Week Zero is complete in college football, headlined by Northwestern’s 31-28 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Dublin, Ireland. Other games included Utah State over Connecticut and Vanderbilt over Hawaii. Week Zero presents a bonus opportunity for televised football games and fan travel while also creating some unique challenges by starting a season up earlier than Labor Day weekend, and by also starting a season with a conference matchup right off the bat in the case of Nebraska and Northwestern.
The following poll questions were asked of fans if on the prospects of playing in Week Zero:
Only 34% of fans said no, however the “yes” vote slightly favored “yes, sparingly.”
Which type of game would fans prefer?
Respondents to the poll unanimously preferred non-conference games, and were split somewhat evenly between neutral sites or a home/away matchup.
Fans were asked where they’d prefer the game take place, and 51% said they’d like a neutral site nonconference game. 54% said they’d prefer it to be a neutral US travel destination over a destination abroad, which only received 8.6% of the vote.
Rivalry game in Week Zero… or too soon?
The final poll question asked if fans would like a rivalry game in Week Zero and both polls were a resounding no with 3/4 of respondents answering no. Its hard to fault these voters as many of the best rivalry games take place late in the season once teams have hit their strides, know their teammates, and know what they are playing for in terms of postseason play.
As a fan of a school who often starts out Septembers quite slow and hits their stride in October quite regularly, the idea of starting the season even earlier would personally worry me because this game would likely be against another Power 5 opponent.
Programs with established coordinators or veteran rosters would likely be able to thrive more easily in these types of games given their established experience and culture, while programs without consistency or veteran leadership would likely struggle. I have a feeling that Scott Frost is wishing his first game was against North Dakota this upcoming Saturday instead in retrospect.
Unique Media Opportunity
Week Zero features fewer games than the Week One slate which features countless made-for-television matchups which can make some games invisible to television viewership. Northwestern vs Nebraska would normally be buried on the Big Ten Network if played in any other week, but was featured as the Fox Noon Kickoff game instead.
As realignment continues to churn the college football media landscape, teams in the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 could likely see more of these matchups on their schedules to increase media revenue in any means possible as the Big Ten and SEC continue to own the media market in college football.
Overall, football-starved fans were given an opportunity to start the college football season a little earlier with a Power 5 conference matchup. Games that would have been otherwise buried in the television lineup in any other week of the year were able to shine on the big stage with the world watching. Challenges in starting the season cannot be overlooked, but as media revenue continues to rule college football, look for continued Week Zero games in the future.