A lot of people are offering up opinions on Notre Dame football. But are those same people actually watching the Irish?
I was going back and forth on Twitter the other day and got into it with a fan of another team on the topic of Notre Dame football. This fan seemed convinced that the Irish will get run off the field by Clemson and exposed as the frauds they supposedly are.
I asked him how many games he had seen Notre Dame play this season. His initial response: Why does it matter?
He would eventually admit to watching about seven total quarters of Irish football in 2018 — which I still don’t believe. The bigger issue is — he’s not alone.
When it comes to offering opinions on Notre Dame, too many fans and even media members are going off of historical perception, box scores and highlights. I hear it in the voices and see it in the writing of both local and national media members.
And I see it all through the comments of other fans on social media.
The vast majority of people watching Notre Dame football games are either Irish fans or fans of that week’s Notre Dame opponent. The only instances where that’s not the case is when Notre Dame is facing a high-profile opponent in a primetime slot without any other competition.
The Notre Dame-Michigan game was the highest rated college football game of Week 1, pulling in 7.091 million viewers. The only real competition it had in the time slot was the Alabama-Louisville game on ABC. That game drew 4.54 million viewers.
Keep in mind, Notre Dame has roughly 2.261 million fans who regularly watch college football in all 210 national media markets.
When it comes to Notre Dame’s three worst performances — Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt — alot of people want to talk about those games, but few non-Notre Dame fans watched them.
The Notre Dame-Ball State game drew 2.453 million in the 3:30 time slot on NBC. By comparison, nearly a million more people watched the Colorado-Nebraska game on ABC at the same time.
The game against Vanderbilt drew 2.1 million sets of eyeballs on NBC, while the BYU-Wisconsin game that started one hour later on ABC pulled in 2.9 million viewers.
The closest game Notre Dame came to actually losing this season was against Pitt on the weekend before their bye week. That game drew 2.8 million in NBC’s 2:30 time slot. One hour later on ABC, a split national broadcast of Oregon-Washington and UCF-Memphis pulled in nearly three million viewers.
Notre Dame’s best overall performance from wire to wire was the Shamrock Series game against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. The Irish controlled the game and completely shut down one of the most explosive offenses in the country — holding the Orange to a meaningless field goal late in the fourth quarter.
That game drew only 2.8 million viewers in NBC’s 2:30 time slot — and it was essentially unchallenged. Over one million more people watched the Oklahoma State-West Virginia game that came on at 4 p.m. that day. Additionally, Notre Dame-Syracuse pulled in only 800,000 more viewers than the Tennessee-Missouri game that came on at 3:30.
Only three times in 2018 was a Fighting Irish football game one of the three most-watched college football games in a given weekend: Week 1 vs. Michigan, Week 6 at Virginia Tech and Week 13 at Southern Cal. The Michigan game was the best matchup of the weekend and in prime time. The Virginia Tech and Southern Cal games were both the featured prime time games in their respective weekends on ABC.
What does all of this mean?
It means exactly what I said earlier and what most Notre Dame fans already knew: a lot of people want to point out all of Notre Dame’s faults and weaknesses, but few people outside of actual Irish fans watched more than one or two Notre Dame football games during the entire 2018 college football season.
The television logistics of football Saturdays are such that most people tune in to College Gameday on ESPN first thing in the morning and rarely stray away from the ABC family of networks the rest of the day.
So the next time you hear another team’s fans or a media members talking down to the 2018 Notre Dame team without mentioning specifics beyond the schedule or box scores, just know that there’s a really good chance that individual has very little to base their argument on.