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UNC Football opens the season in Prime Time

If it wasn’t clear that Drake Maye was a focus before...

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-North Carolina at Oregon Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

As June begins, we are that much closer to the beginning of the 2023 college football season. As part of that, the networks that show college football start to gin up excitement by announcing start times for the first three weeks of the season. ESPN gave a hint last week about what the focus of their college football season was going to be:

Well look at Drake Maye there in the corner. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, as at the beginning of the month we laid out why ESPN was likely to feature Drake Maye in response to Mack Brown’s persistent qualms with the 2023 UNC football schedule. On Wednesday, ESPN confirmed they are in to showcase Maye as much as they can:

Yes, that’s right, for the first Prime Time ABC game of the 2023 college football season, they chose the UNC-SC game in Charlotte. The home opener will be on the ACCN, and it’s at a wonderful start time of 5:15 PM, a game that you can tell others to turn to during your afternoon coverage. To cap it off, ESPN jumps on the opportunity to broadcast a Big Ten team now that they don’t have the contract for the league anymore and will have Carolina go up against Minnesota on one of the ESPN’s at 3:30.

Three outstanding start times, two of which are great start times in Chapel Hill and one ridiculously good start time in Charlotte that should allow for an all day celebration at the start of the season. Again, just to remind you of the quirks for ESPN this year, ESPN no longer has a contract with the Big Ten, and the new SEC deal doesn’t kick in until next season. Due to this, ESPN is still prohibited from putting an SEC home game on ABC period, and can’t put one one any network at 3:30 when there’s a game on CBS at 3:30. This doesn’t leave a lot of other options out there for them in terms of games they can put on ABC, and this matchup seemed perfect for that.

To emphasize that point, the matchup that’ll likely get more coverage that day, Texas at Alabama, is going to be on ESPN at 7 PM.

After week three, the rest of the schedule enters the dreaded window where fans have to wait until, at best, about 10 days before. Some games will likely get the “seven day hold” where we don’t know until Sunday what the following Saturday’s game will be. The good news for Carolina fans is that they avoided any Thursday or Friday night games this season, the entire slate is on Saturday. Their entire schedule is also controlled by ESPN, as the only non-conference game away from Chapel Hill is the tilt in Charlotte, which ESPN controls.

In terms of chances for more marquee time slot appearances, it’ll just depend on how the season goes. The ACC scheduled Carolina to go to Clemson on November 18th, smack in between Duke and NC State. If Carolina is in any shape of contention for the ACC Championship and Clemson has a rebounding year, there’s a pretty good chance that will be another 7:30 PM matchup.

All that said, we at least know how the first two Saturdays in Chapel Hill will be set and fans can go ahead and make their plans. Tickets to the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte go on sale to the general public on June 6th at 11 AM, meanwhile only season tickets are available to purchase for home UNC football games with single game dates to be sold at a later date. A quick check online shows that a lot of seats designated to be season tickets are already sold out.

Let’s hope this version of the Tar Heels are ready for Prime Time.