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Volume 24 No. 116
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Oklahoma-Alabama Delivers ESPN Best Sugar Bowl Overnight Rating Since '07

ESPN earned a 9.3 overnight rating for Oklahoma's 45-31 win over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Thursday night, marking the best figure for the game since Fox' LSU-Notre Dame telecast earned a 9.8 overnight in '07. The 9.3 overnight also is up 45% from a 6.4 rating for Louisville-Florida in last year's Sugar Bowl, which aired on a Wednesday night. Birmingham led all markets with a 50.1 local rating, which ranks as the fourth-best figure in the market for any bowl game on ESPN -- behind only three BCS National Championship telecasts. The Oklahoma City market ranked second with a 34.7 local rating, while Tulsa ranked third with a 33.5 rating -- good enough for Tulsa's best local number yet for any bowl airing on ESPN. Through three BCS games (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar), ESPN is averaging a 9.1 overnight, up 21% from a 7.5 rating for the three comparable games last season (Rose, Orange, Sugar) (ESPN).

SHOW ME THE RATINGS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes a "solid rating in St. Louis is expected" for tonight's AT&T Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Oklahoma State "if the Tigers are competitive." CBS drew a 22.1 local rating in St. Louis for the Auburn-Missouri SEC Championship, marking the "biggest St. Louis rating for a Tigers telecast since late in their standout 2007 season, when they vaulted to No. 1 in the nation" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/3). The mobile app Fox Sports Go will provide live streaming video of the game (Fox Sports).

WARM & FUZZY: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi following the Rose Bowl on Wednesday ended "with Rinaldi giving Dantonio a hug." Hoffarth: "Everyone OK with that? All that was missing was the soft piano music in the background that often accompanies Rinaldi’s emotional sports-related pieces for the network. ... In a live sideline interview, maybe rethink it" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/3).

BELLS & WHISTLES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN's bowl coverage was "like studying the condensed version of how it wrecks nearly everything it touches." The net's "Bottom Line" feature "steadily pitched an ESPN study that showed how much every team should win/lose by on a 'neutral field,'" which was "as predictably useless as any tout against any line using any 'formula.'" Another new feature was "a superimposed line atop the field, a line indicating field goal kickers’ maximum distance." With Duke down by four in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday with a "last chance vs. Texas A&M, ESPN had that field-goal line there for our edification." Mushnick: "Did it matter that Georgia, in the Gator Bowl, was going quick-huddle/snap? Not to ESPN." It kept showing "worthless replays then showed the next live play in a split-screen" (N.Y. POST, 1/3).