Even though Tennessee wasn’t in the College Football Playoff, Vol fans and college football fans in general in Knoxville were one of the biggest audiences for this year’s National Championship Game.
According to data released from ESPN, Knoxville was the fourth-biggest market for this year’s College Football National Championship Game pitting LSU against Clemson. The Knoxville market turned in a 26.5 rating for the title game, trailing only New Orleans (where the game was being played), Birmingham, and Greenville, SC. The Knoxville market finished ahead of Columbus (Ohio), Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville among others.
Having LSU in the title game likely had a large part to do with why so many in Knoxville tuned in to this year’s national title game. The Tigers are an SEC team like Tennessee, and they aren’t the bitter rivals to the Vols like Alabama. Plus, Clemson featured several players with ties to Knoxville and east Tennessee, most notably Tee Higgins of Oak Ridge and Amari Rodgers of Knoxville Catholic.
All in all, ESPN estimates that more than 46 million people watched a portion of the LSU-Clemson match-up in the title game.
Vol fans didn’t just watch the national title game in large numbers, though; Tennessee’s own bowl game was one of the most-watched bowl games this postseason.
The Vols’ 23-22 victory over Indiana in the Gator Bowl was viewed by 4.32 million people according to SportsMediaWatch.com. The only bowl games that pulled in higher audiences that weren’t part of the playoffs or New Year’s Six bowls were the Oklahoma State-Texas A&M match-up in the Texas Bowl and the Texas-Utah game in the Alamo Bowl. Overall, the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl was the 11th-most watched bowl game this postseason.
The only SEC teams with larger viewing audiences this bowl season were LSU (in the semifinals and national championship game), Alabama (vs. Michigan in the Citrus Bowl), Georgia (vs. Baylor in the Sugar Bowl), Florida (vs. Virginia in the Orange Bowl), and Texas A&M (vs. Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl).
According to the data on SportsMediaWatch.com, Tennessee had four of their 12 regular season games eclipse the 1.5 million viewership mark this season, though unfortunately for UT all those games resulted in losses. The most-viewed regular season game including the Vols was their road loss to Alabama that was watched by 4.25 million people. Tennessee’s home loss to Georgia was viewed by 3.9 million fans, the Vols’ road loss to Florida was watched by 2.46 million people, and UT’s double-overtime loss to BYU was viewed by 1.6 million people.
In Tennessee’s last bowl appearance against Nebraska in the Music City Bowl on December 30, 2016, SportsMediaWatch.com estimates 5.026 million watched that match-up.