Ready to be in Good Company?

Ready to be in Good Company? Let’s Connect >>

A Deeper Dive into NCAA Football Conference Realignment: What & Where to Watch, & Your Advertising Opportunities 

With an historic realignment and new excitement surrounding never-before-seen matchups, the upcoming college football season is in great formation to deliver tangible results to brands that advertise alongside it.  Which conferences, teams, or games should your brand consider aligning with? Join Team TEGNA as Rob Leydon examines the details of each conference’s changes and what to expect in the upcoming season.  

Meredith Cunningham Published: June 24, 2024
A Deeper Dive into NCAA Football Conference Realignment: What & Where to Watch, & Your Advertising Opportunities  image

Rob LeydonBy Rob Leydon, Local Sales Manager at TEGNA’s First Coast News  in Jacksonville, Florida 

Thousands of live sporting events air every year, and each one creates a new opportunity to connect with Appointment TV viewers. This audience has repeatedly proven to be committed and engaged. But most importantly, it’s an ideal target audience for several different types of brands, companies, and businesses.  

But this year, incredible new opportunities exist to grow business by aligning with college football and the excitement of conference realignment. Which conferences, teams, or games should your brand consider aligning with? 

Let’s take a look at the new college football playbook: which game scenarios to keep an eye on, when fans will be watching, how fans will be watching, and the available advertising opportunities available.  

The SEC 

While realignment affected every college football conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) did a magnificent job of adding even more star power to its lineup of schools while still maintaining a logical regional footprint. Almost impossibly, the SEC added fewer teams than rival conferences yet arguably widened the gap between them and the other major conferences. Adding two true college football blue bloods to an already stacked group makes SEC Saturdays can’t-miss television. SEC fans are the real winners this fall.  

SEC Matchups On the Field

With three teams in the Top 5 in many pre-season college football polls and as many as four or five more landing in the top 15, there won’t be many (if any) “off weeks” in the SEC.  

  • The conversation needs to start with the top-ranked team in most pre-season polls: Georgia. No team in the country can match the Bulldog’s returning head coach/starting quarterback combination of Kirby Smart and Carson Beck. After losing in the semi-finals last year, there is a huge motivation factor going into 2024. 
  • A ton of teams are lining up to knock the Bulldogs off their perch, and one of the teams that can certainly do it is SEC newcomer Texas. The Longhorns avoid a few of the SEC powerhouses on this year’s schedule this year
  • There won’t be many teams more fun to watch on offense next year than Mississippi. Can their defense step up against the top of the league? With a bit of defense, they can be as good as anybody in the country. 
  • You don’t just “replace” a legend like Nick Saban and his 7x National Championships, but Alabama did incredibly well in hiring Kalen DeBoer. Simply put, he has won big everywhere he’s been. Plan on the Crimson Tide being in the mix again this year. 
  • In his Tennessee debut, quarterback Nico Iamaleava scored four touchdowns and won the Citrus Bowl MVP award. The Volunteers’ schedule has some tough matchups, but keep an eye on them. 
  • LSU must replace three first-round draft picks, including the Heisman Trophy winner, but they miss Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee on their schedule this year. Count on the Tigers to be relevant in December. 
  • Florida‘s schedule this year includes seven ranked teams (projected). The Gators may be the best 5-7 team in college football history. 

Mark Your Calendars: Five Must-See SEC Games in 2024 

  • Georgia at Clemson, August 31st (Non-Conference) 12n ET (ABC) 
  • Georgia at Alabama, September 28th, 7:30p ET (ABC) 
  • Texas at Oklahoma, October 12th, 3:30p (TBD) 
  • Georgia at Texas, October 19th, TBD 
  • Alabama at LSU, November 9th, TBD 
  • SEC Championship Game, December 7th 4p ET (ABC) 

Where to Watch – New SEC Broadcast Partners 

This season marks the beginning of a ten-year partnership with ABC/ESPN, and all SEC-controlled games will run on ABC, the ESPN family of networks, and the SEC Network. ABC will have set slots at 3:30 p.m. and prime time on most college football Saturdays featuring SEC teams, with other games spread across ESPN networks. ABC will also carry the SEC Championship game live from Atlanta on Saturday, December 7th.   

Oh, and don’t worry if your regional team isn’t on the broadcast slate in a particular week. SEC games will stream on ESPN+ and SECN+, so fans can watch every play if your team is playoff-bound or already playing for next year! 

Big 10  

No conference saw more fundamental and geographic change than the Big 10 (BIG). A group of schools (historically with fewer than 800 miles separating them) will now have coast-to-coast flights almost weekly.  

Growing up, Midwesterners always started their season hoping for a trip to the Rose Bowl. They just never envisioned a future where that trip could happen in September. While traditionalists might take a minute to adjust, it’s hard to argue that this won’t be the most intriguing and exciting BIG football season ever. 

BIG Matchups On the Field 

The pre-season rankings are full of BIG teams, with many polls listing as many as four BIG teams in the Top 10. Two BIG teams with national title aspirations and pedigrees will face off in an epic showdown in October, which is sure to be one of the most-watched games of the season.   

  • A heartbreaking loss in the Pac-10 championship game kept Oregon out of the playoffs last year, but this year’s team may be even better. That scenario is almost identical to Ohio State’s, whose loss in the BIG regular season finale cost them a trip to the BIG Title game and a shot at the playoff. Three straight losses to Michigan doesn’t sit well with fans in Columbus, but the 2024 Buckeyes are absolutely loaded.
  • Penn State has been consistently good under James Franklin, posting 10+ wins four times in the past eight years, but they have yet to truly challenge for a divisional or conference championship. The Nittany Lions still look strong going into 2024, so this may be the year.  
  • Defending Champion Michigan saw its coach, starting quarterback, and a litany of star players head to the NFL, but the cupboard is never bare in Ann Arbor. Their matchup in Columbus in November will likely have conference and national title ramifications.
  • Despite losing almost every starter from last year’s national finalist team, Washington is still part of the conversation. First-year head coach Jedd Fisch is an outstanding hire after his rebuild of the Arizona program. Don’t sleep on the Huskies.
  • The BIG schedule fell favorably for Iowa, avoiding three projected top-four teams.  Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes team has quietly and methodically won 10 games in 3 of their last four full seasons.  Despite a tough trip to Columbus in October, this schedule might have a 10-win potential again.
  • Looking for a sleeper?  Watch out for Nebraska.  The coach/quarterback combination of Matt Rhule and Dylan Raiola may not resonate now, but check again in November. 

Mark Your Calendars – Five Must-See BIG Games in 2024! 

  • Texas at Michigan, September 7th (Non-Conference) 12n ET (Fox) 
  • USC at Michigan, September 21st 3:30p ET (CBS) 
  • Ohio State at Oregon, October 12th, TBD 
  • Oregon at Michigan, November 2nd, TBD 
  • Michigan at Ohio State, November 30th 12n ET (Fox) 
  • BIG Championship Game, December 7th 8p ET (CBS) 

Where to Watch – New BIG Broadcast Partners 

With a new broadcast deal over several years, fans can count. on premiere placement for the best BIG games all season. Fox will kick off every football Saturday with their Big Noon Kickoff. Two of the best matchups (listed above) are in the 12n slot on Fox, with others potentially joining them.  Next up is the 3:30p slot on CBS, a new broadcast partner for the BIG. BIG fans can finish their Saturday by tuning into the prime-time game on NBC. 

Can’t wait until Saturday? Don’t worry. Fox is introducing a Friday Night slate, which will likely feature several BIG matchups throughout the season. BIG games will also stream on Peacock, FS1 and Paramount+. 

Big 12  

The Big 12 conference has seen the most dramatic changes, resulting in a loss of some star power. However, the resulting 16-team conference with diverse styles is spread across the entire bottom half of the country. New opponents, new road trips, and contrasting styles will create a fascinating year for the Big 12.

BIG 12 Matchups On the Field  

This year will be the first in many that the same two or three names can’t be penciled in as pre-season favorites. As a result, fans will be in for a wild ride in the Big 12. 

  • An argument can be made that two of the best coaches in college football reside in the same state. Lance Leipold has taken Kansas, historically one of the toughest places to win in power conference football, to back-to-back bowl games for only the second time in school history. The Jayhawks look solid again this year.  
  • Ninety miles to the West, Chris Klieman has built a consistent winner at Kansas State.  The Wildcats get several key matchups at home this year, so look for them in the hunt in late November. If they aren’t the favorites, they must be considered co-favorites with …  
  • … Big 12 newcomer Utah, led by another outstanding coach, Kyle Wittingham. This team is one year removed from a trip to the Rose Bowl and will look to announce its arrival in the Big 12 with authority. It’s built completely differently from the legacy Big 12 teams, and the contrasts in styles will be fun to watch all season long. 
  • Iowa State is a team that could see a resurgence in the newly formed Big 12. The Cyclones have been solid for years but have never consistently broken through to the top of the standings. The new Big 12 may benefit them as much as anyone. 
  • There has been a resurgence in the desert as Arizona has built itself back into contention. The Wildcats break in a new head coach but are coming in off a top-12 finish a season ago. They play Kansas State in early September, so we will learn much about both teams.  
  • Win or lose, we know people will talk about Colorado. In year two under coach Deion Sanders, we’ll see if the results match the hype.    

Mark Your Calendars – Five Must-See Big 12 Games in 2024! 

  • Iowa State at Iowa September 7th (Non-Conference) 3:30p ET (CBS) 
  • Colorado at Nebraska September 7th (Non-Conference) 7:30p (NBC) 
  • Kansas State at Arizona September 13th 8p ET (Fox) 
  • Arizona at Utah, September 28th, TBD 
  • Kansas at Kansas State, October 26th, TBD 
  • Big 12 Championship Game, December 7th TBD (ABC)  

Where to Watch – ACC Broadcast Partners 

Interestingly, the Big 12 already has multiple games scheduled on each broadcast network, with more likely to be announced as the season progresses. The Big 12 media partners for the season are Fox and the ESPN family of networks. FS1 and ESPN will be full of Big 12 football all year long. 

Can’t wait until Saturday? Don’t worry; the Big 12 has already announced a slate of Friday night games for the entire season. Streaming options include Big 12 Now on ESPN+ so fans can watch every play.  


The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) added some strange but intriguing bedfellows. It is best to refer to it as the ACClectic Conference. For a conference that, before this year, hadn’t ventured West past Louisville, the ACC has a whole new footprint and some matchups we wouldn’t have ever really considered in the regular season. Hey, someday, we may even see Cal and Stanford squaring off in the ACC Championship Game!  Imagine Stanford “hosting” a Championship game in Charlotte. That’s what makes college football so fun. 

ACC Matchups On the Field   

Four teams are consistently mentioned in pre-season polls, followed by a middle-of-the-pack lineup of another 4-5 teams with a chance to win eight or more games this year. The ACC may lack the star power of some other power conferences, but great depth will make for an enjoyable and competitive season for the “Conference of Quarterbacks,” where as many as nine teams have a chance to make the ACC title game.   

  • It will be interesting to see how Florida State responds to being snubbed for the college football playoff despite an undefeated season. Do the Seminoles play with a chip on their shoulder, or will that disappointment linger? Regardless, they are going to be really good. 
  • It will be a bounce-back season for Clemson. Coming off their first season with fewer than ten wins for the first time in over a decade, look for coach Dabo Swinney to lead the Tigers back into the Top 10. Win or lose, an early season non-conference matchup with Georgia will be telling for the upcoming season.
  • Miami brings in a transfer quarterback in Cam Ward, who some say is a dark horse candidate for the Heisman this year. The Hurricanes open against a Florida team in Gainesville that desperately needs a signature win, so that game should be great.
  • The same holds true for an unheralded North Carolina State team that hosts Tennessee in early September next year. A win there would likely put the Wolfpack in the top 10.  
  • Keep an eye on Mack Brown and North Carolina. The ACC schedule fell exceptionally favorably, with no Clemson or West Coast road trips for the Tar Heels. They may be undefeated for the trip to Florida State in November.
  • Lost in the incongruity of the West Coast additions to the ACC is the addition of SMU.  The Mustangs are coming off a solid season and may turn some heads in the ACC.  They have a demanding non-conference schedule, but they might have some momentum if they can steal a win from either BYU or TCU.  
  • They may be a year away, but Fran Brown is hitting the ground running at Syracuse. 

Mark Your Calendars – Five Must-See ACC Games in 2024! 

  • Georgia at Clemson, August 31st (Non-Conference) 12n ET (ABC) 
  • Miami at Florida August 31st (Non-Conference) 3:30p ET (ABC) 
  • Clemson at Florida State, October 5th, TBD 
  • Florida State at Miami, October 26th TBD 
  • Florida State at Notre Dame, November 9th, 7:30p ET (NBC) 
  •  ACC Championship Game, December 7th TBD (ABC) 

Where to Watch – ACC Broadcast Partners 

Unlike the other Power 4 conferences, the ACC television partnerships primarily carried over from previous years. ABC is scheduled to carry four ACC games, with potentially more to come, including several of the premier games of the season (listed above). The CW will also broadcast a handful of ACC games throughout the season. The largest share of ACC games will fall on the ESPN family of networks and the ACC Network. 

The ACC will also feature Thursday night and Friday night games throughout the season. Streaming options will include ESPN+ and ACCNX. 

No Matter the Conference, Advertising Gives A Huge & Engaged Audience, YOUR Audience 

With attribution now available for both linear and streaming campaigns, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that live sports, like College Football, are a HUGE driver of web traffic and audience engagement and deliver consistent and tangible business outcomes.  

Live sports deliver consistent attribution spikes for marketing and advertising campaigns simply by the nature of the audience. Sports audiences are active and highly engaged viewers, and they make appointments and build their weekends around watching the can’t-miss games their favorite teams play. 

To learn more or see some examples of the results live sports can deliver, please contact a TEGNA representative. Or, even better, invest in a college football campaign and see the results for yourself!  

Subscribe to our Newsletter

    Ready to be in Good Company?

    Ready to be in Good Company? Let’s Connect >>