The networks labored to get viewers to tune as last week wore on but the return of college football helped boost circulation.

Week leading into Labor Day is traditionally a slow one ratingswise, with college football getting its chance in the spotlight prior to the start of the NFL season. And while there were some standout entertainment series perfs early in the frame — including Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” and the finale of VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta” — it was all about football as the week came to a close.

ABC’s coverage of the Saturday college football opener between Michigan and defending national champion Alabama topped the week in adults 18-49 (3.0 rating/11 share, 7.92 million viewers overall) despite being a blowout victory for the Crimson Tide. The 3.0 matches the inaugural “Saturday Night Football” telecast in 2006 as the franchise’s top-rated season opener in 18-49.

And ESPN’s college pigskin also ruled Thursday night with the SEC matchup of South Carolina against Vanderbilt (1.8/6 in 18-49, 4.13m) and Friday with the clash between Boise State and Michigan State (1.7/5, 4.19m).

The week also included three nights of coverage from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with the Thursday events (including Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech and Clint Eastwood’s address to an empty chair) averaging a combined audience of 30.3 million viewers on 11 broadcast and cable networks — down sharply from the 38.9 million who tuned in four years ago. Fox News led the way, drawing 9.06 million viewers for the 10-11:15 p.m. portion.

The three nights of the RNC on FNC ranked as the week’s top three cable shows in total viewers.

Overall for the week of Aug. 27-Sept. 2, Fox and Univision tied for the lead among adults 18-49 with a 1.3 rating/4 share in adults 18-49, followed by ABC (1.1/4), CBS (1.1/3) and NBC (1.0/3). This marks the fourth time in its history that Univision, which aired the finale of talent show “Pequenos Gigantes” (Small Giants) on Sunday, has ranked first for the week.

CBS prevailed in total viewers (4.9 million to 4.2 million for runner-up NBC), with a repeat of “NCIS” on Tuesday (1.2/4 in 18-49, 8.38m) drawing the week’s second-largest overall series audience — behind only NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which drew just under 10 million viewers.

Fox earned the week’s top series scores in adults 18-49 with Monday’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 6.87m) and Tuesday’s “MasterChef” (2.8/8, 6.59m). And other top broadcast scores included NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” on Tuesday (2.5/7, 9.89m), Fox’s “Hotel Hell” on Monday (2.4/7, 5.90m) and CBS’ “Big Brother” on Wednesday (2.3/7, 6.40m).

On cable, VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop” wrapped its Atlanta edition, ranking fifth among all primetime programs in 18-49 and standing as No. 1 overall among its core demo of women 18-34 (4.7/14).

Also clicking last week was ABC Family’s season finale of “Pretty Little Liars” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.98m), which ranked second only to “Love & Hip: Hop” for the week among series in the persons 12-34 demo (2.3/7). And TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” picked up more steam Wednesday (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.99m), standing as TV’s No. 1 show for the night in women 18-34 (2.1/7).

The season finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.82m) was up sharply vs. its final episode of last year (1.9 million total viewers). And this year’s eight episodes averaged 1.6 million adults 18-49, about 55% more than last year.