The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl drew a 2.6 rating on ESPN, making it the most viewed game in its 10-year history.
The Dec. 29 matchup of Air Force (6-7) and Rice (7-6) appeared in 2,584,000 households, a 59 percent increase over the previous year (BYU vs. Tulsa). The increase was the largest for any bowls broadcast on ESPN through Jan. 1.
Rice defeated Air Force 33-14, with the Owls outscoring the Falcons 26-0 in the second half.
“We are thrilled with the success of our 10th anniversary game,” bowl executive director Brant Ringler said. “Not only did we have a great crowd (40,754) … we saw success with our TV number as well.”
The ratings are an indication that fans have not shied away from a bowl system that included 34 games this season.
Air Force’s other most-viewed game of the season was a Week 2 loss at Michigan that was broadcast regionally by ABC. The time slot drew 4.7 million viewers, but that figure includes the locations that saw UCS vs. Syracuse. However, since the game at Syracuse was delayed by weather, the entire country saw the Air Force/Michigan game for its first hour.