TAMPA--It was a balmy 75 degrees here on Friday as Alabama and Clemson flew into town for the third version of the College Football National championship game.
The city--and the weekend ahead--has a buzz about it. College football in the South is always an easy sell.
But the question which will be asked and answered in a few days is this: Is Clemson-Alabama too narrow in scope to make Monday night's national championship game "Must see TV''?
In SEC territory and in much of the footprint of the ACC, there is no question that Monday's game will be a milestone event. Either Alabama wins and continues a run that rivals any dynastic stretch in the history of college football or Clemson dethrones the King and steps into a spotlight that the Tigers have not been part of for 36 seasons.
But will it play in Peoria or on the West Coast? Or in the most apathetic college football region in the country--the Northeast?
Check out the ratings on Tuesday morning to see who won the battle between The Bachelor on ABC and Alabama and Clemson on ESPN--especially in the Northeast. Chances are there will be more chatter on how technology salesman Nick Viall scored, compared to what Alabama football coach Nick Saban's team was able to produce.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The X factor here is Alabama, which has been so good for so long, that as many people will watch to see if Alabama can lose a game as to whether the Tide can win another national championship.
How else to explain a USA Today story on Friday morning with a simple question in the headlines: Is Alabama's reign good for college football?
But its not just Alabama. It's the Tide in a regional match up against another Southern power house.
In recent years, we have seen "national'' championship match ups such as Ohio State vs. Oregon (2014), Alabama vs. Notre Dame (2012), Auburn vs. Oregon (2012), and LSU vs. Ohio State (2oo7).
But since 2006, Ohio State (2014) has been the only team out of the South to win the national championship.In 2011, the BCS game reached a new level of exclusivity when the SEC West produced the national championship game in a rematch between LSU and Alabama.
Critics can argue that any time you limit the scope of a viewing audience you diminish its importance.
But that theory only goes so far. When Ohio State beat Oregon in the first CFB national championship in Dallas two years ago, the area with the biggest foundation of support--the South--was a spectator.
But that game drew the second largest audience for a national championship game--33.4 million viewers--which only backs up the passion that people in the South have for the SPORT of college football. (USC vs. Texas in 2005 was No. 1 with 35.6 million viewers).
Conversely, last season's game between Alabama and Clemson drew an average of 25.7 million viewers, a 23 percent drop from the 2014 game between the Buckeyes and Ducks.
Which brings us back to Monday's game, which is not only a regional match up, but a rematch of last season's title game. Will there be an even bigger drop this year?
Having Alabama, which has won 26 consecutive games, in the lead role makes the story line an easy one to follow.
Alabama and Saban have earned their accolades. Even Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney, who went to school at Alabama concedes that. ""I tip my hat to them,'' said Swinney who nearly beat the Tide (45-40) in last season's national championship game in Arizona. ""Unbelievable run they've had. I've never seen anything like it.''
And that is why watching Alabama vs. Clemson SHOULD BE "must see'' TV for every college football fan. [/membership]