Since the beginning of the BCS era, we’ve had 19 games over the years to determine the national champion of college football. The BCS made way for the College Football Playoff. Everyone, especially fans of teams that won national titles, have their personal favorite moments and games throughout this stretch. But what did a wider fanbase think and feel? The Nielsen ratings of the championship games over the years tell us an interesting story, and especially highlighting two specific games that stand out over everything else.
10. Tennessee – Florida State (1999 Fiesta Bowl): 17.2 Nielsen Rating
The first BCS championship game was a one-sided affair despite the misleading score, as the Vols won the title the year after Peyton Manning left. Slightly over 26 million viewers tuned in to watch.
9. Alabama – Texas (2010 BCS NCG): 17.2 Nielsen Rating
Many see this game as the turning point for both programs, as Texas slowly started falling to their current abysmal existence, while Nick Saban established a fearsome program, winning five national titles since his arrival. In terms of ratings, this game had 28.5 million viewers.
8. Ohio State – Miami (2003 Fiesta Bowl): 17.2 Nielsen Rating
A controversial game with an upset at the end, as the Buckeyes surprised the defending BCS champions with a 31-24 double overtime win. In total, 29.1 million viewers watched the game.
7. Florida – Ohio State (2007 BCS NCG): 17.4 Nielsen Rating
The game that started the whole SEC bias, SEC speed and more, as Florida ran through the stunned Buckeyes in Glendale. The 17.4 Nielsen Rating meant 28.8 million viewers tuned in to watch.
6. Alabama – Notre Dame (2013 BCS NCG): 17.5 Nielsen Rating
Notre Dame were finally back on the biggest of stages… However it didn’t work out very well them, completely outplayed by Alabama, capping off a third national title in four years. There were 26.4 million viewers watching the 42-14 drubbing.
5. Florida State – Virginia Tech (2000 Sugar Bowl): 17.5 Nielsen Rating
Florida State won the game and the national championship for the 1999 season, but most people remember this game with Michael Vick in mind. Just under 27 million tuned in to watch the 46-29 Seminoles win.
4. Oklahoma – Florida State (2001 Orange Bowl): 17.8 Nielsen Rating
Florida State were very busy (and good) during the early BCS years. On this occasion, they lost 13-2 to Oklahoma, a game watched by 27.2 million viewers.
3. Auburn – Oregon (2011 BCS NCG): 17.8 Nielsen Rating
Two undefeated teams, one Cam Newton – turned out to be a pretty hyped game, and also a very good one, with Auburn winning 22-19 on a time-expired field goal. The game was watched by 27.3 million, a new record for cable TV (the game moved to ESPN that year after being on Network TV previously).
2. Ohio State – Oregon (2015 CFP Final): 18.9 Nielsen Rating
The first ever college football playoff ended with Ohio State winning the championship at AT&T Stadium over Oregon and Marcus Mariota. Over 33.4 million viewers tuned in to watch.
1. Texas – USC (2006 Rose Bowl): 21.7 Nielsen Rating
Two massive teams arrived at the 2006 Rose Bowl undefeated. USC with Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were the favorites. Texas, with Vince Young, ended up winning 41-38 on Young’s famous stroll into the end zone in arguably the best college football game ever, or at least in the BCS era. The game pulled in 35.6 million viewers.
USC – Oklahoma (2005 Orange Bowl): 13.7
Miami – Nebraska (2002 Rose Bowl): 13.8
LSU – Ohio State (2008 BCS NCG): 14.4
LSU – Oklahoma (2004 Sugar Bowl): 14.8
Clemson – Alabama (2017 CFP Final): 15.3
Florida State – Auburn (2014 BCS NCG): 15.7
Florida – Oklahoma (2009 BCS NCG): 15.8
Alabama – Clemson (2016 CFP Final): 15.8
Alabama – LSU (2012 BCS NCG): 16.2