ESPN is off to a great start in the final year of college football’s Bowl Championship Series, scoring year-over-year gains for both the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday.
According to Nielsen overnights, Michigan State’s 24-20 victory over Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl Game averaged a strong 11.2 household rating, up 17% from the 9.6 for Stanford-Wisconsin a year ago. That year-ago contest averaged 17 million viewers in the nationals, so Wednesday afternoon’s game likely drew in the vicinity of 20 million viewers.
Detroit, the top-rated market, averaged a 27.9 overnight household rating, the highest-rated bowl game ever on the ESPN networks in the market (records go back to 2000).
On Wednesday night, the Fiesta Bowl between Central Florida and Baylor averaged a 7.1 overnight rating — up 9% from last year’s comparable game (6.5 for Florida State-Northern Illinois), which ended up drawing 10.6 million total viewers.
ESPN also had a particularly strong showing on New Year’s Eve with the Chick-Fil-A Bowl between Texas A&M and Duke, which averaged a 5.3 overnight household rating — the best ever for any ESPN bowl game outside the BCS. Texas A&M, behind 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, rallied to win 52-48.
ESPN will air the national championship game, between Auburn and Florida State, on Monday.