Saturday night has long been a desert on television because the networks and cable channels came to the conclusion that nobody worth chasing for advertisers is at home then. Hence they largely programmed cheap shows that had a chance of appealing to babysitters.

Much of the Saturday night programming in recent years has been replays of theatrical movies which most people have already had several chances to see in the theater and on other cable channels, magazine programs about murderers, and reruns of shows that had appeared earlier in the week. That’s why the nets run those three-hour marathons of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit on Saturday night.

Of course, such a choice becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If purveyors program only for teenage girls, then teenage girls is the audience they are going to get—if that.

That’s why it’s interesting to see ABC trying something different, running college football on Saturday nights.

Michigan State's Ervin Baldwin (51) celebrates his second-quarter touchdown on an interception against Notre Dame during a college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006, in East Lansing, Mich. At left is Michigan State's Demond Williams (9). (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The games they’ve chosen so far this season have been good ones, and last night’s Notre Dame-Michigan State matchup turned into an "instant classic," as the announcers aptly described it.

Notre Dame went into the game under intense scrutiny after their loss last week to Michigan, and the Irish got behind early and stayed there nearly all the game. Heavy winds and driving rain roared into the stadium throughout the second half, making it immensely difficult to mount a passing attack on offense, which made it even tougher for ND to score points and mount a comeback.

On top of all that, the wind direction actually reversed at the end of the third quarter, when the teams switch goals, so that the Irish had the wind against them the entire second half of the game, instead of being able to move with the wind in the last quarter.

In the end, however, the Irish stormed back as their defense finally managed to put some pressure on Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton, and the ND offense finally kicked into gear as QB Brady Quinn started to show better throwing accuracy and/or his receivers managed to run their routes more accurately.

In the end, the Irish won 30-27 on a 27-yeard interception return for a TB by ND cornerback Terrail Lambert.

Notre Dame's Terrail Lambert intercepts a Michigan State pass and returns it to score the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter a 40-37 college football win over Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Notre Dame didn’t look like a potential national champion by any means, but it was a great game—and it certainly was much more interesting than another episode of 48 Hours Mystery.

It’s good to see ABC try this, and it seems to me that it will be a good thing if the choice proves successful.