One of the more popular questions for the 2018 UCF Football season is when and where will the games be on TV? We will try to give you our best guesses on those questions based on the knowledge that we have on how the college football TV schedule works.
Keep in mind that ESPN and CBS Sports Network have the rights to all American Athletic Conference games and non-conference games where the AAC team is the host. ESPN and CBS Sports Network also alternate during the season on who gets the first pick of AAC games, although we do not yet know when each network picks. Most of these TV slots get decided two weeks before the actual game, and sometimes the deadline gets extended to six days before the game.
All year we will break down the TV times once they are announced. For now, these are our preseason projections on what time each UCF game will be played and what network will televise them.
NOTE: I am going under impression that UCF has a 10+ win season and is ranked throughout when making these projections. Games in bold are already confirmed.
UCF at UConn
Thursday, August 30th, 7 p.m. on ESPNU
Going to have lots of fun with @danorlovsky7 & @paulcarcaterra on @ESPNCFB this year. We open in 28 days w/@UCF_Football vs @UConnFootball pic.twitter.com/ULcmhEGNQn— Clay Matvick (@claymatvick) August 2, 2018
UCF vs. South Carolina State
Saturday, September 8th, 6 p.m. on ESPN3
UCF at North Carolina
Saturday, September 15th, Noon on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU
The competition UCF will have for the Noon slot on ABC or ESPN include Florida State/Syracuse, Oklahoma/Iowa State, and Miami/Toledo. Remember, we're going under the impression UCF is 2-0 at this point.
North Carolina opens the season at California and then at East Carolina. What will be the Tar Heels' record? Things like this what decide what channel the game ends up.
Also, does FSU win its opener vs. Virginia Tech? Does Oklahoma beat FAU? If yes, then I predict that FSU-Syracuse and Oklahoma-Iowa State to be on ESPN or ABC. Miami-Toledo will be the ESPNU game unless the Tar Heels are 0-2. Then maybe UCF gets bumped down to ESPNU. But I will say UNC is 1-1 and UCF gets on ESPN2. That is, IF FSU and Oklahoma lose their openers. Then ABC or ESPN are in play.
I will project the Noles and Sooners to win their season openers and be undefeated headed into this weekend.
Bonus question: Do we see Michael Jordan, a UNC alum, and his son Marcus, wearing the black and gold?
Prediction: ESPN 2.
Florida Atlantic at UCF
Friday, September 21, 7 p.m. on ESPN
ESPN is carrying doubleheader this night, with Washington State at USC following at 10:30 p.m. The new ESPN Friday Night team is Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer and Olivia Harlan. I predict they will be at USC for the second game and Matvick, Orlovsky and Calcaterra will be at Spectrum Stadium. However, if FAU were to upset Oklahoma, then it could flip with Benetti, Stouffer, and Harlan at Spectrum with lots of Lane Kiffin talk heading into the game.
Pittsburgh at UCF
Saturday, September 29, Time TBA
CBS Sports Network has a slot at 3:30pm for an AAC game, followed by Boise State at Wyoming. ESPN that day has rights to Temple at Boston College. It's also a big slate of games for ESPN to pick from with ACC, SEC, etc., so I expect CBS Sports Network to get first dibs on UCF and get them on the air against an ACC opponent, which for CBS Sports Network is a bigger deal than for ESPN, who already has the ACC package. Plus this would give CBS Sports Network a nice doubleheader showcased by UCF and Boise State back-to-back.
Prediction: CBS Sports Network, 3:30 p.m.
SMU at UCF
Saturday, October 6 - Time TBA
This also depends on how SMU is doing by this point. I think due to markets of Dallas and Orlando, ESPN picks up the game, but it feels like this will be our noon home game.
Prediction : ESPNU, Noon
UCF at Memphis
Saturday, October 13 - Time TBA
This is now where it all depends on how UCF and its opponents are doing. This is a rematch of the AAC title game and favorites for their respective divisions. CBS Sports Network has 7 pm time slot. But if UCF and Memphis are both doing well, I think ESPN picks up the game.
Memphis, in my opinion, has one tough game (at Navy Week 2) prior to the UCF game. So I expect Memphis to be at least 5-1 going into the game.
Let's say UCF and Memphis are both undefeated going into that game. All of a sudden this game could become a sleeper option for ESPN College Gameday to go to with Wisconsin at Michigan, Michigan State at Penn State, and Washington at Oregon also in the mix. I can even see Gameday being at Memphis with former Orlando Magic star and new Memphis Tigers Basketball Head Coach Penny Hardaway being the celebrity game picker.
I project Memphis to lose at Navy, and Gameday does not come to Memphis, opting for one of the Big Ten games or the Washington-Oregon game. I will predict ESPN gets the first pick for the AAC this weekend.
Prediction: 7 pm on ESPN2
UCF at East Carolina
Saturday, October 20 - Time TBA
CBS Sports Network has a 7 pm slot open on this date. Options are UCF at ECU or SMU at Tulane. If CBS Sports Network gets the first pick this weekend then the UCF game will be at 7 pm. If ESPN gets the game, I can see this being a Noon ESPNU game. I expect CBS Sports Network to get this game as ESPN will have rights to UCF in their next two games vs. Temple and Navy.
Prediction - 7 pm on CBS Sports Network
Temple at UCF
Thursday, November 1 - 7:30 pm on ESPN
ESPN will have Dave Flemming calling this game as the voice of Thursday Night Football. Laura Rutledge would be the sideline reporter. ESPN rotates the analyst for Thursday night games, so it could be anyone. I expect it to be either someone from studio or someone who has a Saturday game that's geographically friendly. I will predict it will be a former QB like Andre Ware, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1989 at Houston, to break down McKenzie Milton and his chances of getting an invite to New York.
Navy at UCF
Saturday, November 10 - Time TBA
ESPN has the rights to this game as CBS Sports Network gets every Navy home game. This one will be hard to predict since we do not know how both teams are doing. Navy has games at SMU, at Air Force and home vs. Notre Dame prior to UCF.
What will UCF's record be at this point? Will they be undefeated? Historically ESPN puts Navy road games on ESPN2 or ESPNU depending on how they are doing that particular season.
I will say this game ends up on ESPN2 assuming that Navy has two losses while UCF has one or none.
Prediction - ESPN 2 at 7 pm
Cincinnati at UCF
Saturday, November 17th
I wrote recently about this game being on the same day as LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers playing the Orlando Magic at Amway Center at 7 pm. That has zero impact on the TV decision.
CBS Sports Network has a 7 pm slot available for this date. How good or bad will Cincinnati be at this point? ESPN would have just had UCF vs. Temple and Navy with possibly the USF game coming up. I feel CBS Sports Network gets this game, which means it will be a night game.
Prediction - 7 pm on CBS Sports Network.
UCF at South Florida
Friday, November 23 - Time TBA
Something to keep in mind: ESPN will carry Oklahoma at West Virginia that night. ESPN 2 will likely carry College Basketball Thanksgiving Tournament games that night, although ESPN has not officially announced that. Also, CBS Sports Network is scheduled to carry an AAC game this year on Black Friday at 3:30pm. There are three AAC games that day: UCF at USF, Memphis at Houston, and East Carolina at Cincinnati. One of these games will be on CBS Sports Network - I am guessing ECU-Cincinnati.
Houston and Memphis could decide the West. If all things are equal, UCF-USF would get the nod on ABC due to TV ratings success last year. Some key questions have to be figured out though.
First, do they put 2 AAC games back to back on ABC that day? Or do they put Virginia-Virginia Tech on ABC along with one of the AAC Games? Does UCF-USF go first at noon on ABC or ESPN/ESPN2? Historically the UCF at South Florida game has been a noon kickoff every time (2007, 2014, 2016), except for 2005.
Here is what ESPN/ABC did last year:
Noon - Miami at Pitt on ABC, Navy at Houston on ESPN
3:30pm - South Florida at UCF on ABC
I expect a similar schedule with Memphis-Houston being a noon game on ESPN and UCF-USF on ABC at noon or 3:30 pm, unless Memphis/Houston turns out to be the bigger game in the conference and UCF and/or South Florida disappoint and drop off from last year. In that scenario, UCF-South Florida will be noon on ESPN. I say they copy last year's schedule, especially if the War on I-4 is once again for the division. But I strongly feel confident the game will be a day game regardless.
Prediction - 3:30pm, ABC