ESPN kicked off the 2013 college football season Thursday night to an average of 3.13 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
The 3.13 million for the Aug. 29 doubleheader, featuring South Carolina-North Carolina and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, was ESPN's third-most- watched opening Thursday since 1999. The doubleheader was also the second-highest rated in the same timeframe with a 2.1 household rating.
Individually, the game between the No. 6 Gamecocks and the Tar Heels -- which had a weather delay -- averaged 3.65 million viewers and a 2.4 rating. The telecast ranked as ESPN's fifth highest-rated and fourth most-viewed Thursday night season-opening game on record since 1996. South Carolina is led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is widely expected to be in the running for the Heismann Trophy and among the top picks at next year's NFL draft.
The backend of the doubleheade -- the Rebels topped the Commodores with a 75-yard TD run in the final 90 seconds -- garnered 2.74 million viewers and a 1.9 rating.
Locally, Birmingham was the the highest-rated metered market, averaging a 12.8 rating for both games. Greenville, S.C. was second with a 12.6 followed by Nashville (8.9), Memphis (8.1), Knoxville (7.0), Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (5.8), Charlotte (5.7), Atlanta (5.4), Greensboro, N.C. (4.8) and Jacksonville (4.1).