By Sam Bush

If you thought the NFL had the market cornered on the nation’s attention, think again.

Ohio State’s 42-35 upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl attracted 28.27 million viewers on ESPN, making it the most watched event in cable TV history.

Oregon’s 59-20 blowout of Florida State in the Rose Bowl had 28.16 million viewers — the most for that bowl since 35.6 million watched Texas beat Southern California in the 2006 national title game on ABC.

Ohio State versus Oregon at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Tex. — will the championship game’s viewership soar beyond 30 million, to a level of NFL conference championship games, which averaged 53.7 million viewers last year?

ESPN has benefited in another way from the playoff system — which lets six bowls rotate into the semifinals — by getting a chance to build New Year’s Eve into a bigger night than it’s been in the past.

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