Formula For Strong BCS Ratings Is Pretty Simple

Jan 6 2014, 12:06pm CST | by

Formula For Strong BCS Ratings Is Pretty Simple
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

What kind of ratings will tonight’s BCS Championship game between Florida State and Auburn draw?

Forget the market sizes of the competing schools. Forget their histories or national profiles. Well, ok, don’t forget them entirely, but don’t give them too much weight either. How many people watch comes down to that most basic of sports measurement tools: how good the game is.

That’s been the pattern since the NCAA began matching the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a year-end bowl game in 1999 (traditional bowl games like the Rose and Orange took the top game during the early years before a separate BCS Championship Game was added to the lineup in 2007).

Last year’s Alabama-Notre Dame championship game, a matchup of storied programs, was expected to be a ratings bonanza. It didn’t happen. The 15.1 rating the game garnered was the third -lowest for a title game in the BCS era. The likely reason: Alabama forging a 28-0 halftime lead on the way to a blowout win. That shouldn’t have been a surprise: the lowest -rated title game of the past 14 years came in 2005, when USC’s 55-19 hammering of Oklahoma pulled just a 13.7 rating.

But the Trojans helped produce the high water mark for BCS-era championship games just a year later -their 2006 thriller with Texas, won by the Longhorns in the final seconds when quarterback Vince Young scampered into the end zone for a 41-38 win, did a 21.7 rating.

Alabama and Texas, a pair of high-profile southern programs with rabid fan bases, turned in the second-most watched game (17.2 rating) in 2010. But the Tide’s championship television ratings dropped a point the following year against LSU, and then another point against Notre Dame in 2013. Alabama fatigue? Maybe. But it’s the competitive levels of the games that stand out: Bama got a stiff challenge from Texas before two late scores secured a 37-21 win. Their championship wins against LSU (21-0) and Notre Dame (42-14) were far easier.

The Auburn and Florida State football histories don’t quite match the national profiles of Alabama, Texas or Notre Dame, but they’re storied nonetheless. Both have interesting twists in their recent histories – the Seminoles returning to the big stage following a drop off during former coach Bobby Bowden’s latter years; the Tigers bouncing around from a national championship in 2010-11 to a 3-9 record in 2012, and right back to the title game this year.

The game does seem to have some wind at its back: major Bowl ratings are up across the board this year, with the Sugar, Rose and Fiesta all gaining viewers over 2013. And both schools have had major time in the national spotlight, thanks to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s Heisman Trophy and Auburn’s mesmerizing “kick six” victory over Alabama that put them in the driver’s seat for a title run. Pundits doubt Auburn’s ability to stop Winston and FSU’s ability to stop the Auburn rushing attack. So it’s simple: if they’re right on both counts, an entertaining, high-scoring game will attract and hold viewers. If they’re only half-right, viewers will flip over to the season finale of “Hostages.”

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Source: Forbes Business


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