More than 16 million people watched the Notre Dame-USC game last Saturday night. It was the most watched regular season game since 2006, the most watched Notre Dame game since 1993 and the most watched ABC Saturday night game ever.
Why did so many watch this game? Two factors: brand power and the must-win nature of it.
Two of college football’s biggest brands
USC and Notre Dame represent two of college football’s biggest brands. There’s a reason why more people watched this game than Kansas State – Baylor a few weeks ago. It’s something Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney might want to consider as he seeks to add brands like Maryland football and Rutgers football to his conference in the name of forcing cable subscribers to carry the Big Ten Network.
The big brands of college football are what drive the interest. They drive the eye balls.
It’s why I’m completely against the SEC expanding simply to add television markets. The SEC is the best brand of football, not the conference with the most attractive television markets. Let’s keep it that way. Florida State or Clemson? Fine. Stay away from NC State.
The beauty of college football is the regular season
It’s not enough to have big brands playing football. Notre Dame and USC play every year. The reason Saturday night was special was that it was a “win and you’re in, lose and you’re out” game for Notre Dame with respect to the BCS Championship Game.
If we had an eight team playoff, Notre Dame at 11-0 would have already been in. Going undefeated is icing on the cake. A higher seed in the playoff is icing on the cake. But, they’d still be in. If you don’t think a playoff would have decreased the urgency of the USC game, you’re crazy.
The explosion of emotion from Notre Dame’s Manti T’eo after the goal line stand late in the game was because they had just secured one of two spots in the BCS Championship.
Compound this with the fact that SEC fans all over the Southeast were watching to see if we were going to get an All-SEC BCS Championship Game again. Once Florida smacked down the Seminoles earlier in the day, all that stood in the way of Florida playing Alabama or Georgia in the BCS Championship were the Fighting Irish. Again, it wouldn’t have mattered in a playoff scenario. Florida would have already earned their playoff berth.
Big brands. Urgency of the BCS system. Record breaking ratings.
Photo Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE