The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl on Saturday had significantly lower ratings than the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl did on Jan. 1, 2018.
Per ESPN, Clemson’s Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame had a 10.3 overnight rating while Alabama’s Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma had a 10.4 rating.
The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were the semifinals a year ago. Georgia’s win over Oklahoma had a 14.8 rating while Alabama’s win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl posted a 12.5 rating.
The semifinals for the 2018 season were Saturday night because the Rose and Sugar Bowls negotiated the rights to be played on New Year’s Day. With the Rose and Sugar Bowls hosting the semifinals once every three years, that means the semis are played before Jan. 1 twice every three years.
The Rose and Sugar hosted the first-ever semifinal games on Jan. 1, 2015. Those games posted ratings of 15.5 (Rose) and 15.3 (Sugar). While the novelty of the first-ever playoff certainly drew in more viewers than normal on the first day of 2015, it’s a no-brainer conclusion that more people are at home and watching football on a traditional holiday for college football than they are on other nights.