Tonight marks the start of the 2014 NCAA FBS college football season. Much like the NFL, the college kickoff has grown in importance the past few years. Four of the top games have a naming rights partner, and the new SEC Network will be televising its first game. Let’s take a look at some of the matchups.
SEC Network kickoff game (Thursday 6 p.m. EDT)
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina
This is what the SEC Network could theoretically look like on a lot of weekends. This game has two nationally ranked and well-known programs going head- to-head with the hope for huge ratings. ESPN has done a solid job promoting the matchup with interesting commercials and a 30 for 30 on Steve Spurrier. Verizon Fios recently started carrying the SEC Network and issues with carriers haven’t been a major problem (unlike the PAC-12 Network). The SEC Network would obviously benefit if this is a close game. The hope is that the top conference in the country drives viewership through its marquee matchups.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff (Thursday 8 p.m. EDT)
Boise State versus No. 18 Ole Miss
This game will take place in Atlanta. Up-and-coming Ole Miss takes on America’s favorite underdog Boise State. This is one of two games sponsored by Chick-fil-A, and will be nationally televised on ESPN. Chick-fil-A is a major NCAA sponsor through its kickoff game as well as the Peach Bowl, which is now part of the college football playoff rotation. ESPN will hope that anyone watching the SEC Network game will switch over once the drama is done in South Carolina.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff (Saturday 3:30 p.m. EDT)
West Virginia versus No. 3 Alabama
The marquee ABC game of the weekend is also sponsored by Chick-fil-A. Alabama is a nationally recognized name and this marks the second year in a row (and fourth time overall) that the Crimson Tide is involved with the Chick-fil-A kickoff classic. Since 2008, an SEC team has played in this kickoff game, which is perfect for brand alignment since Chick-fil-A is headquartered in SEC country.
Advocare Cowboys Classic
Oklahoma State versus No. 1 Florida State (8 p.m. EDT)
ABC follows up the West Virginia-Alabama game with the Advocare kickoff classic at AT&T Stadium. Advocare also doubled down by sponsoring two games on opening weekend. Will Advocare gain brand recognition through two games essentially airing at the same time? College football fans won’t be able to get away from the brand whether they watch this game or the Texas Kickoff.
Advocare Texas Kickoff
No. 14 Wisconsin versus No. 13 LSU (9 p.m. EDT)
This SEC versus Big Ten battle will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston. Advocare makes sense as a sponsor because it is located in Plano, Texas, and it markets health and wellness products. Unlike the staggered Chick-fil-A games, the two Advocare sponsored games will overlap. This could actually be beneficial as college football fans won’t have many other options to satisfy their college football appetite. Advocare could definitely increase its brand recognition.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.