SEC, Big Ten Championships Lead Overnight Ratings For Conference Title Games
CBS led all conference championship games over the weekend with an 8.7 overnight rating for the Auburn-Missouri matchup on Saturday afternoon. That figure is down 13% from the Alabama-Georgia title game last year, but up 18% from LSU-Georgia in '11. The 8.7 overnight ranks as the second-best college football audience this season to date, behind only a 9.0 for CBS' Alabama-Texas A&M matchup on Sept. 13. CBS will likely finish with the top three regular-season audiences of the college football season (includes 8.6 overnight for Alabama-Auburn). CBS also earned a 1.2 overnight for the Fresno State-Utah State Mountain West Conference Championship in the 10:00pm ET window on Saturday. Meanwhile, Fox earned an 8.4 overnight for Michigan State's upset win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night. That figure is up 236% from Wisconsin's blowout win over Nebraska last year and up 95% from a 4.3 for the inaugural Big Ten title game in '11 (Wisconsin-Michigan State). ABC earned a 3.8 overnight for Florida State's rout of Duke in the ACC Championship on Saturday night. The FSU-Georgia Tech matchup earned a 1.4 overnight on ESPN last year. ESPN earned a 1.1 overnight for the Pac-12 Championship, which saw Stanford defeat Arizona State. Last year's Stanford-UCLA title game on Fox earned a 3.4 overnight. Other strong non-conference championship overnights from the weekend include a 5.2 overnight for Oklahoma-Oklahoma State on ABC on Saturday afternoon and a 2.6 overnight for Texas-Baylor on Fox (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
TIME & PLACE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted ESPN's Heather Cox "took a lot of heat on social media this weekend" for her postgame questioning of Florida State QB Jameis Winston following the ACC Championship Game. Many "accused her of ambushing" Winston, while others "felt her line of questioning was inappropriate given the timing and setting of the interview." Cox said that in the days prior to the broadcast, she and a group of ESPN colleagues "discussed the possibility of a Winston postgame interview." She added that the net "asked and received permission" from FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and two FSU SIDs "regarding asking Winston questions about the investigation." She said, "I was never once asked not to ask about the investigation and if I had been asked not to ask those questions, I would have declined to do the interview because I would not have been able to do my job." Deitsch: "I felt Cox's questions were fair. She's paid by ESPN be a reporter -- not an auxiliary member of the Florida State staff" (SI.com, 12/8). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Cox's questioning of Winston "wasn't out of line or bad timing." Winston "had not spoken to the media or answered any direct questions about the case." Jones: "How could Cox not ask?" It would have been "irresponsible if she did not ask Winston about the controversy" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/9).
ON THE CALL: Jones writes CBS' Gary Danielson "had an absolutely terrific Saturday calling the SEC Championship Game with broadcast partner Verne Lundquist, who also was on top of his game." Early in the game, Danielson said that Missouri "was now in the part of the field where its tall receivers could make a difference." On the very next play, the 6'6" Dorial Green-Beckham caught "what was essentially a jump ball in the end zone for a touchdown." Jones: "That's how you do it, folks. That's what makes a great analyst" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/9). In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht wrote ESPN's Sean McDonough's "strong play-by-play calls" during Oklahoma-Oklahoma State "helped overcome an uneven performance" for the game telecast overall, which included the work done by analyst Chris Spielman and sideline reporter Shannon Spake (OKLAHOMAN, 12/8).
WHAT WE HAVE HERE...: In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote the "transmission failure" between the Pac-12 and DirecTV "falls on" conference Commissioner Larry Scott. The impasse is "now two years old," yet Scott is "still imploring his customers to switch providers." Bickley: "For most people, this grass-roots appeal is not going to work" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 12/8).