Birmingham and Columbus are the two TV markets that obsess about college football like nowhere else.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – ESPN has released some fascinating information about its college football ratings, identifying the cities where people absolutely cannot get enough of the game.
Some of the data was as easy to predict as Notre Dame being overrated. Birmingham (Alabama, Bear Bryant, Joe Namath) and Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State, Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin) are the two top markets among the 56-metered markets in America. (Remember, this is for ESPN/ABC telecasts.)
Urban Meyer thought he was escaping Nick Saban by fleeing the SEC for the Big Ten, but the good buddies are going toe-to-toe one more time. Urban better run a little faster – and recruit a little better.
But here are a few other tidbits to munch on until the games begin Thursday night:
*Louisville finished in the Top 5 metered markets once since 2000 – in 2006. Go ahead and take a bow, Bobby Petrino, Brian Brohm and Amobi Okoye. Your win against West Virginia built that audience. So, unfortunately, did your loss against Rutgers.
But Louisville slid all the way to 32nd last season. Go ahead and blame Steve Kragthorpe for that, too. It's been five minutes since Kragthorpe was blamed for something.
*Birmingham, Columbus and Jacksonville, Fla., are the only markets to crack the Top 10 every year since 2000. Ready, set, go. Make your case for each city as America's College Football king.
I'd vote Birmingham, Columbus, Jacksonville. Trust me. I've been to Birmingham in March for NCAA Tournament games. Rick Pitino and Dean Smith were coaching and the coaches the Birmingham papers were writing about were the football coaches at Auburn and Alabama.
*Los Angeles, home of USC and UCLA, was only the 43rd rated market during the 2011 season. Remember: Only 56 markets are metered. Must be a law against staying inside on sunny days in L.A.
Los Angeles trailed Detroit, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. But the place where Marcus Allen, Reggie Bush and O.J. Simpson played did lead San Francisco, which finished a surprisingly good 44th.
*Portland, home of the largest collection of Oregon and Oregon State fans, ranked no better than the 25th best market last season. Not sure what the problem is in Portland, but it certainly isn't sunshine. Maybe they ran out of umbrellas.
*Two markets that will join the Big East next season – Houston (home of the UH Cougars) and Dallas (home of SMU) ranked 37th last season. You've got work to do Mr. New Big East Commissioner to sell that SMU-UConn or Houston-Temple game as part of your new TV deal.
(Hmm, sorry Lee Corso, but NFL cities appear to prefer their football on Sundays.)
*The highest rated market from a Big East city last season was Pittsburgh, which was tied for 16th. The Panthers will be the ACC's property -- and problem -- next season.
*If you're looking for the highest rated market for a team that will be in the Big East in 2013, the winner would be Memphis, which is also tied for 16th.
I'll break the tie and give the edge to Memphis over Pittsburgh in the exchange for the Big East. It's an easier drive and has better barbecue.
The Big East will have to scramble to win football eyeballs in Memphis. The place is a genuine melting pot of SEC love with fans of Tennessee, Arkansas, the Mississippi schools and Alabama. Might even be some LSU and Auburn silliness thrown in. Or a Gator. Or two.
*Six of the Top 10 markets from last season can be considered SEC territory – at least to a degree. That would be 1.) Birmingham; 4.) Greenville, S.C. (with an major assist from Clemson); 5. (tie) New Orleans, Atlanta; 7. Jacksonville; 10.) Knoxville (even in a stinker of a season).
You've got a little more than 24 hours to study and digest the numbers. Thud 2012 season kicks off Thursday night.
Then it will be time to digest the queso and chips – and see if the Louisville market can climb out of 32nd place.