With highly-regarded Alabama taking on high-profile Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Monday, a cable ratings record seemed inevitable. All the teams needed to do was show up and compete.

Unfortunately, Alabama broke the game open early, and its dominant performance prevented viewership from spiking the way it ideally would have. As a result, the game only ranks as the second-most-watched cable telecast of all-time.

Though a label like that–and an average audience of 26.4 million viewers–is impressive, when one considers the marquee value of the game, the failure to set the record is certainly disappointing.

The viewership total and 17.5 cable coverage rating both fell short of the marks set by the nail-biting 2011 game between Auburn and Oregon (17.8 coverage rating, 27.3 million viewers).

The relative competitive nature of the games was the obvious difference-maker.

The first half of Monday’s matchup drew an impressive 20.4 rating, compared to a 17.9 for the Auburn-Oregon matchup. This time, however, the audience significantly faded for the second half; the close 2011 game kept viewers hooked as it progressed.

This year’s game did, however, best the marks set by the 2012 game between Alabama and LSU. That 21-0 shutout drew a 16.2 rating and 24.2 million viewers.