A web search turned up a great read on the 1987 national championship game between Miami and Penn State, which remains the most-watched college football game in history.
The piece mentions a bit of television history that I'd forgotten:
Before this, the Fiesta had been second-tier, unable to stand up to the cabal of Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange, but now the Fiesta Bowl was in the right place at the right time, and so was NBC, which took the radical step of shifting the game to a Friday night and preempting its most popular television show to make room for, of all things, a college football game.
Hold the presses. There was a time when the most popular show on TV aired on Friday nights? Today, it's such a low-rated night for the network that shows like Numb3rs can survive with numbers that would get them cancelled anywhere else.
I couldn't think of the show that aired Friday nights and was the top-rated primetime program. Even though I watched it religiously. Follow the link to find out what it is.