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STATS’ College Football Watchability Ratings: Bowl Games

By: Stats Perform

STATS’ predictive formula produces a unique rating that ranks the best college football games to watch every week

Let’s get the obvious out of the way quickly: Alabama-Clemson III sits atop the Watchability Ratings for the upcoming bowl season. I’m sure you’re all shocked.

But how could it not? After splitting the last two national championship game matchups, the Crimson Tide and Tigers battle in the Sugar Bowl in one of the College Football Playoff semifinals. And despite ‘Bama’s relatively weak schedule that led to them barely sneaking in as the No. 4 team, it enters favored by 2 ½ points over the top-ranked Tigers.

No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia meet in the other semifinal at the Rose Bowl, but don’t focus so much on the CFP when there are plenty of quality pre-Christmas and pre-New Year’s Day bowls to feast on. And, well, some not-so-good ones, too.

STATS’ data experts have developed a proprietary model that gives a watchability score to every college football game in a given week. That rating is a combination of analytics, including the projected score of each game from a model that factors in team production, explosiveness and “cleanliness” of play – a metric that includes turnovers, among other data points.

Team production includes evaluations of run and pass efficiency, explosive plays (20+ yards) and the defensive ratings also involved with the aforementioned metrics. Watchability Rating takes that data combined with talent level of each team based on other various STATS models and is adjusted based on the projected final score to produce a value of watchability.

Essentially, the model takes some randomness out of choosing which game to view, making for less channel-flipping while relaxing at home or fewer maneuvers through a bar crowd to place yourself nearest the television broadcasting a certain contest.

Have a look at the Watchability Ratings from most- to least-watchable on a 1-10 rating scale for all 39 bowl games prior to the College Football Playoff championship game Jan. 8. You’ll notice the Army-Navy game from Dec. 9 also is included because the model ran each game following championship week.

The Washington-Penn State Fiesta Bowl and Wisconsin-Miami Orange Bowl definitely are intriguing matchups, so the high rating isn’t so surprising. But Iowa vs. Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl being the only other game to get at least a 9.0 rating? That’s a bit of an upset – especially if you haven’t heard of AJ Dillon. The BC running back ran for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and he’ll be trying to better Iowa tailback Akrum Wadley, who is wrapping up his second straight 1,000-yard campaign.

College football junkies will appreciate that contest despite not having many household names like Josh Rosen, who guides UCLA into a Cactus Bowl matchup with Kansas State that is next on the list with an 8.6 watchability rating. Rosen is considered one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and likely will be chosen at or near the top of the next NFL draft should he declare. It all depends if he wants to stick around another year and play for Chip Kelly, who takes over the Bruins next season and will surely be watching the bowl game closely.

There’s only one bowl pitting Power 5 teams against each other that has lower than a 6.6 watchability rating. That distinction goes to Northwestern and Kentucky on Dec. 29 in the Music City Bowl. The battle of the Wildcats comes in at a 2.9 rating, which puts that matchup at 37th of the 39 bowls in the Watchability Ratings. Might want to avoid that one.