2018-19 Report: Amazing College Football Popularity Highlighted by Impressive Ratings and Attendance Data

June 11, 2019 by Courtesy NFF

IRVING, Texas (June 11, 2019) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame highlighted today numerous powerful facts from the 2018 college football season that emphasize the strong popularity of college football among millions of fans across the country, including the 56 percent of U.S. adults who cited themselves in a Gallup Poll as college football fans, more than professional baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer. Additionally, excluding the combined numbers for Olympic Sports, college football ranks second in core fans behind only the NFL.
"As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the game, college football has proven from its earliest days that it has a unique ability to unite people," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "In an increasingly fragmented world, especially in the media markets, college football remains one of the most powerful platforms for reaching a mass audience in real time. Whether you're one of the 47 million attending a football game or the 163 million watching on television, college football creates a powerful vehicle with those unique moments that are quickly disappearing in today's culture."
"The networks, as well as the colleges, conferences and bowls, all deserve high praise as innovators who continue to break new ground within an ever-changing high-tech landscape. There is no doubt that college football fans everywhere are the big winners with options galore, thanks to the creativity and commitment of the leaders of our sport."

Top Highlights from the 2018-19 College Football Season:

  • The six College Football Playoff (CFP) games, all telecast on ESPN, produced five of the six most-watched cable presentations of the year.
  • The 2018-19 season's New Year's Six were the most watched set of CFP games ever in years when the CFP Semifinals were not played on New Year's Day, amassing a total live audience1 for the six games of 14,922,000, up 26% and 1% from the second and third years of the series. 
  • The 366 regular season telecasts on ABC, beIN Sports, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, FOX, FS1 and NBC during the 2018 regular season averaged 1,802,000 viewers per game while reaching more than 163 million unique fans† 
  • The 38 postseason bowl games on ABC, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX and FS1 at the conclusion of the 2018 season averaged 5,008,000 viewers per game while reaching 90 million unique fans† on television. (The figures include the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, which was played at the FCS level, but not the AutoNation Cure Bowl or the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, both telecast on CBSSN, which is not rated by Nielsen Media. The figures also do not include the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, which was canceled due to bad weather.)

NCAA Programs Draw 46.9 Million Fans to Stadiums during the 2018-19 Season
The 669 NCAA football programs (FBS, FCS, DII, DIII) drew 46,984,720 fans at home, neutral-site and postseason games in 2018, according to the annual NCAA report. The number represents a 1.3 percent drop from the 2017 season, but it also represents a 25 percent increase from 1998 season and a 145.6 percent increase from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported in 1948* when they first started collecting attendance figures.

The 39 FBS bowl games this season (including the CFP National Championship, but excluding the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at the FCS level) attracted 1,602,618 spectators to the stands (41,093 per contest) or an increase of 507 fans per game. The Top Ten bowl games for attendance each attracted more than 57,000 fans, and eight bowl games saw increases of more than 3,000 fans.

The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including the ABC, beIN Sports, Big Ten Network, BYUtv, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN+, FOX, FS1, FOX College Sports, FOX Deportes, FOX Sports Net, Longhorn Network, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Pac-12 Networks, ROOT Sports, SEC Network, Stadium and multiple regional and local outlets. Throughout the regular and bowl seasons, these outlets continue to capitalize on college football's ever-increasing popularity to produce an increasingly dynamic product that engages fans on new levels.

Regular Season Attendance Highlights


  • Overall attendance for NCAA football games across all divisions (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III) drew 46,984,720 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2018. The number represents a 1.3 percent drop from the 2017 season, but it also represents a 25 percent increase from 1998 season and a 145.6 percent increase from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported in 1948* when they first started collecting attendance figures.
  • The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) drew 36,707,511 spectators for an average of 41,856 fans per game.
  • The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) pulled in 5,253,371 fans for an average of 7,853 followed by Division II with 2,751,966 for a 3,075 average and Division III with 2,135,065 for a 1,705 average.
  • The SEC led all FBS conferences in attendance for the 21st straight year, averaging 73,994 fans per game or a total of 7,473,374 in 2018, followed by the Big Ten (65,376), Big 12 (56,986), ACC (48,820) and Pac-12 (46,442).
  • Michigan led all FBS schools again with an average attendance of 110,737 fans per home game in 2018. Four other schools also averaged more than 100,000 fans per home game: Penn State (105,485), Ohio State (101,947), Alabama (101,562) and LSU (100,819). Rounding out the 2018 Top Ten leaders for average home team attendance were: Texas A&M (99,844), Texas (97,713), Tennessee (92,984), Georgia (92,746) and Nebraska (89,034). Other universities with more than 80,000 fans per home game included Oklahoma (86,735), Auburn (84,462), Florida (82,328) and Clemson (80,400).
  • Michigan has led the nation in attendance for 42 of the past 44 seasons. (The two breaks occurred with a No. 3 ranking in 2014 and No. 2 ranking in 1997.) The Wolverines have now played before 100,000-plus fans for a record 286 straight home games, a streak that extends back to Nov. 8, 1975.
  • Alabama led the nation for total fan attendance, attracting 1,313,670 spectators to all of their games in 2018, including home, away, neutral and postseason tilts. Thirteen other teams eclipsed the million mark in 2018: Ohio State (1,220,635), Michigan (1,200,619), Georgia (1,189,563), LSU (1,174,526), Texas A&M (1,114,219), Penn State (1,098,807), Clemson (1,077,480), Oklahoma (1,073,464), Texas (1,063,160), Auburn (1,032,450), Nebraska (1,031,202) and Tennessee (1,011,516).
  • Nebraska continued its NCAA-record streak of 368 consecutive home sellouts, a stretch that dates back to Nov. 3, 1962, at Memorial Stadium. The stadium has a current capacity of 85,458, and the Huskers averaged 89,034 at its home games during the 2018 season for a total attendance of 623,240 at seven games. Notre Dame holds the second longest sellout streak, which started in 1974, continuing through the 2018 season and now at 268 games.
  • The top 10 FBS schools with the largest increases in attendance all averaged more than 3,200 additional fans per game with Northwestern leading the way with 8,020 additional fans at each game, followed by UCF (7,173), South Florida (7,116), California (6,318), Pittsburgh (5,401), Buffalo (5,030), Texas (4,935), Louisiana-Monroe (4,282), Louisville (4,091) and Purdue (3,236).
  • The top 10 FBS schools with the largest percentage increases in attendance included Louisiana-Monroe (43.1%), Buffalo (37.7%), South Florida (22.7%), Northwestern (22.4%), UCF (19.5%), Louisiana (17.8%), California (17.3%), Western Michigan (15.2%), Pittsburgh (14.9%) and Marshall (10.68.%).
  • Georgia currently boasts a streak of 71 consecutive sell-outs.
  • Boise State's average home attendance was 33,068, a 5.9 percent increase from the prior year and leading the Mountain West Conference.
  • South Florida football posted its best home attendance average in six seasons with an average of 38,517 fans for six home games or an increase of more than 7,116 fans per game over the 2017 season.
  • Troy set a single-season attendance record for the third consecutive year, averaging 24,527 fans during its six home games. The home opener between Troy and Boise State drew a record crowd of 29,612, and the season saw a record 147,160 fans attend games.
  • North Texas attracted more fans (140,131) in 2018 than any of the previous eight seasons that Apogee Stadium has been open. The total marked a 4.4 percent increase above last season, which was the previous high-water mark. Average attendance equaled 23,355, also eclipsing the previous record of 22,362 set last season.
  • Jackson State claimed the FCS attendance title attracting 99,079 fans for an average of 24,770 fans for the Tigers' four home games in 2018. Montana, which had claimed the FCS title for four consecutive seasons, came in at second with an average of 24,677 fans for the Grizzlies' six home games and 148,064 spectators overall in 2018. James Madison (20,911), Southern (18,803) and North Dakota State (18,106) rounded out the top five.
  • Morehouse (Ga.) captured the Division II attendance title, attracting a total of 36,111 fans for a 12,037 average per home game. Tuskegee (Ala.) with 11,058 landed in the No. 2 spot, followed by Grand Valley State (Mich.), which had led Division II in attendance from 2014-16, with an average of 11,039. Pittsburg State (Kan.) with 8,715 fans per game and Midwestern State (Texas) with 8,284 fans round the top five Division II schools in 2018.
  • Hampden-Sydney (Va.) finished first among all Division III programs in 2018 home attendance, with a total of 30,864 attending four home games for an average of 7,716. Saint John's (Minn.), which held the title for 15 of 16 years from 2001-16 and was second last year, again landed at No. 2 with an average of 5,912 fans per game. Rounding out the top five were Wisconsin-Whitewater with 5,198, Bethel (Minn.) with 4,436 and Trine (Ind.) with 4,234 fans per game.
  • The Southwestern Athletic Conference earned its 40th FCS attendance title in 41 years, averaging 15,240 fans for a total of 746,760 in 2018.
  • The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) netted its 15th Division II attendance crown in 16 years, averaging 6,252 fans and a total attendance of 287,589.
  • The Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference grabbed the top spot for Division III attendance for the 13th time in the last 14 years with an average of 2,922 fans per game. 


Regular Season Ratings and Digital Highlights

(Overview, followed by networks in alphabetical order)


  • The 366 regular season telecasts on ABC, beIN Sports, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, FOX, FS1 and NBC during the 2018 regular season averaged 1,802,000 viewers per game while reaching more than 163 million unique fans
  • The SEC Championship on CBS between Alabama and Georgia was the most watched game of the season with 17,499,000 viewers on Dec. 1. The game was also the most watched regular season game in seven years and the second most-watched SEC Championship ever in the 26-year history of the game.   
  • Top Ten for viewership (P2+) also included Michigan – Ohio State (Nov. 24 on FOX) with 13,200,000; Alabama – LSU (Nov. 3 on CBS) with 11,543,000; Texas – Oklahoma (Dec. 1 on ABC) with 10,155,000; Ohio State – Penn State (Sept. 29 on ABC) with Auburn – Alabama (Nov. 24 on CBS) with 9,132,000; Northwestern – Ohio State (Dec. 1 on FOX) with 8,659,000; Army – Navy (Dec. 8 on CBS) with 8,050,000; Notre Dame – Southern California (Nov. 24 on ABC) with 7,736,000; Ohio State – TCU (Sept. 15 on ABC) with 7,232,000.
  • The top four games all eclipsed the 10 million viewer mark and the top 11 all exceeded 7 million viewers each. A total of 26 games had more than 5 million viewers.
  • Seven teams played in three or more games ranked in the Top 25 for viewership: Ohio State (7), Alabama (5), LSU (4), Michigan (4), Auburn (3), Georgia (3), Oklahoma (3)

ABC and ESPN Highlights

  • ESPN had more than 163 million fans watch 77.6 billion minutes of college football games on its family of networks during the 2018 regular season. ESPN's massive collection of viewers represents nearly half of the United States population.
  • ESPN's Digital Platforms produced more than 16.5 billion minutes of viewing time during the regular season on Saturdays this year, up 15% year-over-year.
  • ABC's Saturday Night Football averaged 5,077,000 viewers during the 14 weeks of the regular season, making it the most-watched primetime audience across all networks with regular primetime packages and besting the regular broadcast competition by 71%. On a weekly basis, ABC's Saturday Night Football aired the most-watched primetime game nine times and ESPN did this twice, a feat no other broadcast network achieved more than once.
  • Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, ESPN networks averaged 8,795,000 viewers in primetime each week, including 2,830,000 viewers on ESPN. The 8.8 million viewers watching ESPN's networks is similar to airing a top three primetime game each week.
  • ESPN's five-day kickoff week schedule (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3) reached more than 64 million fans, 35% more fans than the broadcast and cable competition combined, and more fans tuned into the four games on ABC than all the other broadcast and cable networks combined. On Saturday, Sept. 1 from Noon to 11:00 p.m. ET an average of six million fans were tuning into college football on ABC/ESPN's networks at any given minute.
  • ABC's presentation of the Big 12 Championship between Oklahoma and Texas delivered a total live audience of 10,299,000 viewers, a top four most-watched game of the season.
  • ABC's Saturday Night Football coverage of the Ohio State at Penn State game on Sept. 29 with 9,141,000 viewers ranked among the top five most-watched September games on ABC in the last decade.
  • ABC's Saturday Night Football on Nov. 24 featuring Notre Dame at USC delivered a total live audience of 7,809,000 viewers, the most-watched Fighting Irish game on any network since 2016.
  • ABC's Saturday Night Football coverage of Ohio State vs. TCU on Sept. 15 with a total live audience of 7,328,000 notched the fifth-highest viewership for a September, non-opening week Saturday Night Football game in the last 10 years.
  • ESPN on ABC's broadcast of Miami vs LSU on Sunday, Sept. 2, delivered a total live audience of 6,647,000 viewers as ABC's most-watched game of Kickoff Weekend and up 41% from last season's Sunday night presentation on ABC.
  • ESPN produced one of its top-three regular season Friday games ever, dating back to 1993, on Nov. 23 with the Oklahoma at West Virginia game, delivering a total live audience of 5,630,000 viewers and growing ESPN's audience year-over-year for the same window by 160%.
  • ESPN's coverage of Clemson at Texas A&M with 4,486,000 viewers on Sept. 8, registered cable's second-most-watched Saturday game since November 2016.
  • ABC's Saturday Night Football featuring Stanford at Oregon on Sept. 22 delivered a total live audience of 4,259,000 viewers, ESPN/ABC most-watched Pac-12 Conference game in nearly four years (Nov. 22, 2014).
  • College GameDay Built by The Home Depot averaged 1,902,000 viewers across ESPN and ESPNU, up 3% from last season's ESPN-only presentation. The show's week 13 episode from Columbus, Ohio, earned 2,478,000 viewers, the second-most-watched show since 2011.
  • ESPN's coverage of the 2018 Heisman Trophy, which was claimed by Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, earned a 1.81 rating with 2,928,000 viewers, a 35 percent increase from last year and the most viewers since 2015. Overall, more than 6.5 million viewers watched a portion of the program.
  • ESPN's telecast of the 2018 The Home Depot College Football Awards Show notched a 0.40 rating and 642,000 viewers, an increase of 7 percent from 2017.

CBS Highlights

  • CBS notched the highest-rated regular-season college football package for the 10th consecutive year with the SEC on CBS, averaging a household rating/share of 3.4/9 with a 13 percent increase from last year and topping all other networks.
  • CBS's coverage of the SEC Championship on Dec. 1 between Alabama and George marked the most-watched and highest-rated regular-season college football game on any network in seven years with a 10.1/23 rating/share and 17.5 million viewers. It was also the second most-watched SEC Championship ever in 26 years since the game debuted in 1992.
  • CBS' streaming coverage of the SEC Championship drove record viewership for an SEC ON CBS game across CBS All Access and CBS Sports Digital platforms and saw double-digit percent increases vs. last year in key usage metrics with unique viewers up 71 percent, total streams up 67 percent and time spent up 59 percent.
  • CBS All Access notched significant growth in sign-ups, up 63 percent.
  • CBS Sports Network televised its first ever football conference championship game with UAB beating Middle Tennessee, 27-25, for the Conference USA title on Dec. 1.
  • CBS's coverage of the annual Army-Navy football game delivered the second-highest-rated game in the last 24 years. Army's 17-10 win drew a 5.02 rating with 8,050,000 viewers on Dec. 8.

FOX Highlights

  • FOX registered its most-watched college football regular season ever in the broadcast network's history with an average viewership of 3,326,000 prior to the Big Ten and Pac-12 conference championships, an increase of 3 percent from last year.
  • FOX recorded its most-watched regular-season college football game ever with 13,241,000 viewers for the Ohio State defeat, 62-39, of Michigan, marking a 26 percent increase over last year's game. Excluding conference championship games, the telecast was the most-watched college football game on any network during the 2018 regular season.
  • FOX Sports' Oct. 6 presentation of the 2018 Red River Showdown, in which No. 19 Texas edged No. 7 Oklahoma, 48-45, on a game-winning field goal drew 5,629,000 viewers on the FOX broadcast network, making it the most-watched Red River Showdown since 2011 with a 55 percent increase in viewership over the 2017 event.
  • FOX logged the network's best-ever performance for an Apple Cup with Washington beating, 28-15, Washington State, attracting an average viewership of 4,082,000 and a 71 percent increase over last year's game.
  • FOX Sports streaming services attracted an average-minute audience increase of 33 percent.
  • FOX Sports streaming services attracted an average-minute audience of 145,000 for the Ohio State-Michigan, the platforms' best-ever performance for a college football game.

NBC Highlights

  • NBC Sports' presentation of the 2018 Notre Dame Football on NBC season was the network's most-watched season in six years, averaging a Total Audience Delivery of 3.491 million viewers, up 40% from 2017, and the best viewership since the 2012 season (4.367 million) when Notre Dame reached the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game.
  • NBC's telecast of the Notre Dame - Michigan game on Saturday night of Labor Day Weekend produced the most-watched Notre Dame Football on NBC broadcast in 13 years with a total live audience of 7.195 million viewers.
  • NBC Sports digitally garnered the most-streamed Notre Dame season on record in live minutes (53.4 million) and uniques (768K), up 54% and 52%, respectively, from the 2017 season (34.7 million; 504K uniques).


The Pac-12 Network Highlights

  • The Pac-12 Networks finished the 2018 football season up +8% in total viewers, making it the most-watched season ever.
  • The Pac-12 average per-game unique viewers for football on TV Everywhere (Pac-12 Now app) was up +32% vs. the prior season, marking it the most-watched season on the platform.
  • The Pac-12 Pregame Show was up +67% vs. last season in total viewership.
  • The Pac-12 football triple-header on Nov. 17 was the second most-watched day in Pac-12 Networks' history on linear TV, and when coupled with TVE numbers, it was the most-watched day.


Postseason Attendance Highlights


  • A total of 1,602,618 fans attended the 39 FBS postseason games this season, including the CFP title game, averaging 41,093 spectators or an increase of 585 people per game from last year. (The figures exclude the 2018 SERVPRO First Responder Bowl between Boston College and Boise State, which was cancelled due to bad weather as well as the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at the FCS level.)
  • The Top Ten bowls for attendance all attracted more than 57,000 fans: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (91,853); CFP National Championship (74,814); Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (74,006); Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic – CFP Semifinal (72,183); Allstate Sugar Bowl (71,449); Capital One Orange Bowl – CFP Semifinal (66,203); Valero Alamo Bowl (60,675); VRBO Citrus Bowl (59,167);  Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (59,024); and the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (57,246).
  • Eight bowl games saw increases of more than 3,000 fans over last year's games: Belk Bowl (15,479); SoFi Hawai'i Bowl (10,365); Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (10,349); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (8,752); Quick Lane Bowl (7,017); Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic – CFP Semifinal (4,673); Dollar General Bowl (3,113) and Valero Alamo Bowl (3,022).
  • The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, which has led all bowls in attendance every year since 1945 (excluding title games), attracted 91,853 spectators, again the most of any bowl game.
  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Michigan and Florida attracted 74,006, marking the 20th sellout for the game in the last 22 years.
  • Allstate Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia attracted 71,449 fans, marking the 63rd game in Sugar Bowl history with more than 70,000 fans in attendance.
  • Excluding the New Year's Six games, the Valero Alamo Bowl produced the largest crowd (60,675) of the 33 non-CFP bowl games with the Alamodome packed to 93 percent of capacity.
  • The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman was played before a crowd of 32,832 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, marking the fifth time in six years in Annapolis that the bowl drew more than 30,000 fans (in a stadium with capacity of 34,000).
  • The Quick Lane Bowl between Minnesota and Georgia Tech attracted an attendance of 27,228, up from 20,211 last year or a 35 percent increase.
  • The Belk Bowl between Virginia and South Carolina attracted 48,263 fans, marking the largest crowd since 2011. The game has averaged 52,849 fans per year since inception.
  • The Hyundai Sun Bowl had an attendance of 40,680 fans, marking the 35th time out of the last 36 years the attendance has exceeded 40,000.
  • The 27th edition of the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, which saw Fresno State defeat Arizona State, 31-20, produced the ninth-largest crowd in the game's history with 37,146 fans in the stands.
  • The Division I FCS Championship playoffs attracted 185,998 fans for an average of 8,087 spectators over 23 games.
  • The FCS National Championship at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, attracted 17,802 fans to watch North Dakota State beat Eastern Washington, 38-24.
  • The Division II Championship playoffs attracted 66,652 fans for a 2,469 average over 27 games.
  • The Division II Championship at McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney, Texas, attracted 4,306 fans to see Valdosta State beat Ferris State, 49-47.
  • The Division III Championship playoffs attracted 57,245 fans for a 1,847 average over 31 games.
  • The NCAA Division III National Championship attracted a crowd of 6,816 fans to watch Mary Hardin–Baylor beat Mount Union, 24-16, at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas, an increase of 1,845 fans over the 2017 edition of the game and the most for a Division III title game since 2001.


Postseason Ratings and Digital Highlights


  • The 38 postseason bowl games on ABC, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX and FS1 at the conclusion of the 2018 season averaged 5,008,000 viewers per game while reaching 90 million unique fans† on television. (The figures include the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, which was played at the FCS level, but not the AutoNation Cure Bowl or the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, both telecast on CBSSN, which is not rated by Nielsen Media. The figures also do not include the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, which was canceled due to bad weather.)
  • The 2018-19 season's New Year's Six were the most watched among years when the CFP Semifinals were not played on New Year's Day, amassing a total live audience for the six games of 14,922,000, up 26% and 1%, from the Nielsen final reported audience for the second and third years of the New Year's Six.
  • The six College Football Playoff (CFP) games, all telecast on ESPN, produced five of the six most-watched cable presentations of the year.
  • The CFP National Championship, which saw Clemson defeat Alabama, 44-16, produced a total live audience of 26,979,000, ranking the game at No. 7 for the most-watched cable telecasts ever. The mark also represents 3 percent and 2 percent increases from the Nielsen final reported audience for the second (January 11, 2016) and third (January 9, 2017) CFP National Championship games, respectively.
  • The CFP National Championship on the day of the game produced 941 million minutes that were consumed across ESPN Digital platforms (game and non-game), up 10% from last season's Championship Monday.
  • The Capital One Orange Bowl, the CFP Semifinal on Dec. 29 with Alabama defeating Oklahoma, 45-34, earned a total live audience of 20,911,000 viewers, ranking as the fourth most-watched cable telecast of 2018.
  • The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, the CFP Semifinal on Dec. 29 with Clemson defeating Notre Dame, 30-3, had 18,830,000 total live viewers, ranking as the sixth most-watched cable telecast of 2018.
  • The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, which saw Ohio State defeat Washington, 28-23, delivered an 8.57 rating with 16,311,000 viewers, a 7 percent increase from 2017 and making it the highest-rated non-Semifinal New Year's Six game ever.
  • The Allstate Sugar Bowl, which saw Texas beat Georgia, 28-21, registered a 7.05 rating with 13,124,000 viewers, up 40% from the 2017 game and making it the game's highest non-CFP Semifinal viewership ever.
  • The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on ESPN, which saw LSU stop UCF's 25-game winning streak in a 40-32 victory, attracted 9,124,299 viewers. The Fiesta Bowl viewership represented a 14 percent increase from the 2014 game, the only other time in the New Year's Six era which the game hosted the automatic qualifier from the Group of Five.
  • The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with Florida defeating Michigan, 45-15, delivered 8,366,000 viewers as the most-watched non-semifinal Peach Bowl of the CFP Era.
  • The AutoZone Liberty Bowl viewership increased 12% from 2017, placing it in the Top 5 of all Bowl games for increased viewership.
  • The AutoZone Liberty Bowl attracted more than 6.4 million viewers for its 2018 ESPN telecast, ranking as the 5th most viewed of the Non-CFP Bowls.
  • The Valero Alamo Bowl was the second most-watched non-CFP bowl game this year with 6.1 million viewers, an ESPN best 31% increase over 2017.
  • The Cheez-It Bowl had 3 million total viewers on ESPN and the game was the #1 trending topic in the United States for December 26.
  • The DXL Frisco Bowl notched 1.53 million viewers in its second year, up 14% from the inaugural game in 2017 and the fourth largest increase among all bowl games.
  • The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl between Northwestern and Utah produced an 11 percent increase in TV viewership.
  • The Quick Lane Bowl between Minnesota and Georgia Tech had a total live audience of 2,972,152 viewers, an increase from the 2,793,191 people who watched on television last year.


Notable Bowl Facts and Postseason Milestones


  • The FBS postseason featured 39 games, including the CFP National Championship, with 76 teams. The SEC led all conferences with 12 appearances, and the ACC and the SEC tied for the most wins with each bringing home six trophies.
  • Clemson became the first team to finish 15-0 since the 1800s and the first time during the five years of the CFP era to go unbeaten. With their 44-16 victory in the CFP title game, Clemson also became the first team to beat Alabama by more than 14 points since Nick Saban became the coach in 2007. The Tigers have now claimed the NFF MacArthur Bowl three times.
  • Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, became the first freshman starting quarterback to lead a team to the national title since Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
  • Clemson DE Christian Wilkins became the first NFF William V. Campbell Trophy® recipient to appear in the CFP title game. He was recognized with a special video tribute between the first and second quarters, which was shown to the sold-out crowd of 74,814.
  • Alabama has played in the postseason a record 66 times and a record 70 games.
  • The NFF announced the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class live from San Jose as part of the festivities surrounding the CFP title game. Raghib "Rocket" Ismail (Notre Dame) appeared live on ESPN2 for the announcement. He was later joined by Patrick Willis (Mississippi) for the pregame festivities and the coin toss on the field at the game.
  • The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl hosted the 14th Annual NFF National Hall of Fame Salute, featuring members of the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame Class.
  • Seven of the 13 members of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class guided their teams to an FBS bowl game in 2018: Kenneth Brinson (Army West Point in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl); D'Cota Dixon (Wisconsin in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl); Ryan Finley (North Carolina State in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl); Trace McSorley (Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl); Max Scharping (Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl); Drue Tranquill (Notre Dame in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic) and Campbell Trophy® winner Christian Wilkins (Clemson in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and the CFP National Championship). At the divisional levels, North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick guided his team to their second consecutive FCS National Championship while South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion (FCS) and Saint Francis (Ind.) linebacker Piercen Harnish (NAIA) led their teams to the playoffs.
  • Virginia Tech played in a bowl game for the 26th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the nation, which started in 1993 and ranks as the fifth longest all-time bowl appearance record in history.
  • The Hyundai Sun Bowl aired on CBS for the 51st consecutive season, the longest continuous relationship between a bowl game and one TV network. The game featured Stanford and Pittsburgh, and CBS aired a halftime segment on 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy® recipient Christian Wilkins (Clemson).
  • The Hyundai Sun Bowl marked only the fourth time that Stanford and Pitt had ever played each other and the first time since 1932. The 14-13 victory by Stanford was the first one-point final in the Sun Bowl since 2006 and the first turnover-free game in 20 years.
  • The Valero Alamo Bowl victory by Washington State produced the most wins (11) in the program's history.
  • The Quick Lane Bowl marked Georgia Tech Paul Johnson's final career game with an all-time record of 189-100 and stints with the Yellow Jackets and at Navy and Georgia Southern.
  • The Cheez-It Bowl saw TCU claim a 10-7 overtime win over California, giving legendary TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson his fourth bowl win in the last five seasons. The game also featured a Cheez-It Bowl record nine interceptions.
  • The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl between FIU and Toledo notched the fifth edition of the game, making it the longest-running international bowl game in FBS history.
  • The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl saw FIU rally from 10-points down for a 35-32 win against Toledo, overcoming the largest deficit in the game's history.
  • Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz notched a 27-22 victory in the Outback Bowl, concluding his 20th season with the Hawkeyes and improving to a 152-101 record, including 8-8 in bowl games.
  • Kentucky beat Penn State, 27-24, in the VRBO Citrus Bowl, finishing with its first 10-win season since 1977 and only the third time in program history. Benny Snell Jr. ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns to become Kentucky's career rushing leader.
  • The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl saw LSU set a new record with 44:31 in time of possession, nearly holding the ball for three full quarters. LSU kicker Cole Tracy also set a bowl record with four made field goals.
  • LSU ended UCF's 25-game winning streak with a 40-32 victory in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The win gave LSU its first 10-win season since 2013, and LSU kicker Cole Tracy with the final kick of the game and 97th of his career, broke the NCAA all-division record. 
  • Ohio State beat Washington, 28-23, in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, making the team one of only three in Buckeye history to win 13 games. The victory concluded Urban Meyer's coaching career, giving him an 83-9 record, one national championship, three Big Ten titles with the Buckeyes. Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns, making him only the sixth FBS quarterback to throw 50 touchdown passes in a season. Washington RB Myles Gaskin became the fourth running back in NCAA history with four 1,200-yard seasons.
  • Texas earned their first 10-win season since 2009 by beating Georgia, 28-21, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
  • Oregon QB Justin Herbert led the Ducks to a 7-6 victory over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl, extending his streak of 28 games with a touchdown pass to Dillion Mitchell, the longest active streak in the nation. Mitchell's performance in the game gave him the Oregon single-season record with 1,184 receiving yards.
  • Cincinnati finished the season 11-2, defeating Virginia Tech, 35-31, in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. The win gave the Bearcats their third 11-win season in the 131-year history of the program, following two straight 4-8 finishes.
  • Oklahoma State QB Taylor Cornelius tied an AutoZone Liberty Bowl record with four touchdown passes, leading the Cowboys to a 38-33 victory over Missouri. Despite losing, Missouri set a Liberty Bowl record of 637 total yards.
  • Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns for a 52-13 victory over NC State in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The performance gave him 1,760 yards for the season, topping Darren Lewis' previous Texas A&M mark of 1,692 set in 1988.

Economic and Community Impact

  • The Allstate Sugar Bowl has generated more than $2.6 billion of economic impact in the region over the past decade, and the all-time team payouts for the game is $255 million.
  • The 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl resulted in an economic impact of $280.45 million, marking the largest economic impact in history for a non-championship/non-semifinal Sugar Bowl. In addition, the activities of the Allstate Sugar Bowl generated nearly $22 million in state and local tax revenue. The Allstate Sugar Bowl annually hosts and sponsors more than 60 events, injecting on average more than $250 million into the region.
  • The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl produced $48.4 million in economic impact and $3.26 million in direct tax revenue for Atlanta. The bowl made $10.1 million in charitable and scholarship contributions in 2018 alone, bringing the organization's overall donations to $32.9 million since 2002.
  • The Orange Bowl Committee finished a $3 million renovation of Orange Bowl Field at Glades Pioneer Park in Belle Glade, Florida, creating a combined total of nearly $16 million worth of improvements toward the beautification of the South Florida community since 2011. Additionally, the Orange Bowl annually invests more than $1 million in youth sports, academic programs, scholarships and community programs.
  • Fiesta Bowl Charities distributed more than $2.5 million in charitable giving during the 2018-19 season for the second-straight year, the highest of any bowl organization, to 60 Arizona non-profits. Over the last eight years, the organization has donated nearly $13 million to the Arizona community.
  • The Cheez-It Bowl honored 200 Arizona teachers at halftime for being part of the Wishes for Teachers program, with $1 million being donated through the Fiesta Bowl Charities to the state's teachers.
  • The Outback Bowl has generated an estimated $1 billion in economic impact for the Tampa Bay community and contributed $149 million in payouts to universities. In 2016, the bowl also began a Charitable Giving Initiative which has already donated more than $1 million to 90 charities.
  • The Outback Bowl boasts Outback Steakhouse as the longest college bowl game title sponsor in history, recently extended through 2026 for a total of 31 years. The Outback Bowl has committed over the next seven years to contribute $45 million to universities and donate at least $3.5 million to charities through its Charitable Giving Initiative.
  • The Valero Alamo Bowl produced its highest team payout in bowl history at $8.25 million. The bowl also produced $53 million in total economic impact for the San Antonio economy, and the game distributed $1 million in local scholarships, an all-time high in Alamo Bowl history and the most among all bowl games.
  • The AutoZone Liberty Bowl annually generates a local economic impact of $25-30 million, and the game has paid out more than $100 million to universities across the country in support of higher education. The bowl has also donated $3 million to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital over the past several years, and both teams that play in the game visit St. Jude during Bowl week each year.
  • The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl set a community economic impact record of $49.5 million, eclipsing the previous record of $40.7 million set in 2009. The bowl also made a $6.54 million combined-team payout, the highest in the game's history and third highest among the non-CFP games during the 2018-19 bowl season.
  • The Walk-On's Independence Bowl, with Duke and Temple squaring off, engaged in multiple community activities, including Holy Angels, Food Bank of NWLA, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a youth football clinic and a partnership for the 12th consecutive year with Willis Knighton Health Systems to distribute $2,500 scholarships.
  • The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman continued its tradition of providing complimentary tickets for active-duty service members, and at halftime, the Maryland Building Industry Association, through its official charity Home Builders Care Foundation, presented a $100,000 donation to Patriot Point, the game's 290-acre retreat for recovering service members, their families and their caregivers on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
  • The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl generated $20 million in economic impact. The bowl's annual Day of Service netted more than 300 hours of community service at 10 different locations from Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee players, coaches and family members.
  • The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl garnered $12 million in media exposure for Elk Grove Village, a large industrial park northwest of Chicago, with the town paying $300,000 to use its marketing tagline "Makers Wanted" in the title sponsor position.
  • The 2018 NAIA Football National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, produced more than $1 million in economic impact in the region as the result of the title game.


2018-19 Chronological Bowl Results

Bowl Result. (Attendance) & [US HH coverage rating] & [Household Impressions] & [Viewers (P2+)]
(Numbers in this section are Nielsen's Live + Same Day data stream)


  • Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, ABC: North Carolina A&T 24- 22 over Alcorn State. (31,672) & [1.61] & [1,929,000] & [2,345,000]
  • Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, ABC: Fresno State 31-20 over Arizona State. (37,146) & [2.25] & [2,694,000] & [3,334,000]
  • AutoNation Cure Bowl, CBSSN: Tulane 41-24 over Louisiana. (19,066) & [N/A] & [N/A] & [N/A]
  • New Mexico Bowl Presented By Progressive, ESPN: Utah State 52-13 over North Texas. (25,387) & [0.66] & [786,000] & [968,000]
  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, ESPN: Georgia Southern 23-21 over Eastern Michigan. (17,710) & [0.64] & [767,000] & [986,000]
  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, ESPN: Appalachian State 45-13 over Middle Tennessee. (23,942) & [0.82] & [985,000] & [1,371,000]
  • Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, ESPN: UAB 37-13 over Northern Illinois. (22,614) & [0.84] & [1,007,000] & [1,346,000]
  • DXL Frisco Bowl, ESPN: Ohio 27-0 over San Diego State. (11,029) & [0.92] & [1,099,000] & [1,447,000]
  • Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, ESPN: Marshall 38-20 over South Florida. (14,135) & [1.10] & [1,325,000] & [1,764,000]
  • Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, ESPN: Florida International 35-32 over Toledo. (13,510) & [0.56] & [670,000] & [855,000]
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, ESPN:  BYU 49-18 over Western Michigan. (18,711) & [0.93] & [1,111,000] & [1,391,000]
  • Jared Birmingham Bowl, ESPN: Wake Forest 37-34 over Memphis.  (25,717) & [1.62] & [1,938,000] & [2,533,000]
  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, ESPN: Army West Point 70-14 over Houston. (44,738) & [1.57] & [1,880,000] & [2,577,000]
  • Dollar General Bowl, ESPN: Troy 42-32 over Buffalo. (31,818) & [1.03] & [1,238,000] & [1,698,000]
  • SoFi Hawai'i Bowl, ESPN: Louisiana Tech 31-14 over Hawaii. (30,911) & [0.75] & [894,000] & [1,159,000]
  • Quick Lane Bowl, ESPN: Minnesota 34-10 over Georgia Tech. (27,228) & [1.61] & [1,931,000] & [2,713,000]
  • Cheez-It Bowl, ESPN: TCU 10-7 over California. (33,121) & [1.63] & [1,955,000] & [2,732,000]
  • SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, ESPN: Boston College vs. Boise State (Cancelled due to bad weather.)
  • Walk-On's Independence Bowl, ESPN: Duke 56-27 over Temple. (27,492) & [1.21] & [1,446,000] & [1,834,000]
  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl, ESPN: Wisconsin 35-3 over Miami, Fla. (37,821) & [2.30] & [2,753,000] & [3,834,000]
  • Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, ESPN: Baylor 45-38 over Vanderbilt. (51,104) & [2.00] & [2,400,000] & [3,379,000]
  • Valero Alamo Bowl, ESPN: Washington State 28-26 over Iowa State. (60,675) & [3.19] & [3,823,000] & [5,605,000]
  • Camping World Bowl, ESPN: Syracuse 34-18 over West Virginia. (41,125) & [2.79] & [3,340,000] & [4,877,000]
  • Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, ESPN:  Auburn 63-14 over Purdue. (59,024) & [1.63] & [1,959,000] & [2,624,000]
  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (NY6), ESPN: Florida 41-15 over Michigan. (74,006) & [5.00] & [5,997,000] & [8,366,000]
  • Capital One Orange Bowl - CFP Semifinal, ESPN: Alabama 45-34 over Oklahoma. (66,203) & [9.55] & [11,452,000] & [18,494,000]
  • Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - CFP Semifinal, ESPN: Clemson 30-3 over Notre Dame. (72,183) & [9.11] & [10,919,375] & [16,284,480]
  • Belk Bowl, ABC: Virginia 28-0 over South Carolina. (48,263) & [1.65] & [1,979,000] & [2,552,000]
  • NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, CBSSN: Nevada 16-13 over Arkansas State. (32,368) & [N/A] & [N/A] & [N/A]
  • San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, FS1: Northwestern 31-20 over Utah. (47,007) & [0.91] & [1,088,000] & [1,795,000]
  • TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, ESPN: Texas A&M 52-13 over NC State. (38,206) & [2.69] & [3,226,000] & [5,179,000]
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl, ESPN: Oklahoma State 38-33 over Missouri. (51,587) & [2.30] & [2,758,000] & [3,869,000]
  • Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman, ESPN: Cincinnati 35-31 over Virginia Tech. (32,832) & [1.74] & [2,083,000] & [2,703,000]
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl, CBS: Stanford 14-13 over Pittsburgh. (40,680) & [1.76] & [2,116,000] & [2,621,000]
  • Redbox Bowl, FOX: Oregon 7-6 over Michigan State.  (30,212) & [2.33] & [2,794,000] & [3,793,000]
  • Allstate Sugar Bowl (NY6), ESPN: Texas 28-21 over Georgia. (71,449) & [7.05] & [8,448,000] & [13,124,000]
  • Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual (NY6), ESPN: Ohio State 28-23 over Washington. (91,853) & [8.57] & [10,278,000] & [16,311,000]
  • PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (NY6), ESPN: LSU 40-32 over UCF. (57,246) & [4.68] & [5,611,000] & [8,579,000]
  • VRBO Citrus Bowl, ABC: Kentucky 27-24 over Penn State. (59,167) & [4.44] & [5,329,000] & [7,715,00]
  • Outback Bowl, ESPN2: Iowa 27-22 over Mississippi State. (40,518) & [1.77] & [2,117,026] & [3,288,038]
  • CFP National Championship Presented By AT&T, ESPN: Clemson 44-16 over Alabama. (74,814) & [13.21] & [15,833,788] & [24,321,612]

The NFF would like to thank the following people for providing information for this release, including NFF Correspondent Bo Carter, ACC's Kevin Best, CBS's Jennifer Sabatelle, CBS's Randall Liu, CBS's Harrison Raboy, ESPN's Keri Potts, ESPN's Derek Volner, FOX's Valerie Krebs, NBC's Chris Mccloskey, NCAA's Jeff Williams, Pac-12 Network's Josh Ishoo, and the Pac-12 Network's Dena Propis.
Information for this release was compiled from Nielsen Ratings Reports, CBS, ESPN, FOX Sports, NBC, the NCAA, Pac-12 Networks, Sports Media Watch, and releases from bowl games and football-playing conferences, universities and colleges.
* The NCAA began keeping national home football attendance in 1948 (including non-NCAA teams) and started keeping NCAA-only teams in 1978.
† Reach measures the number of "unique" (or different) individuals who were exposed to college football during the season, providing an unduplicated view of the TV audience for a sports property.
1 The figures for "Total Live Audience" expand the number of viewers from traditional broadcast, cable and satellite TV to count those watching through other devices and services, including streaming, OTT (over-the-top), mobile apps, multichannel distributors, and out-of-home co-viewing such as restaurants and gyms. Nielsen Media started providing "Total Live Audience" numbers in the fall of 2016, and ESPN started using numbers from the new system on Sept. 26 2017.