I am going to watch every single one of these because I celebrate Bowl season like most of you celebrate Christmas. If you aren’t prepared to watch Old Dominion and Tulsa battle it out at 2:30 on a Monday work day, this blog post probably isn’t for you.
42: Frisco Football Classic (Frisco, TX) – North Texas (6-6) vs. Miami (OH) (6-6)
First off, this game was literally created last minute so that every eligible team could go to a Bowl game. Second, its two 6-6 teams representing the two worst Group of 5 conferences. Redhawks QB Brett Gabbert is the younger brother of Super Bowl winning QB Blaine Gabbert.
41: TaxAct Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL) – Georgia State (7-5) vs. Ball State (6-6)
This game is for some reason taking place on Christmas. I recently purchased a Georgia State shirt. The Panthers almost upset Auburn earlier this season, and their running back is named Tucker Gregg. Sounds like a Friday Night Lights character, no?
40: Bahamas Bowl (Bahamas, duh) – Middle Tennessee State (6-6) vs. Toledo (7-5)
Imagine going 6-6 in Conference USA and getting a trip to the Bahamas? Incredible. UAB went 8-4 and got a trip to Shreveport. The Bowl value system is messed up. Anyway, this is the opening game of this years Bowl season.
39: Myrtle Beach Bowl (Conway, SC) – Old Dominion (6-6) vs. Tulsa (6-6)
Old Dominion making its return to Bowl season for the first time since 2016. This game will be played on Coastal Carolinas teal turf. Tulsa managed to play hard fought contests against Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Cincinnati (but also lost to FCS UC Davis).
38: New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, NM) – UTEP (7-5) vs. Fresno State (9-3)
Hats off to UTEP for making a Bowl game for the first time since 2014 (also New Mexico Bowl). Fresno State will go into this game with an interim coach after Kalen DeBoer left to take the Washington job. Jake Haener, the Bulldogs stud QB , entered the transfer portal but recently took his name out of it once Jeff Tedford was named the new head coach. His status is up in the air, but if he plays this game would ultimately be higher on this list. Also, its New Mexico?
37: LendingTree Bowl (Mobile, AL) – Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Liberty (7-5)
I’d be way more into this if the game was being played on the EMU gray turf. As of this writing, there is no decision on if Malik Willis will play the Bowl game for the Flames. Thats about the only interesting thing I can take away from this loan bowl.
36: Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI) – Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Nevada (8-4)
Having a Christmas weekend hangover? I’ve got great news for you: This bowl game is being played at 11 am ET on the Monday after Christmas. Nevada big armed QB Carson Strong still hasn’t announced whether he will participate, and Wolfpack head coach Jay Norvell left to take the Colorado State job. Western Michigan has a win over the ACC Champions.
35: Barstool Arizona Bowl (Tucson, AZ) – Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Boise State (7-5)
This games ranking depends heavily on your fandom of Barstool Sports. It’ll be broadcast exclusively via Barstool channels and include plenty of entertainment shenanigans by Barstool content creators. The downside? I’m not super interested in this matchup, and it kicks off one hour prior to the Cincinnati-Alabama Playoff game.
34: Wasabi Fenway Bowl (Boston, MA) – SMU (8-4) vs. Virginia (6-6)
I’m interested in watching football inside Fenway Park, a legendary stadium. I am also interested in watching both Tanner Mordecai and Brennan Armstrong. Why is it so far down the list then? Well, both head coaches up and left. Also, it’s at 11 am ET on a Wednesday. Why??
33: Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix, AZ) – West Virginia (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
The first all-P5 bowl game on this list! Neither team is super impressive on either side of the ball, though Minnesota had a very eventful year, all the way from beating arch rival Wisconsin while also losing to a downtrodden MAC team in Bowling Green.
32: TaxAct Texas Bowl (Houston, TX) – LSU (6-6) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Has anybody ever been less interested in an LSU postseason game? Coach O has been relieved, the Brian Kelly era has begun, they’ll have to determine whether they want to burn a redshirt on Garrett Nussmeier or start a walk-on at QB. On the Kansas State side? Deuce Vaughn is a thrill to watch, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah is one of the most underrated defenders in the country. Beyond those two? Not much here.
31: New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – #23 Louisiana (12-1) vs. Marshall (7-5)
Louisiana is a very good team that should be playing a Power 5 team in a Bowl game, not 7-5 Marshall. No disrespect to the Herd, but this game is a prime reason why a Bowl Draft would be an awesome addition to both college football and the entire bowl season landscape.
30: Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA) – UAB (8-4) vs. #13 BYU (10-2)
Again, no disrespect to the Blazers, but BYU should be playing in a much better Bowl game. They went 5-0 against the PAC12 this year, including a victory over Rose Bowl participant Utah. One of their two losses was to Big 12 Champions Baylor. Bowl Draft, please!
29: Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN) – Tennessee (7-5) vs. Purdue (8-4)
Tennessee had a pretty successful first season under Josh Heupel, including a breakout campaign by QB Hendon Hooker. Unfortunately, on the other side of this game, Purdue will be without stars David Bell and George Karlaftis, who’ve declared for the NFL Draft.
28: New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY) – Maryland (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
The only thing of real interest here is that this is a regional matchup. Virginia Tech is yet another team playing with an interim coach after Justin Fuente got fired during the season. This game will be a solid representation of another Maryland based sports franchises future domination of Yankee Stadium (Go O’s).
27: Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD) – Boston College (6-6) vs. East Carolina (7-5)
Boston College was a popular pick to be a break out team in the ACC this year under Jeff Hafley by this website, and it ultimately didn’t pan out after Phil Jurkovec got injured and missed a large chunk of the season. East Carolina DID have a breakout season under Mike Houston and will have their first winning season in seven years.
26: First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX) – Air Force (9-3) vs. Louisville (6-6)
G5 vs. P5 Bowl games always have me a little intrigued. Malik Cunningham turned it on down the stretch and has the capability of being an electric QB, but lacks consistency. Air Force played pretty stingy defense out in the Mountain West conference (under 20 PPG) and is my personal favorite service academy.
25: Vrbo Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL) – #15 Iowa (10-3) vs. #22 Kentucky (9-3)
The first ranked matchup on the list, I have it all the way at 25 because Iowa’s offense is simply unwatchable. On the other hand, Kentucky has a few fun playmakers on offense, including reciever Wan’Dale Robinson and running back Chris Rodriguez.
24: Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX) – Missouri (6-6) vs. Army (8-4)
Missouri improved its disastrous run defense down the stretch, but they still averaged north of 225 yards per game on the ground. Wanna know a little secret about Army football? They run the ball really. really. well.
23: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, ID) – Kent State (7-6) vs. Wyoming (6-6)
The best uniforms in college football (that would be the Wyoming Cowboys) playing on the iconic blue turf. Kent State didn’t quite live up to expectations this season but still made the MAC Championship, and when he’s on, Dustin Crum is one of the best QBs in the G5. The last time Wyoming played in the Potato Bowl, Josh Allen was the QB.
22: Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu, HI) – Memphis (6-6) vs. Hawai’i (6-7)
I’m putting this as high as it is because the Christmas Eve Hawai’i Bowl is a long standing tradition in my life. Beyond that, Memphis has fallen off since the Justin Fuente/Mike Norvell days, and Hawai’i is in a bad place after recent reports have come out against head coach Todd Graham.
21: Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL) – Northern Illinois (9-4) vs. Coastal Carolina (10-2)
The MAC Champion Huskies had a weird year that involved a few blowouts, a lot of close games, and a dismantling of a Kent State squad in the MAC Championship. Coastal Carolina came into the season with Sun Belt Championship and potential New Years Six game, neither coming to fruition after a Grayson McCall injury during the season.
20: Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (Inglewood, CA) – Utah State (10-3) vs. Oregon State (7-5)
Mountain West Champion Utah State gets the LA treatment after a huge debut season for Blake Anderson, one in which nobody expected to see the Aggies win the Mountain West. On the other side, Jonathan Smith has his Oregon State Beavers consistently getting better and better with each season. This should be a fun G5/P5 matchup.
19: Boca Raton Bowl (Boca Raton, FL) – Western Kentucky (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-3)
Personally, my favorite G5 matchup. Western Kentucky brings a pass heavy offense led by Bailey Zappe up against a stingy Mountaineers defense. Zappe needs 289 passing yards and 5 touchdowns to surpass single season records set by B.J. Symons and Joe Burrow, respectfully. This game also kicks off at 11 am ET for some ungodly reason.
18: Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL) – UCF (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)
UCF gets a shot against one of the power Florida programs, but unfortunately neither team is as good as we’d hope. Dillon Gabriel announced plans to transfer from UCF, and they’ve treaded water since his injury earlier this season. For Florida, they announced the firing of Dan Mullen and hiring of Billy Napier in recent weeks and likely want to just get this over with. This game was announced as a sellout, so the atmosphere should be fun.
17: Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, AL) – #20 Houston (11-2) vs. Auburn (6-6)
Houston had a breakout season in 2021 that ended with a loss in the AAC Championship against Cincinnati while Auburn struggled to be consistent, blew a chance at upsetting arch rival Alabama, and lost Bo Nix due to injury. Can the soon to be Cougars cap off an 11 win season by beating an SEC opponent?
16: Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA) – UCLA (8-4) vs. #18 NC State (9-3)
Both coaches, Chip Kelly and Dave Doeren, helmed breakout campaigns for their respected teams in 2021, making this an intriguing Bowl matchup. The Wolfpack defense held opponents under 20 PPG while the Bruins averaged almost 37 PPG offensively, making this a coin toss matchup in San Diego.
15: Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN) – Mississippi State (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (6-6)
This is literally only this high for one reason: Mike Leach. If you haven’t heard about his issues with Texas Tech, his former employer, I’d suggest doing a little Google search. Leach is gonna want to put up a hundred points on the Red Raiders, while Texas Tech just looks to move on to the Joey McGuire (and maybe Quinn Ewers?) era.
14: Dukes Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, NC) – North Carolina (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
The battle of the Carolinas takes place between a North Carolina squad that drastically underachieved and a South Carolina team that over-performed from preseason expectations. This will likely be Sam Howell’s final college game, though he hasn’t made an official announcement. Will this be the year a coach gets dumped with mayo? We hope.
13: Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, NV) – Wisconsin (8-4) vs. Arizona State (8-4)
First off: I was wrong about Graham Mertz. Wisconsin yet again struggled to pass the ball this season, and didn’t really get a strong running game going until down the stretch. Jayden Daniels looks to cap off the 2021 campaign with a win after announcing he’d be returning in 2022.
12: Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX) – Washington State (7-5) vs. Miami (7-5)
Washington State had a topsy turvy season that including firing head coach Nick Rolovich for refusing to comply with state vaccination guidelines. Since, the team has played inspired ball for then interim head coach Jake Dickert, who was announced as the new head coach. On the other side, Miami made a splash with the hiring of Mario Cristobal from Oregon. The real reason this game is high, though, is the matchup between young, talented QB’s in Jayden de Laura and Tyler Van Dyke. Also a rematch of the 2015 Sun Bowl, in which there was a random blizzard.
11: Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX) – UTSA (12-1) vs. #24 San Diego State (11-2)
College Football Twitters favorite Bowl matchup. The Roadrunners went 12-1 and meep meeped all over the competition this season, which led head coach Jeff Traylor to signing a contract extension to keep him in San Antonio a little longer. San Diego State, best known as G5 Iowa, has a putrid offense, a stout defense, and maybe the greatest punter of all-time in Punt God Matt Araiza
10: Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL) – Penn State (7-5) vs. #21 Arkansas (8-4)
Two teams that went in opposite directions of preseason predictions, Penn State looks to right the ship headed into 2022 after James Franklin inked a contract extension to remain in State College. Sam Pittman and the Hogs looks to cap off a very successful 2021 with a big Bowl victory and a chance to build on this momentum.
9: Cheez-It Bowl (Orlando, FL) – #19 Clemson (9-3) vs. Iowa State (7-5)
In the preseason, I would have projected this postseason matchup, however I thought it would take place in the Playoffs. Clemson struggled immensely on offense while carrying a typically stout defense, however it seems everyone around Dabo is heading for the hills. Both long-time coordinators have left to take head coaching jobs, leaving most wondering what happens to the Tigers now. On Iowa States side, the Cyclones look to wrap up the Brock and Breece era with a highlight win against the Tigers after a disappointing 2021 campaign.
8: Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX) – #14 Oregon vs. #16 Oklahoma (10-2)
Two months ago, this matchup would have probably been top 5. Instead, Oklahoma failed to make the Big 12 Championship Game and Oregon got boat raced twice by Utah. To top it all off, both head coaches bolted in the carousel to new destinations. Bob Stoops will be returning to the sidelines to coach the Sooners, which is certainly something to look forward too, but Oklahoma also has lost some talent to the NFL Draft and transfer portal.
7: Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL) – #17 Wake Forest (10-3) vs. #25 Texas A&M (8-4)
Wake Forest heads into the Bowl Season riding high from a ten win season under Dave Clawson, while Texas A&M brings a talented team that ultimately underperformed from the expectations they had in the preseason. This is a rematch of the 2017 Belk Bowl in which Wake won 55-52.
6: Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA) – #12 Pittsburgh (11-2) vs. #10 Michigan State (10-2)
The Pat Narduzzi Bowl. Kenny Pickett is still undecided on his status for the Peach Bowl, but my gut says that he’ll stick around considering how big of a game this is for the Panthers. It also gives him another shot to distance himself from the pack when it comes to the NFL Draft. It also seems like Kenneth Walker III will be playing for the Spartans.
5: Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) – #9 Oklahoma State (11-2) vs. #5 Notre Dame (11-1)
Oklahoma State came about a yard away from winning the Big 12 Championship while playing football almost the polar opposite of how tradition Mike Gundy teams play: great defense, mild offense. For Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman takes over and makes his head coaching debut in the Fiesta Bowl after Brian Kelly bolted for LSU.
4: Sugar Bowl (Atlanta, GA) – #7 Baylor (11-2) vs. #8 Ole Miss (10-2)
This will be Matt Corral’s final collegiate game for the Rebels before becoming a likely first round pick in the NFL Draft. Dave Aranda’s stout Baylor defense going head to head with Lane Kiffin’s offense is a matchup absolutely worth watching.
3: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – #11 Utah (10-3) vs. #6 Ohio State (10-2)
On paper, Ohio State is clearly the more talented team here. When you break it open, Utah physically beat the brakes off Oregon twice, and Oregon did the same to Ohio State. Will Utah be able to dominate the line of scrimmage on offense to help keep the Ohio State offense off the field? It’ll be fun to find out.
2: Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX) – #4 Cincinnati (13-0) vs. #1 Alabama (12-1)
The time has come, we finally have a group of 5 team that’s broken into the Playoff. Can Cincinnati, led by long time starter Desmond Ridder and a ferocious Bearcat defense keep in contention with Nick Saban’s Crimson Dynasty and Heisman winner Bryce Young?
1: Orange Bowl (Miami, FL) – #3 Georgia (12-1) vs. #2 Michigan (12-1)
I’m putting the Orange Bowl at numero uno for a reason. Georgia and Michigan are two long, storied programs in the sport. They also both have tortured fanbases begging to break long National Championship droughts. The Orange Bowl will give one team and fanbase the chance to end that drought, while causing the other to continue to hoping and praying for the day to come.