Meet the new top dog, same as the old top dog. Saturday’s SEC Championship game on CBS was the most-viewed college football game of the weekend, drawing 15.277 million viewers. Per CBS, Alabama’s 41-24 win over Georgia was up 70% from last year’s game (a wild 52-46 Crimson Tide win over Florida), and was the most-watched conference championship game since 2018 (per Sports Media Watch, that was the Alabama-Georgia SEC title game, which brought in 17.50 million viewers on CBS).
— CBS Sports PR (@CBSSportsGang) December 7, 2021
Looking at the rest of the slate, comparisons to 2020 are favorable, given how bizarre that season was. The Big Ten title game drew 11.658 million viewers on Fox, up 45% from a year ago. 8.021 million people watched Baylor’s victory over Oklahoma State on ABC in the Big 12 championship, a 168% increase (not a typo) increase last year’s game. On Friday night, the Pac-12 title game brought in 4.247 million viewers on ABC, up 10% from Oregon-USC on Fox last year.
With Cincinnati playing for an unbeaten season, their win over Houston in the AAC title game drew 3.415 million viewers (head to head with the SEC title game), up 82% from their win over Tulsa a year ago. The ACC championship marked the biggest disappointment of the weekend, as Pitt’s win over Wake Forest drew just 2.661 million viewers in primetime on ABC – a decrease of 73% from Clemson’s win over Notre Dame last season.
Comparisons to 2019 are somewhat less extreme. The SEC title game was up 12%. The Big Ten title game was down 16%. The Big 12 championship was down 9%. The Pac-12 championship was down 38%. The AAC championship was up 19%, and the ACC title game was down 49%.
Diving into all these numbers, one takeaway is that the Big Ten championship probably would have drawn a larger audience had Iowa made a game of it. The Hawkeyes were down two touchdowns in the first ten minutes of the game, and looked utterly hapless on offense after their field goal at the end of the first quarter. If they would have been able to do *something* to be more competitive, maybe that viewership number would have been a lot higher.