College football isn't exactly right around the corner, but the picture for opening weekend came into focus on Tuesday when ESPN and ABC announced several broadcast times for Labor Day Weekend.
The networks announced that Vanderbilt will host Ole Miss at 9:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 29 on ESPN, and will follow the previously-announced prime-time kickoff game between North Carolina and South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET.
Not a bad way to get the season started.
On Saturday, Aug. 31, the SEC barrage continues in the late afternoon.
Alabama will take on Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, and will be followed on the same network by the meeting between TCU and LSU in the Cowboys Classic at 9 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, on ABC, Georgia will visit Clemson at 8 p.m. ET in what's sure to be a high-scoring affair.
So, in other words, get ready for some channel surfing because there's going to be some overlap—even with games on the same network.
At least it isn't like two years ago, when Boise State vs. Georgia and LSU vs Oregon kicked off at the exact same time.
ESPN and ABC began counter-programming college football with more college football several years ago, and for the most part it has worked. Interest in the game is at an all-time high, which has translated to big bucks across the board.
But this year's slate of opening weekend games is a further indication that the networks aren't married to that format.
The two biggest games of opening weekend last season—Auburn vs. Clemson and Alabama vs. Michigan—kicked off an hour apart, which at least gave viewers a taste of both games.
This season there are more intriguing SEC games on opening weekend, which dictated that some games had to be spaced out.
That's something that viewers can be thankful for. Sure, there's a chance that North Carolina vs. South Carolina goes long and bumps Ole Miss at Vandy to another network temporarily, but that's the case every college football weekend.
With the CBS contract in place, rarely are the best games competing with each other once the contract kicks in on Week 3. The only exception is on opening weekend, but the damage is limited this year.
Think of what could have been, though.
Can you imagine a triple-header with Georgia at Clemson kicking off at noon ET, Alabama vs. Virginia Tech at 4 p.m. and LSU vs. TCU at 8 p.m.?
That's the opening weekend dream.
But television drives the bus, and those kickoff games wouldn't be as successful as they've become without prime-time exposure.
SEC fans are going to have to channel surf a bit on opening weekend, especially on Saturday night. But at least the top games are spread out more than they've been in years past, which will create a much more intriguing Week 1 around the South.
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