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There's little room for argument: The inaugural round of the College Football Playoffs was a rousing success. The two games were played on New Year's Day, with Oregon smashing previously undefeated Florida State and Ohio State upsetting top-ranked Alabama.
This year marks the first-ever playoff setup for NCAA Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A) football, and the TV numbers reflected some serious audience interest in the fresh system.
reports that each of the matchups now rank as the largest audiences in cable history. The Rose Bowl averaged 28.16 million viewers at 5 p.m. ET, while the Sugar Bowl narrowly edged that with 28.27 million viewers during the following broadcast (The WatchESPN app also averaged 864, 000 viewers on Thursday)
"These record-setting numbers illustrate the enormous fan interest in college football and the wide-ranging appeal of the new College Football Playoff format, " said ESPN executive VP of programming and production John Wildhack. "We are excited to build upon this success when we showcase the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship on ESPN on Jan. 12."
While those numbers are extremely impressive, they're still a long way off from the mighty reach of basic television, where the NFL is king.
The past seven Super Bowls rank as the most-watched American programs of all-time, with last February's tilt between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos drawing 112 million viewers.
ESPN's Jan. 12 broadcast of the national title game between Oregon and Ohio State will likely move past the semifinal games for the largest cable audience in history.
Many pundits expect the NCAA to expand to and eight-team playoff in the near future, but fans are simply happy to finally get out of the BCS system that caught flak for almost 15 years.
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