Tebow Gator Finale Chomps Ratings

Tim Tebow’s final game as a Gator drew the largest Allstate Sugar Bowl audience since 2007, as Florida’s demolition of the Cincinnati Bearcats posted an 8.5 average household rating/15 share.

Per Nielsen fast nationals, the 51-24 blowout on Fox was witnessed by a national TV audience of 15.5 million viewers, marking a 13 percent improvement over last year’s Sugar Bowl, a more closely contested Utah-Alabama game that served up 13.4 million fans on Jan. 2, 2009.

When compared to the 2008 Sugar Bowl, a Hawaii-Georgia mismatch that delivered a record low 11.7 million viewers on Jan. 1, 2008, Tebow’s swan song was up 33 percent.

In a fitting capper to his celebrated collegiate career, Tebow put on a New Year’s air show, landing 31 completions in 35 attempts for four TDs and a Sugar Bowl-record 482 yards. Despite Tebow’s mastery of the college game, the football world remains divided on whether he’ll prove his worth as a signal caller in the NFL.

That back-and-forth informed a good deal of the chatter in the booth. Fox color commentator (and former Baltimore Ravens head coach) Brian Billick tempered play-by-play caller Thom Brennaman’s reverence for Tebow, deconstructing the QB’s overall NFL prospects and spending a good deal of time explaining how his peculiar throwing motion and less-than-lightening-quick delivery could keep him from becoming a high draft choice.

While Florida-Cincinnati beat out the last two Sugar Bowl contests, this year’s numbers paled in comparison to the Jan. 4, 2000 game, which was the designated BCS National Championship Game for the 1999 season. Florida State crushed Michael Vick and the Virginia Tech Hokies by a 46-29 margin, a decisive win that drew a whopping 17.5/28 on ABC.