champion Michigan will open against Fresno State in its regular 7:30 p.m. time slot. Because the remaining schedule is very underwhelming, Ohio State becomes the default, presuming Fox has the second pick. For CBS, Nebraska will have a great atmosphere for what will likely be ballyhooed freshman quarterback Dylan Raiola’s debut.

As for the Big 12, 11 teams play FCS opponents. The most compelling unannounced game involves two-time defending FCS champion South Dakota State traveling to Oklahoma State. That will find a good home somewhere, and we put it in prime time on FS1.

Week 1 predicted programming

Matchup Time Network

Thursday, Aug. 29

North Dakota State at Colorado

8 p.m.

ESPN

UNC at Minnesota

8 p.m.

Fox or FS1

Friday, Aug. 30

Temple at Oklahoma

7 p.m.

ESPN

Western Michigan at Wisconsin

7:30 p.m.

FS1

TCU at Stanford

10:30 p.m.

ESPN

Saturday, Aug. 31

Penn State at West Virginia

Noon

Fox

Clemson vs. Georgia (Atlanta)

Noon

ABC

Virginia Tech at Vanderbilt

Noon

ESPN

UConn at Maryland

Noon

FS1

Portland State at Washington State

3 p.m.

The CW

Miami at Florida

3:30 p.m.

ABC

UTEP at Nebraska

3:30 p.m.

CBS

Akron at Ohio State

3:30 p.m.

Fox

Colorado State at Texas

3:30 p.m.

ESPN

UNLV at Houston

3:30 p.m.

FS1

Idaho State at Oregon State

6:30 p.m.

The CW

Western Kentucky at Alabama

7 p.m.

ESPN

Notre Dame at Texas A&M

7:30 p.m.

ABC

Fresno State at Michigan

7:30 p.m.

NBC

South Dakota State at Oklahoma State

7:30 p.m.

FS1

UCLA at Hawaii

8 p.m.

CBS

New Mexico at Arizona

10:30 p.m.

ESPN

Idaho at Oregon

10:30 p.m.

FS1

Sunday, Sept. 1

LSU vs. USC

7:30 p.m.

ABC

Monday, Sept. 2

Boston College at Florida State

7:30 p.m.

ESPN

Week 2

The Big Ten announced nine Friday night games on Fox, but another five will air on FS1 or Big Ten Network. We opted making DukeNorthwestern one of them. Michigan State-Maryland is another possibility, but we made it a Saturday afternoon FS1 game.

Fox already announced Texas-Michigan as its Big Noon game this week, as did NBC with Colorado-Nebraska. We have CBS taking Iowa State-Iowa for its Big Ten pick. Fox last season aired a rare 10:30 p.m. ET game in Week 2. Assuming it does so again this year, Boise StateOregon is an obvious choice.

In the SEC, we already know ABC will air South Carolina-Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. and TennesseeNC State (in Charlotte) at 7:30 p.m. We put Houston-Oklahoma on ABC at noon. Cal-Auburn (Noon ESPN) and USF-Alabama (7 p.m., ESPN) could easily flip.

The top Big 12 game figures to air on Fox at 3:30 p.m. most weeks, and this week’s is likely SEC foe Arkansas visiting Oklahoma State. PittCincinnati has regional appeal, so it got a prime-time ESPN2 window.

NBC’s Notre Dame package begins this week when the Irish host NIU. That could also be Notre Dame’s one Peacock game, but it also hosts Miami-OH in Week 4.

The Mountain West’s TV deal includes a few games on CBS, which it mostly uses on early-season nonconference games. Last year, it aired a UCLASan Diego State game in prime time. This year, we gave it the Aztecs vs. Oregon State.

Week 2 predicted programming

Matchup Time Network

Friday, Sept. 6

Duke at Northwestern

7:30 p.m.

FS1

BYU at SMU

7:30 p.m.

ESPN2

Saturday, Sept. 7

Houston at Oklahoma

Noon

ABC

Texas at Michigan

Noon

Fox

Cal at Auburn

Noon

ESPN

Appalachian State at Clemson

Noon

ESPN2

Kansas at Illinois

Noon

FS1

NIU at Notre Dame

2:30 p.m.

NBC

South Carolina at Kentucky

3:30 p.m.

ABC

Iowa State at Iowa

3:30 p.m.

CBS

Arkansas at Oklahoma State

3:30 p.m.

Fox

Michigan State at Maryland

3:30 p.m.

FS1

Kansas State at Tulane

3:30 p.m.

ESPN2

USF at Alabama

7 p.m.

ESPN

Texas Tech at Washington State

7 p.m.

FS1

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

7:30 p.m.

ESPN2

Colorado at Nebraska

7:30 p.m.

NBC

NC State vs. Tennessee

7:30 p.m.

ABC

Oregon State at San Diego State

7:30 p.m.

CBS

Baylor at Utah

10 p.m.

ESPN

Boise State at Oregon

10:30 p.m.

Fox

Utah State at USC

10:30 p.m.

FS1

Week 3

The confluence of early-season conference games, reignited rivalries and morganatic nonconference leftovers makes Week 3 an odd combination of the fascinating and shrug-worthy.

It appears Fox landed the top selection with Alabama heading to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin for Big Noon. CBS swooped in for the resumption of the Notre Dame-Purdue rivalry. For its night broadcast, NBC has a choice between Washington StateWashington in Seattle or Indiana at UCLA. The Apple Cup rivalry seems too strong to pass up, while the Bruins’ first Big Ten game seems fitting in prime time with FS1.

Last year, Maryland played host to old ACC rival Virginia on a Friday. It seems only right the Cavaliers should reciprocate on ESPN this year.

Two SEC games already are slotted for ABC: Texas A&M at Florida (3:30 p.m.) and Georgia at Kentucky (7:30 p.m.). The most compelling debate rages over whether ESPN will still opt for an SEC game (LSU at South Carolina) in prime time or move it to its noon ABC window. In this case, ESPN keeps the SEC game and ABC airs the Backyard Brawl (West Virginia at Pittsburgh) early.

We debated endlessly about the placement of Tulane at Oklahoma, Memphis at Florida State, Ole Miss at Wake Forest and Boston College at Missouri, which involve two Power 4 games and two others featuring marquee Power 4 teams against high-level AAC foes. If you ask us again tomorrow, they all might end up in different spots.

Fox also has rights to Oregon at Oregon State, and its Mountain West contract allows it to snag Deion Sanders’ Colorado squad at Colorado State. Last year’s Civil War had 4.12 million viewers on Black Friday, while Colorado-Colorado State generated 9.3 million viewers with a late kickoff last year on ESPN. So look for Primetime in prime time while the Big Ten and Fox avoid placing Oregon-Oregon State in competition with Washington-Washington State.

Week 3 predicted programming

Matchup Time Network

Friday, Sept. 13

Arizona at Kansas State

8 p.m.

Fox

Maryland at Virginia

8 p.m.

ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 14

Alabama at Wisconsin

Noon

Fox

West Virginia at Pittsburgh

Noon

ABC

Tulane at Oklahoma

Noon

ESPN

Boston College at Missouri

Noon

ESPN2

UCF at TCU

Noon

FS1

Notre Dame at Purdue

3:30 p.m.

CBS

Texas A&M at Florida

3:30 p.m.

ABC

Oregon at Oregon State

3:30 p.m.

Fox

Troy at Iowa

3:30 p.m.

FS1

Ole Miss at Wake Forest

3:30 p.m.

ESPN

Oklahoma State at Tulsa

3:30 p.m.

ESPN2

LSU at South Carolina

7 p.m.

ESPN

Indiana at UCLA

7 p.m.

FS1

Georgia at Kentucky

7:30 p.m

ABC

Washington State vs. Washington

7:30 p.m.

NBC

Colorado at Colorado State

7:30 p.m.

Fox

Memphis at Florida State

7:30 p.m.

ESPN2

Utah at Utah State

10 p.m.

FS1

San Diego State at Cal

10:30 p.m.

ESPN

Notable weeks later in the season

Beginning with Week 4, the networks primarily employ 12-day designations for scheduling, along with a few six-day options. During the draft process, networks typically choose weeks over specific games, other than Michigan at Ohio State — which Fox chose first overall — and specialty dates like Black Friday.

For the Big Ten, the most captivating weekend is Nov. 2, which is why Fox opted for the date rather than a game. Ohio State travels to Penn State and Michigan hosts Oregon, both of which are worthy of a No. 1 selection. As Michael Mulvihill (Fox Sports’ president of data and analytics) told Joel Klatt on Klatt’s podcast: “It’s not just the matchups; it’s the weekend before the presidential election with battleground states involved.” That means serious ad revenue for its Big Noon selection. Other games with competitive and advertising ramifications for CBS, NBC/Peacock and FS1 include Wisconsin at Iowa and Indiana at Michigan State, both of which are trophy rivalries. There also are games involving brand programs, like UCLA at Nebraska and USC at Washington.

ABC/ESPN holds all of the SEC’s rights and most from the ACC, but Oct. 5 shows why the 12-day window is pivotal for scheduling. Clemson at Florida State leads the ACC’s allotment while Auburn at Georgia highlights the SEC. Which is worthy of prime time or midday? And how do Tennessee at Arkansas, Ole Miss at South Carolina, Missouri at Texas A&M and UCF at Florida stack up alongside Pittsburgh at North Carolina? Nobody knows today what could happen in September. That’s why scheduling flexibility is crucial for the networks — and all of us.

(Photo: Joseph Weiser / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Continue Reading