There are only three certainties in life: Death. Taxes. And America LOVES college football.
We learned that again on Saturday, as the numbers are in for Michigan-Michigan State and Penn State-Ohio State, and let's just say well, they did monster numbers.
First off, there is Michigan-Michigan State.
To the outsiders (you know, the TV shows that would rather talk about a random Wednesday night Lakers game than a marquee college football matchup) they probably see Wolverines-Spartans as a quaint, regional rivalry between two schools in the upper Midwest.
Instead, America disagreed, as Michigan-Michigan had a staggering 9.28 million TV viewers. It is not only the most watched game of this season on any network in college football, but the most watched regular season game since last year's Clemson-Notre Dame thriller in South Bend.
Not to be outdone, Penn State and Ohio State delivered later in the evening as well, bringing in another monster, with over 7.05 million for their primetime matchup on ABC.
So, a bunch of thoughts here.
First off, these ratings are a great sign for the overall health of college football. While the sport is often described as "too regional" with most of the best talent, coaches and players in the Southeast portion of the country (basically, the SEC and Clemson) it's clear that there is just as much passion, and interest, in the Big Ten footprint. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are all major brands, with major alumni bases and major national appeal - and it shows in the ratings here.
It's also worth noting that FOX's decision to continue to put its best games in the noon ET window is paying off. While fans despise the noon ET window (that is part of the reason it's believed Oklahoma left the Big 12 - they were tired of playing at 11 a.m. CT) it's clear the viewing public has embraced the early portion of the day to watch big college football games. The "Big Noon" window has largely been a ratings hit all season long (and really the past three seasons since it started), including when nearly eight million people tuned in for Oregon-Ohio State earlier this season.
Finally, it seems like there's no real replacement for real human drama. Clearly part of these ratings were that all four teams are really good (even Penn State pre-Sean Clifford injury) and were all playing for something big late in the year. The fact that there was other stuff at stake - another Jim Harbaugh meltdown, James Franklin's future at Penn State, Mel Tucker elevating himself in the LSU search - made it that much better.
Regardless, one thing remains clear: As mentioned up top, America just cannot get *enough* of college football.
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