Press release from ESPN, May 16, 2018:
ABC’s Saturday Night Football, the most-watched college football franchise on any network the last two seasons, will begin the 2018 season with the College Football Playoff National Champions on opening weekend, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Champions in week 2, and the Big Ten and Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Champions in week 3. All three weeks will feature last season’s New Year’s Six qualifiers in key non-conference matchups as teams seek marquee wins early in the season.
For the third consecutive year, ABC will also air a special Sunday night game during kickoff weekend, with this year’s matchup featuring an ACC vs. SEC clash from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Kickoff Week: National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide Title Defense Begins in Prime Time
ABC’s prime time campaign begins with the 2018 Camping World Kickoff: Louisville vs. Alabama (Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.) from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The season opener will be just the fourth meeting between the two schools and the first since 1991.
The National Champion Crimson Tide remain the only team to qualify for the CFP each of the four years of the system and are set up for another successful year, having brought in one of the top recruiting classes according to ESPN.com propelling them to be ranked No. 2 in the “Way-Too-Early Top 25”. The start of Alabama’s title defense will also mark a signature moment in the likely quarterback competition between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.
ABC’s Special Sunday Presentation Features ACC-SEC Clash
ABC’s special kickoff weekend Sunday night prime time game features Miami vs. LSU from AT&T Stadium in Arlington (Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET). Both the Hurricanes and Tigers are ranked in the “Way-Too-Early Top 25”, with Miami in the top 10 coming off an ACC Coastal Division championship.
In the last two seasons, ABC has set kickoff weekend viewership records, with Notre Dame at Texas delivering more than 11 million viewers in 2016, followed by Florida State vs. Alabama delivering more than 12 million in 2017. Combined with ESPN, the two networks have set new kickoff week viewership records each of the last three years.
Week 2: Penn State-Pitt Rivalry Goes Prime Time
In Week 2, one of college football’s oldest in-state rivalries will be played in prime time when Penn State travels to Pitt (Sept. 8 at 8 p.m.). The Nittany Lions and the Panthers have met 98 times, dating back to 1893. The two schools renewed their rivalry the last two seasons, with both schools winning on their home fields.
The Nittany Lions are poised for another big year, coming off their second consecutive New Year’s Six appearance and have added a top 5 recruiting class to its roster. They are currently a top 10 team in the “Way-Too-Early Top 25”.
Week 3: Ohio State-TCU Clash in Texas
In Week 3, ABC’s Saturday Night Football will air from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Ohio State vs. TCU (Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.). The prime time affair will be just the seventh-ever matchup between the two schools and their first matchup outside of Columbus, Ohio. Both teams are ranked in the “Way-Too-Early Top 25”, with the Horned Frogs at No. 16 and the Buckeyes at No. 4.
Both teams are coming off appearances in their conference championship games, with the Buckeyes winning the Big Ten. Ohio State then played in the New Year’s Six, winning the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and TCU concluded its season with a victory in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Additional ESPN/ABC first three week college football scheduling information will be announced in the coming weeks.