Earlier this year people were writing about how the interest in college football is declining. This story is one of several I saw pursuing that theme.
Guess what? The news that college football is on the outs with fans might be a bit . . . wrong. They’ve now determined that the Ohio State-Alabama game in the Sugar Bowl drew the largest audience in cable TV history — 28.2 million viewers, which just edged out the impressive number who tuned in for the earlier Rose Bowl semifinal game between Oregon and Florida State. And the size of the Sugar Bowl audience is even more striking when you consider that (1) the experts were uniformly predicting an Alabama blowout and (2) the game didn’t begin until 9 a.m. and didn’t end until about 1 a.m. Eastern time.
I’d like to attribute the record-setting audience to the rabid fans in Buckeye Nation, and the fact that every living soul in the state of Ohio watched the game. I’m sure that OSU was a big draw, and Alabama, too, but I think the real reason for the huge ratings is that the college football playoff has introduced a new and interesting element to the sport. When you consider that, under the old BCS system, neither Ohio State nor Oregon would likely be playing in the championship game, you get a sense of the shot of adrenalin and excitement that the playoff concept has produced.
American sports fans like to see people earn championships on the field, not through some subjective rankings system. Don’t be surprised if the tremendous ratings both college football playoff games received on January 1 gives a shot in the arm to efforts to increase the number of playoff teams to eight — and sooner rather than later.