Michigan State lost to Oregon and plays a diluted Big Ten schedule. Even finishing out the season 12-1, they will need significant help to reach the college football playoff. Mark Dantonio is not concerned, however, as Michigan State “turns on a lot of TV sets.”
"“If we do what we’re supposed to do or what we’re attempting to do and get in the (Big Ten title game) and win that game, then I think good things are possible. I think we turn on a lot of TV sets, and let’s not be naive. It’s about who is watching the game, too. And so you’ve got a quarter of the country watching a football game. They want to see a football team from this part of the country in that game.”"
TV sets are a factor. That’s why the college football playoff effectively excludes the less savory half of FBS from the start. That’s why Michigan State effed over its fans by playing a night game in October. It’s obvious using TV ratings to choose between playoff candidates would be arbitrary, unfair and silly. But, even if it were a factor, Michigan State would still be SOL.
One of college football’s top 15 media markets per ESPN is in a B1G state.
Michigan State ranked 23rd nationally in average viewership in 2013 and 7th in the Big Ten. Let’s compare that to some possible teams Michigan State could be fighting for a playoff place with.
A Second SEC Team: Eight of the top 12 TV schools were in the SEC. Eleven SEC teams were ranked higher than Michigan State. Arkansas trailed just behind, during an 0-8 SEC season where they struggled to get a TV slot.
Notre Dame: The Irish ranked 8th nationally, averaging about 1.4 million more viewers per game.
A One-Loss ACC Team: Florida State ranked 13th, averaging about half a million more viewers per game.
A One-Loss Pac 12 Team: Stanford edged Michigan State by about 300,000 viewers per game. Oregon, UCLA and USC were within 300,000 viewers. Factor in the number of late-night kickoffs for those teams and they are probably bigger draws in a vacuum than Michigan State.
It’s not clear how the numbers will pan out for 2014. But, with the SEC having an exciting year and the B1G rendering itself nationally irrelevant in week two, that’s not likely to be a positive for the conference. Especially since the B1G’s biggest TV draw is Michigan, who won’t reach a bowl game. Ohio State is the one of MSU’s seven remaining games that may rate well.
B1G fan support has been a traditional strong point for the conference. As a few years of pathetic football turns into a decade, that has been waning. Raising the point now seems propagandist and delusional. College football is now a national sport and a pure entertainment product. “TV sets,” even in B1G markets, will continue to gravitate toward a better product.