College Football Playoff TV ratings rise on return to Jan. 1

The game trophy is lifted by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne (94) and quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2018 Sugar Bowl  Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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With the semifinals back New Year's Day, ESPN viewership for the College Football Playoff was the highest it has been since the first season of the postseason system in 2015.

The double overtime Rose Bowl thriller between Georgia and Oklahoma drew a 14.8 overnight Nielsen rating and average viewership of 27 million, up 39 percent over last season's early semifinal.

Georgia beat Oklahoma 54-48 and ESPN said the television rating reached a high of 17.3 in overtime.

The Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Clemson got a 12.5 rating and average viewership of 21.1 million, up 10 percent from last season's second semifinal.

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The last two seasons the semifinals were played on Dec. 31.

The CFP drew record viewership for ESPN in its first season when games were played on Jan. 1, 2015.