On Monday, the Colorado-USC game timeslot was revealed, and it has those on the west coast a bit perturbed. The game will be yet another broadcast on FOX's Big Noon Kickoff, which means it will be one of the first opening games of the day. For those on the east coast, this is no bother, as it will be a 12 pm Eastern, 11 am Central time game. Boulder, CO, and Los Angeles, CA are in neither of those time zones, however.
The game is set to take place at the Colorado Buffaloes' football team's stadium in Boulder, at Folsom Field, which will make it a 10 am start time. For those USC football fans watching amidst the Hollywood hills and across the rest of the state of California, it will be even earlier, with a 9 am start time.
Fans living in the mountain and west coast time zones are obviously not happy with this. This will be Colorado's third game this season where they'll be playing at 10 am mountain time, with the first coming in their opening against TCU and the second against Nebraska. Colorado won both.
Colorado football, Deion Sanders are must-see television
FOX knew as soon as Deion Sanders signed with Colorado what their intentions were going to be. They knew, going all the way back to Sanders' days playing with the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, and San Francisco 49ers—all NFC teams who FOX has had the rights to since 1994—that he was an immense ratings draw. That's why FOX's Big Noon Kickoff has basically set up shop in Boulder for the past month and will once again when the Buffaloes host the Trojans in what could be a top 10 showdown if Colorado pulls an upset over Oregon. But if not, it should at the least be a top 25 matchup.
Colorado has played in three of the five most-watched college football games this season. Saturday night's late-night showdown, however, is now the most-watched game all season. It averaged a 4.9 rating and 9.3 million viewers. It's the largest late-night audience ever for a college football game and the fifth-largest college football regular-season game ever broadcast on ESPN, per Sports Media Watch. The most-watched game Colorado football had last season was the TCU game with 1.25 million viewers.
Sanders is a gamechanger in every facet. Not only that, his team is undefeated, and they're incredibly fun to watch. They're hitting every checklist for must-watch television. That includes bringing the constant celebrity influence, like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lil Wayne, and others who have been seen on the sideline.
Network broadcasts are made for the east coast time zone
It's easy to understand why those fans on or near the west coast aren't happy about the early kickoff. Go out to California and you'll see the city doesn't wake up until about noon. But the rest of the country has been wide awake for a few hours by the time noon kickoffs arrive. That's why broadcasts are based on the Eastern Standard time slots. Not to mention you have the largest city by population in New York on the east coast, which could potentially bring in tons of viewers.
Fans on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, are raging at the Pac-12 for giving the Colorado-USC game the early morning kickoff, adding that it makes little sense given that this is a west coast-based conference. This has little to do necessarily with the Pac-12 and everything to do with television networks, namely FOX in this case. As has been noted, FOX is capitalizing in every way they possibly can on the success of Colorado football. Their prime timeslot of the day is the noon kickoff, so having a high-profile game like Colorado and USC in what they feel will be the best position to capture the most viewers is just smart business.
Also, typically, the night game for the Pac-12, which is dubbed “Pac-12 after dark,” is not until 10:00 pm Eastern time, like what Colorado and Colorado State played last Saturday night. The Pac-12 doesn't have the luxury of the 7:00 pm Eastern time games that are usually garnered for ESPN, ABC games that involve other conferences.
Even ESPN knows how lucrative Sanders and Colorado are at the moment. They chose arguably Colorado's worst opponent of the season, one in which the Buffaloes were over a three-touchdown favorite against and brought their highly popular College GameDay crew to Boulder for it. They were cashing in while this Colorado fad is still white hot. Granted, it all worked out for ESPN in the best way possible with the game ending up being a double overtime thriller that kept people up way past their bedtime. FOX is now hoping to supersede that high rating from their competitor by putting it in a timeslot where most of the country is awake.
There's no reason any college football fan shoudn't be awake to see Deion Sanders and Shedeur Sanders take on Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams.