Ranking All the 2013-2014 Bowl Games

After a three-month long regular season, we have finally arrived at college football’s bowl season. Which, let’s face it, can often feel just as long, even though just 16 days separates the first bowl game played from the last one.

Part of that is due to the litany of dull matchups we’ll be “treated” to this holiday season. Yet if one looks hard enough (and is patient enough), they’ll be rewarded with some gems. We rank each game based on the matchups, excitement, atmosphere and stakes at hand.

35. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5) | Dec. 21 | Boise, ID

Raise your hand if you can name a single player on either team. That’s what we thought. The last time most people saw Buffalo, the Bulls were losing by 57 to Baylor. San Diego State started the season by losing to FCS Eastern Illinois by 21. Pass the Eggnog.

34. Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4) | Jan. 1 | Dallas, TX

Let’s face it: A matchup between middle-of-the-pack teams from the Mountain West and Conference USA is the antithesis of what most folks have in mind when it comes to college football on New Year’s Day. We don’t even want to know what the TV ratings for this snoozer will be.

33. New Orleans Bowl

Tulane (7-5) vs. Louisiana (8-4) | Dec. 21 | New Orleans, LA

There’s not much in the way of sex appeal when it comes to a Conference USA-vs.-Sun Belt matchup. At the very least, this being an in-state game for both teams, the Superdome atmosphere is sure to be a fun one.

32. Armed Forces Bowl

Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (7-4) | Dec. 30 | Fort Worth, TX

Perhaps the only recognizable player in this game is Midshipmen QB Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for a NCAA-record seven TDs against San Jose State on November 22nd. Unless he duplicates that feat or betters it, this will be a forgettable matchup.

31. Liberty Bowl

Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6) | Dec. 31 | Memphis, TN

It shows you how much respect (or lack thereof) Conference USA gets when their champion earns a berth in this perpetually underwhelming bowl game. Not helping matters is their opponent: A Bulldogs team that is mediocre across the board.

30. GoDaddy Bowl

Arkansas State (7-5) vs. Ball State (10-2) | Jan. 5 | Mobile, AL

It was just last year that Gus Malzahn led the Red Wolves to a GoDaddy Bowl title. Malzahn has since moved up in the world and will coach in the BCS title game the following night. ASU, meanwhile, is back in Mobile, hoping to slow down a Ball State team that can put up points in a hurry.

29. Texas Bowl

Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4) | Dec. 27 | Houston, TX

Neither team averaged more than 30 PPG on the season, and both finished 4-4 in their respective conferences. Whenever you hear about schools losing money on second-tier bowls, it’s these types of bowls that are being discussed.

28. Belk Bowl

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6) | Dec. 28 | Charlotte, NC

Don’t be shocked if fans come for country music star Blake Shelton’s performance outside Bank of America Stadium but don’t make it inside for the actual game, save for the handful of Tar Heel diehards who watched UNC underachieve this season.

27. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg

East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5) | Dec. 23 | St. Petersburg, FL

On the heels of disappointing senior seasons, Bobcats QB Tyler Tettleton and RB Beau Blankenship will be sure to bring their A-games in going point for point with a Pirates offense that was 11th in the country in scoring this season.

26. Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4) | Dec. 28 | New York, NY

There’s a high likelihood of inclement weather at Yankee Stadium, slowing down a pair of already so-so offenses. If you’re Catholic and from New Jersey, this is a dream matchup. Otherwise, not so much.

25. BBVA Compass Bowl

Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. Houston (8-4) | Jan. 4 | Birmingham, AL

If you can’t bear to go without college football in the two days leading up to the BCS title game, this is one of your two options, a matchup of two solid but not spectacular teams. Or you can just focus all your energy on the pregame buildup to Florida State-Auburn.

24. Music City Bowl

Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5) | Dec. 30 | Nashville, TN

Perhaps enough Rebels fans can recreate the atmosphere of The Grove in Nashville, which would make for a hell of a party. Once the game starts, however, there’s not much to look forward to from these middling major conference teams.

23. Little Caesars Bowl

Pitt (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3) | Dec. 26 | Detroit, MI

We’re admittedly a little peeved at the Falcons for dashing the BCS dreams of Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. Not to mention their “reward” of a matchup with the Panthers, the epitome of a middle-of-the-pack, major conference team.

22. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5) | Dec. 28 | Tempe, AZ

Too bad this matchup didn’t come a year or two earlier. It would’ve been fun to see Denard Robinson go score-for-score with Collin Klein. As it is, we’re left watching two major-conference teams trying to salvage disappointing seasons.

21. Hawaii Bowl

Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6) | Dec. 24 | Honolulu, HI

The sunny environs of this game are a sharp contrast to the gloomy states of the two teams, both of whom are dealing with recent losses. The Broncos saw head coach Chris Petersen leave for Washington, while the Beavers have dropped their last five games.

20. Military Bowl

Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5) | Dec. 27 | Annapolis, MD

The Terps get the benefit of a virtual home game in nearby Annapolis (less than 30 miles east of College Park). If only they were a more high-scoring team and could contribute to a shootout with the dynamic Thundering Herd offense.

19. Poinsettia Bowl

Utah State (8-5) vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois (12-1) | Dec. 26 | San Diego, CA

The Huskies were in line for a second straight BCS bowl berth before their upset loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Fans’ consolation prize: Getting to see QB Jordan Lynch shred a defense one last time.

18. AdvoCare V100 Bowl

Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5) | Dec. 31 | Shreveport, LA

Don’t be shocked to see scouts from running back-needy NFL teams in the Independence Stadium stands. This season, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and BC’s Andre Williams combined to rush for 3,820 yards and 34 TDs.

17. New Mexico Bowl

Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6) | Dec. 21 | Albuquerque, NM

Kudos to both Wazzu’s Mike Leach and CSU’ s Jim McElwain for ending long bowl droughts in their second seasons on the job. There should at least be plenty of points scored in this one. As an added bonus, it’s not a terribly long trip for fans of either the Cougars or Rams to make for the game.

16. Sun Bowl

Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-3) | Dec. 31 | El Paso, TX

This one is for the defense-lovers. The Hokies were the nation’s eighth-stingiest unit (17.4 PPG), while the Bruins boast a legitimate threat to Jadeveon Clowney’s No. 1 overall draft status in superstar DE Anthony Barr and a cadre of hard-hitting LBs.

15. Gator Bowl

Nebraska (8-4) vs. No. 22 Georgia (8-4) | Jan. 1 | Jacksonville, FL

It’s a shame that Aaron Murray doesn’t get the proper send-off he deserves, having gone down with a season-ending injury against Kentucky on November 23rd. Another storyline: What foot-in-mouth comment Huskers HC Bo Pelini will make next.

14. Fight Hunger Bowl

BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4) | Dec. 27 | San Francisco, CA

Ex-Huskies HC Steve Sarkisian would’ve been facing his alma mater in this game had he not taken the USC job. That being said, we’re still in for a potentially fun, high-scoring game between two teams with Top 20 rushing offenses.

13. Las Vegas Bowl

No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. No. 25 USC (9-4) | Dec. 21 | Las Vegas, NV

The Bulldogs enter this game looking back on what could’ve been, having missed out on a chance to crash the BCS with their late-season loss to San Jose State. USC, meanwhile, is looking toward the future and the Steve Sarkisian Era. With tons of talent on each roster, this should be fun.

12. Outback Bowl

Iowa (8-4) vs. No. 16 LSU (9-3) | Jan. 1 | Tampa, FL

Having previously shared his unique take on the significance of both Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, we’re interested in what LSU’s Les Miles has to say about New Year’s. Alas, Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger’s absence from this game will make this a lower-scoring affair.

11. Alamo Bowl

No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4) | Dec. 30 | San Antonio, TX

Potential subplot we’re very interested in: After getting blown out by Baylor in its regular-season finale, does Texas part ways with Mack Brown if the high-scoring Ducks do the same?

10. Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami (9-3) vs. No. 18 Louisville (11-1) | Dec. 28 | Orlando, FL

In perhaps the final game of his Cardinals career, Miami native Teddy Bridgewater faces his hometown Hurricanes. You can be sure that UM counterpart Stephen Morris will do his best not to be upstaged in a matchup with some high-scoring possibilities.

9. Holiday Bowl

No. 14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5) | Dec. 30 | San Diego, CA

Perennially one of the most entertaining and high-scoring bowl games, the Holiday Bowl could feature similar fireworks again this year. Both teams average over 35 PPG while also often playing less-than-stellar defense.

8. Capital One Bowl

No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) | Jan. 1 | Orlando, FL

Last New Year’s Day, Jadeveon Clowney delivered one of the most memorable tackles ever. It remains to be seen what he can do for an encore in what is surely his final game with the Gamecocks.

7. Chick-fil-A Bowl

No. 24 Duke (10-3) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4) | Dec. 31 | Atlanta, GA

Don’t run the risk of potentially missing out on Johnny Manziel’s final game as a collegian. He could have his way with a Blue Devils team that allowed 45 points to Florida State in the ACC title game yet also has a good enough offense to keep up with JFF and company.

6. Cotton Bowl

No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. No. 8 Missouri (11-2) | Jan. 3 | Arlington, TX

Had they triumphed in their final regular season games, these two former conference rivals might’ve faced each other in a BCS bowl. Alas, they’ve been relegated to the shell-of-its-former-self Cotton Bowl. At the very least, both teams can light up the scoreboard and play entertaining, get-after-it defense.

5. Fiesta Bowl

No. 15 UCF (11-1) vs. No. 6 Baylor (11-1) | Jan. 1 | Glendale, AZ

The Knights have proven themselves against top-flight competition this year, losing only by three to South Carolina and upsetting Louisville. Can their 13th-ranked defense slow down Baylor, the nation’s highest-scoring team at over 53 PPG?

4. Sugar Bowl

No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1) | Jan. 2 | New Orleans, LA

If you have trouble telling these blue-blooded, crimson-clad teams apart, you likely won’t be alone. Can Alabama’s AJ McCarron complete his storybook college career with a win? And can we set the over/under on Katherine Webb shots at 20?

3. Orange Bowl

No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) | Jan. 3 | Miami Gardens, FL

Don’t blink during this game, otherwise you might miss a touchdown. The Tajh Boyd-led Tigers do their damage through the air, while the Buckeyes chew up yards on the ground courtesy of Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller. And both teams have issues on defense. This ought to be very entertaining.

2. Rose Bowl

No. 5 Stanford (11-2) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) | Jan. 1 | Pasadena, CA

This is going to be a hard-hitting, black-and-blue game that football purists will salivate over. A Cardinal team that plays a Big Ten type of style going toe-to-toe with a Spartans squad that outmuscled and upset previously unbeaten Ohio State. We need some Tylenol just thinking about it.

1. BCS National Championship Game

No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1) | Jan. 6 | Pasadena, CA

What’s not to love about this game, which pairs the most dominant team in the country vs. an Auburn “team of destiny” and two of the best offenses in the nation? Strap in for an offensive shootout and plenty of fireworks in the last BCS championship game ever.

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