Is the 2027 Las Vegas Kickoff Classic Destined For Failure?

The Las Vegas Kickoff wants to be a mainstay on college football’s opening weekend, but it’s 2027 matchup could lack the attendance to make it the big event it aspires to be.

Less than 21,000 people attended Utah’s loss to Northwestern in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl
Source: AP Photo/David Becker

Las Vegas is quickly becoming the epicenter of the college football world, or trying to at least. Following in the footsteps of AT&T Stadium as the "cool state-of-the-art indoor stadium everyone wants to play at," Allegiant Stadium will host another kickoff game in 2027. Three years from now, Miami and Utah will kick off the season at "The House That Derek Carr Built."

Aside from the protests of the usual "play home-and-home series" crowd, this matchup has much to make several college football fans question the Las Vegas Kickoff's choice.

There is no issue with the stickers on the sides of the helmets. This matchup does not have the flair of this year's Las Vegas Kickoff between USC and LSU to the casual fan. Nevertheless, it still has significant appeal. Miami's name still holds weight in the college football world despite having only one New Year's Bowl appearance to its name since 2005.

Utah is one of the few feel-good stories of conference realignment, rising from WAC membership to the Big 12 in 25 years. The Utes are one of the steadiest programs in the country and deserve a high-profile kickoff game of this stature.

However, these neutral site games depend on fan turnout. For differing reasons, both schools could bring disappointing turnouts to the game.

Death, Taxes, and Utah playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. In the 31 years of the Las Vegas Bowl, only BYU has appeared in the game as much as Utah. Each school has six appearances. Half of Utah's appearances have come since 2014.

On top of this, Utah played in Allegiant Stadium in three of the last four seasons through two PAC-12 Championship Game appearances in 2021 and 2022 and yet another Las Vegas Bowl appearance in 2023. The two PAC-12 Title Games drew near-sellout crowds, but the Las Vegas Bowl appearance in 2023 against a 7-5 Northwestern squad was a stark contrast.

A meager 20,897 fans witnessed Utah play Northwestern in the lowest-attended Las Vegas Bowl since 1996, when the game featured a Big West school playing a MAC school, and the lowest attendance for a Las Vegas Bowl featuring a Power Five/Four team.

The Las Vegas Kickoff will be a similarly difficult game to sell to Utah fans. Sure, the Utes and Hurricanes meet for the first time in 2027, but the game is still an early-season non-conference game. Miami-Utah has a nice ring to it, but the allure of the matchup pales to Utah playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl in the same stadium.

In contrast, Miami does not have the "Las Vegas fatigue" that Utah has, but it lacks a devoted fanbase. Since leaving the Orange Bowl in 2007, many outlets have documented Miami's attendance troubles, which you can read here, here, and here. I will not attack the Hurricane fanbase, but if Hurricane fans are struggling to fill two-thirds of their home stadium, what makes the Las Vegas Classic think they will travel across the country to watch them play a school that was in the Mountain West 14 years ago?

Unlike the majority of college football fans, I love neutral site games. I become intrigued when schools announce one. However, the 2027 Las Vegas Classic has several obstacles in attracting a respectable crowd. Despite all of the attendance issues, the matchup has a silver lining.

Utah toiled in the WAC during Miami's reign atop the college football world. Now, they stand face-to-face with one of college football's most polarizing programs for a kickoff extravaganza at one of the NFL's newest stadiums. Maybe this alone will help the 2027 Las Vegas Kickoff avoid disappointing attendance.