For the past several years, the NCAA has kept its best Week 1 college football games for neutral venues — mostly NFL stadiums.
Last season began with a big duel between Georgia and Clemson at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, home of the Carolina Panthers. But attendance paled in comparison to the 2022 opener between Notre Dame and Ohio State, played at The Horseshoe – with 10.5 million viewers.
Both games were clashes between the top five teams, but the latter also batted every single game in the calendar of the 1st week 2022 and was ESPN is most watched a regular-season game on its networks since 2017, according to the World Wide Leader.
However, it was only a week before another college football game surpassed it in the television ratings. Then 1st place Alabama traveled to Austin to face an unranked Texas for a noon EST game. Although the Longhorns are not in the top 25, tThe game still surpassed the aforementioned Prime time matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes — and Texas commit Arch Manning is still in high school.
The people have spoken. They prefer playing college football on campus, not at Jerry World or the Citrus Bowl. For conference titles, bowl games, and the national championship, neutral sides are fine. But for years, college football has been reintroducing people to its product without a key component — home field advantage.
Without the rabid school spirit of the undergraduate department, college football is truly an amateur product. Extra points are missed from the traditional line, soccer balls sail backwards, defensive backs land 30 yards behind wide receivers, and most quarterbacks are unable to lead their teams by relying on the forward pass. All of this while the games are running significantly longer than in the NFL with the clock stopping after every first down and also longer halves.
Why look at this inferior product? The fans are a much more important part of the show than they are in the NFL. Seattle fans rained boos all night Monday when Russell Wilson returned to town, but the intensity still didn’t match that of “The Swap” as Utah threw that late interception to give Florida the Week 1 win grant.
These are the moments that make college sports, especially soccer, an outstanding viewing experience. Auburn’s “Kick Six” against Alabama; Texas Tech defeats No. 1 Texas with Michael Crabtree’s last-second touchdown catch; all Florida State missed kicks against Miami; That mega pop from the crowd after roaring all day almost leaves the viewer a little breathless from the intensity of the game.
Week 1 had a couple of big games at neutral venues, but it was Georgia vs. Oregon at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta and LSU vs. Florida State at the Superdome in New Orleans. I’m sure the Ducks that blew out 49-3, and the Seminoles – 24-23 winners – did not perceive the environment as neutral.
The opening weeks of the 2022 college football season have been spectacular, and yes, the crazy plays are funtch, but without the screaming student sections, it’s really just second rate football.
Home and home for non-conference college football. The passionate spectators are part of what makes the sport so special.