Ranking the Bowl Games
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/10/2009
Throw out the implications, the BCS or non-BCS factor, when it comes right down to it, what are the most intriguing, watchable, entertaining games on the bowl game schedule for this Holiday season? To be find out we will factor everything in including unintentional comedic potential, stadium, coaches and players involved, inspired or indifferent fan bases, awkward bowl sponsors, color of the turf, dome or outdoors, channel the game is on, potential announcers and of course, what else fans could be doing at that time on that day.
1. Fiesta Bowl
TCU vs. Boise State
The best bang for your viewing buck this bowl season. It is everything the National Championship game is and everything it is not. It pits two unbeaten teams against each other minus the inane buildup that will last the better part of 24 hours. The chances of a blowout look slim as last year these teams met in a bowl with the final margin being a single point. In a perfect world this would be a semifinal game with the winner getting the winner of…
2. BCS National Championship Game
Texas vs. Alabama
The stage of Pasadena definitely helps in the watchability of a game that generally is a low-scoring blowout, if that is even possible. Defense wins championships, yes I agree, but that is also why this total (44) is the third lowest out of all the bowl games. I love defense more than the next guy but come bowl season I want points. Still it's unbeaten teams playing in Pasadena with the big crystal ball on the line.
3. Gator Bowl
West Virginia vs. Florida State
The game sold out in two hours. It's Bobby Bowden's farewell game. It's against his former school. It has an over-under of 60. At 1 p.m. on New Year's Day you know what I will be watching.
4. Sugar Bowl
Florida vs. Cincinnati
They really should change this to the David vs. Goliath Bowl. Four years ago it was Georgia favored by eight against West Virginia. Three years ago LSU was favored by nine over Notre Dame. Two years ago it was Georgia favored by nine against Hawaii. Last year it was Alabama favored by 10 against Utah.
I'm not saying that is a bad thing; the underdog did win twice and it makes for great television. Plus, the first appearance of Tim Tebow since his crying episode after the SEC title game and we will get to see what interim coach Cincinnati trots out or if Brian Kelly is there against his own will.
5. Emerald Bowl
USC vs. Boston College
The unintentional comedy factor here is huge. First, seeing Boston College shipped across the country again for a bowl game none of their "fans" will attend and, second, seeing Pete Carroll trotting around a baseball field the day after Christmas. That makes for good television.
6. Hawaii Bowl
SMU vs. Nevada
The one qualm I have with the bowl system is the lack of a getaway from annoying family members on Christmas Day. But lucky for us they do schedule one game on Christmas Eve, at 8 p.m., no less, and with an over/under of 73, a bowl season high.
7. Sun Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Anything here would be considered a classic after last year's disgraceful 3-0 Oregon State over Pitt final. Good coaching matchup and you have Stanford's Toby Gerhart against that Sooner defense. Not bad at all for a Big 12-Pac-10 showdown on New Year's Eve.
8. Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. Iowa
This is the one BCS bowl game many are overlooking. Paul Johnson's triple-option attack against a Big Ten defense is an intriguing one. Both teams definitely will not take this BCS game for granted, it's been awhile since each appeared in one and may be awhile for each to get to another.
9. Holiday Bowl
Arizona vs. Nebraska
You could pit a midget league football team against a beer league softball team and the Holiday Bowl will still be a thriller. The people in San Diego know how to put on a show. You have Arizona fresh off a win over USC and Nebraska with the dominant Ndamukong Suh. Plus, the best contest around in the bowl games, the Dr. Pepper $1,000,000 "Go For More" Contest which makes for very good TV.
10. Las Vegas Bowl
BYU vs. Oregon State
This game is really happening on Dec. 22? A matchup of 10-2 No. 14 BYU against No. 18 Oregon State who is 8-4 and one game away from the Rose Bowl, is the fourth game on the bowl season menu. That is some good timing. This game will whet your appetite before the real feeding frenzy starts.
11. Rose Bowl
Ohio State vs. Oregon
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Well, if you are still watching Ohio State in a BCS Bowl game, you've probably been fooled about a half dozen times. Jim Tressel's boys will go 41 days between games or a week shorter than the NHL offseason. They come out flat every year and play an awful game. Hopefully the Ducks offense can put on a show.
12. Capital One Bowl
Penn State vs. LSU
The Mascot challenge always bumps this game up a few notches and having Joe Paterno and Les Miles does not hurt either, nor does the New Year's Day 1 p.m. kickoff.
13. Humanitarian Bowl
Bowling Green vs. Idaho
If for some reason you are were not one of the lucky few to snag tickets for this hot matchup, you can still catch it on TV, preferably on a black and white TV so the blue turf does not induce a migraine by the second Bowling Green drive. In all seriousness, this is a major game for Idaho, making its first bowl appearance ever and playing in its home state that many people think only fields one D-I A team. The total is set at 68.5 and both teams will be excited to be here for once, rather than most teams who dread Boise in the dead of winter.
14. Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech
The Hokies are ranked No. 11 but are only four-point favorites over unranked Tennessee. This game always ends up being a good one in the Georgia Dome and what a time slot, 7:30 on New Year's Eve.
15. Champs Sports Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Miami
This game could have easily been a BCS game if you saw this matchup in early October. Not a bad game at all for the Champs Bowl to land, with two ranked teams and two respected coaches and programs.
16. Independence Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
When you can get off work early on the Monday after Christmas, get home and can watch a game between an SEC team and Big 12 team at 5 p.m. it is a good thing.
17. New Mexico Bowl
Wyoming vs. Fresno State
By definition a national broadcast of a football game in New Mexico and the opening game of bowl season dictate this game needs to be ranked in the Top 20.
18. Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
Play this game in Week 1 of the season and you could sell out any southern stadium in the country. Unfortunately, its not Week 1, both teams have gone through their respective free falls, but it's still the Cotton Bowl, and it's still two programs who were worlds away from this bowl game just a few years ago.
19. EagleBank Bowl
UCLA vs. Temple
This game plummets in rank if Army stuns Navy, but let us assume the Midshipmen pull this off and send UCLA to a bowl. The not-so-normal MAC vs. Pac-10 showdown should be interesting enough to hold some interest.
20. Texas Bowl
Navy vs. Missouri
Once again the triple-option attack gets some love here. It becomes old hat during the regular season, but giving an 8-4 Big 12 team with the defensive talent of Missouri enough time to prepare to stop the option, makes for good theatre.
21. Papajohns.com Bowl
Connecticut vs. South Carolina
When the dot-com bubble burst so did the dot-com bowl bubble. Gone are the galleryfurniture.com bowl, the insight.com bowl, MicronPC.com bowl, Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl etc. but we still have one. Plus you have Randy Edsall coaching rumors and the ole ball coach.
22. St. Petersburg Bowl
Central Florida vs. Rutgers
Underrated game big time here; many will down talk this game because of 8-4 UCF and 8-4 Rutgers, who is coming off a loss. However, it is the first day of bowl games, primetime and Tropicana Field is a pretty cool place to watch a football game.
23. Alamo Bowl
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
Throw out the records here and just look at Sparty and the Red Raiders and this game would be a lot higher. Big Ten vs. Big 12, total set at 61 points and a perfect 9 p.m. primetime slot the day after New Years. The reason its 22nd is because Texas Tech has lost four games and Michigan State is 6-6, just squeaking in.
24. Armed Forces Bowl
Air Force vs. Houston
Air Force/Houston the third part in the trilogy. Wait you don't remember the first two? These teams played twice last season, in the regular season and in this very bowl game. So how about one more round to settle the 1-1 tie? Houston has the obvious disadvantage of not being in the armed forces in this game but they have a high-powered offense and with a total set at 63 this could turn into a shootout just like last year.
25. GMAC Bowl
Troy vs. Central Michigan
GMAC stands for three-hour national championship preview. That is basically what you get with a Wednesday Jan. 6 showdown a day before the National Championship game. The reason to watch is an underrated Troy team and Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour.
26. Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs. Clemson
Kentucky has made their home in this bowl game with three trips in four games. Clemson cannot be pleased to be here after falling one quarter short of the Orange Bowl. C.J. Spiller will bring in the ratings but this has upset written all over it, Clemson has lost three straight bowl games and clearly would rather be in South Beach.
27. Liberty Bowl
Arkansas vs. East Carolina
Skip Holtz's bunch at East Carolina always puts on a good show in bowl games and Arkansas is an extremely underrated team at 7-5 out of the SEC. Another day after New Year's matchup to help cure the hangover.
28. Meineke Car Care Bowl
Pitt vs. North Carolina
Good seats still remain. North Carolina was in this game last year and three times in the past six years. Pitt fans do not travel and now after two losses to close out another disappointing season under Dave Wannstedt, they surely will find another excuse to stay home. Expect a defensive struggle -- the total is 44 -- UNC has a solid defense and Pitt lost 3-0 in the Sun Bowl last year.
29. International Bowl
Northern Illinois vs. South Florida
It will be a sad, sad day when this bowl goes the way of so many of its predecessors. However, in the meantime lets enjoy some January football, north of the border between a pair of 7-5 teams. The 'over/under' for this game is 50, both for points scored and South Florida fans who will make the trip from Tampa, Florida to Toronto, Canada.
30. Insight Bowl
Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Why is it some bowl games have certain fetishes for certain teams? Minnesota is in the Insight bowl for the third time in four seasons. Then again, maybe neither team should be here, both are 6-6 and neither offense does much of anything.
31. Poinsettia Bowl
Utah vs. California
This bowl was originally designed to host Navy basically every year but after Boise State and TCU last year and Utah and California this year, it has lucked out with teams. Unfortunately, both Utah and California have to be disappointed to have fallen here.
32. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Ohio vs. Marshall
These teams have identical uniforms but what separates them is that Ohio has a coach while Marshall's resigned. So the game has that going for it. Little Caesar's is probably the best sponsor around even though I thought they all closed down years ago. That is probably why this game is being played in Detroit. If Marshall, the designated home team in this game, was not 6-6 I could have made the joke that finally a home team with a winning record is playing at Ford Field. But they are 6-6, so I can't.
33. Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Northwestern
Auburn has lost five of seven, Northwestern has won four of five. You could say both teams are going in opposite directions but that is essentially the whole concept of a football game, both teams moving in opposite directions. So I'll say this, if watchable means waking up in time for kickoff, then 11 a.m. on New Year's Day is a -4 on the watchability scale.
34. New Orleans Bowl
Middle Tennessee State vs. Southern Mississippi
If you think the team names look long next to each other try watching this game. There is some talent on the field but Sunday night on an NFL-filled Sunday, this game will likely go unnoticed by the entire country outside of NFL boycotters, gamblers and Brett Favre.
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