Bowl Watchability Rankings: One Reason to Tune In to Every Matchup

From the zany to the flashy to the high-stakes showdowns, here’s why all 42 games are worth your time.

College football bowl season is here again. We rate all 42 FBS bowl games by their watchability, starting with the absolute worst matchups and ending with the absolute best.

(all times Eastern)

42. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Kent State vs. Wyoming

Date: 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, ESPN

Watch it because … you like old-school football. The Cowboys run the ball more than 60% of the time, one of the top rates in the country, and they’ve got a defense that ranks in the top 40. Want a respite from the pass-happy, scoring-frenzy ways of college football? Check out this one.

Early line: Kent State -3

Weird fact: In 2005, this bowl game’s MVP was then Boston College and current Falcons QB Matt Ryan.

41. TaxAct Camellia Bowl: Ball State vs. Georgia State

Date: 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 25, ESPN

Watch it because … it’s Christmas Day and outside the NBA, there’s not much else on? I mean, really, this isn’t the most dazzling matchup. In fact, each team averages less than 201 yards passing per game. They’ve turned back the clock and probably not in a good way. It’s the Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust Bowl.

Early line: Georgia State -4

Weird fact: The Camellia Bowl gets its name from the state flower of Alabama. The more you know!

Highlights from bowl teams include Liberty QB Malik Willis (top left), Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin (bottom left) and Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman (bottom row, No. 10).

Mark Konezny; Katie Stratman/USA TODAY; Nick King/Lansing State Journal; Alonzo Adams; Justin Ford; Troy Babbitt; Rich Barnes; Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

40. Military Bowl: Boston College vs. East Carolina

Date: 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, ESPN

Watch it because … Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec is playing after a month of rest. Jurkovec injured his hand earlier this season in what many thought would end his season. Lo and behold, he returned last month. But he hasn’t been his usual self. Maybe a few weeks off will give us the old Phil Jurkovec.

Early line: Boston College -3

Weird fact: The Pirates haven’t won a bowl game since 2013!

39. Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo

Date: 12 p.m. on Dec. 17, ESPN

Watch it because … you can see the team that nearly beat Notre Dame. Oh, did you forget? The Rockets had the fifth-ranked Irish on the ropes, up five points before a Jack Coan touchdown pass with 1:09 left. Toledo RB Bryant Koback averages 106 yards a game, good for 11th nationally. The Blue Raiders became bowl-eligible by storming back from a 17–3 deficit against FAU in their last regular-season game.

Early line: Toledo -9.5

Weird fact: The Bahamas Bowl was the first FBS bowl game to be played between two U.S. teams outside the U.S. or Canada since the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Cuba.

38. EasyPost Hawai'i Bowl: Memphis vs. Hawai'i

Date: 8 p.m. on Dec. 24, ESPN

Watch it because … you want to see Hawai'i’s Calvin Turner Jr. play. He leads the Mountain West in all-purpose yards (1,523) and touchdowns (12). He’s got more than 800 yards receiving, 316 rushing and nearly 300 as a kick returner. Also, you should watch if you like points, because these two teams are ranked outside the top 90 in scoring defense this year.

Early line: Memphis -4

Weird fact: Hawai'i’s leading passer, Chevan Cordeiro, and rusher, Dae Dae Hunter, entered the transfer portal earlier this fall. So, uh, that’s something.

37. Frisco Football Classic: North Texas vs. Miami (Ohio)

Date: 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, ESPN

Watch it because … you just might see history. Miami has a 31-game nonconference losing streak against FBS opponents. Its last non-MAC win was over Army in 2011. The Redhawks will have to slow UNT running back DeAndre Torrey. He is averaging nearly five yards a carry and 100 per game.

Early line: Miami (Ohio) -3.5

Weird fact: Here’s something weird—this bowl game was created, like, a week ago. There were so many bowl-eligible teams this season that an NCAA committee voted to create an extra bowl game. And here it is!

36. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Air Force vs. Louisville

Date: 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 28, ESPN

Watch it because … you love to watch ground-and-pound. Air Force leads the country in rushing, averaging 342 yards a game—41 more than the next best team (Army). Louisville’s rushing defense ranks 75th nationally, so this will be quite the challenge.

Early line: Louisville -1

Weird fact: This will be Louisville’s first postseason game in Texas since 1958.

35. TaxAct Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Kansas State

Date: 9 p.m. on Jan. 4, ESPN

Watch it because … of K-State’s all-conference returner, Malik Knowles. He had kickoff returns of 99 yards against Oklahoma State and 93 against Oklahoma this year. Knowles had 1,127 all-purpose yards this season—102 rushing, 626 on returns and 399 receiving.

Early line: Kansas State -2.5

Weird fact: For LSU, this is a good spot for a bowl game. The school’s biggest alumni base resides in Houston.

34. RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. App State

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 18, ESPN

Watch it because … WKU, led by QB Bailey Zappe, amassed one heck of an offense this season, averaging 528 yards a game. The only team better: Ohio State. WKU has scored at least 31 points in every game this season, which is quite remarkable, especially since it had ball-hog Army and top-10 Michigan State on the schedule.

Early line: App State -2.5

Weird fact: The Hilltoppers might not have co-offensive coordinators Zach Kittley and Bryan Ellis. They’ve left to join the staff at Texas Tech and Georgia Southern, respectively.

33. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana vs. Marshall

Date: 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 18, ESPN

Watch it because … the last names are great! Have you ever scanned Louisiana’s roster? First off, its new coach is Michael Desormeaux, a fitting surname for any Ragin’ Cajuns coach. Other roster names include Pedescleaux, LeGendre, Quibodeaux, Champagne, Boulet and Bergeron.

Early line: Louisiana -6

Weird fact: The New Orleans Bowl hasn’t produced a one-score result since 2016. Blowouts abound!

32. PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl Bowl: UTEP vs. Fresno State

Date: 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 18, ESPN

Watch it because … well, not for QB Jake Haener! He’s in the transfer portal and seems bound to join former Fresno coach Kalen DeBoer at Washington. But UTEP is looking to break the longest-active bowl win drought in the FBS—the Miners’ last such victory was in 1967.

Early line: Fresno State -13

Weird fact: The bowl trophy is a 20-inch piece of Zia Pueblo pottery!

31. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl: UTSA vs. San Diego State

Date: 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, ESPN

Watch it because … it should be a good one. This matchup’s betting line is one of the smallest this bowl season. The game also features a pair of teams that won their first combined 18 games of the season. Quite impressive!

Early line: UTSA -2

Weird fact: This is the fourth installment of the Frisco Bowl. It used to be called the Miami Beach Bowl before relocating in 2017 to Texas.

Under Jeff Traylor, UTSA Is Reaching New Heights

UTSA coach Jeff Traylor (left) and his team celebrate their C-USA title.

Daniel Dunn/USA TODAY Sports

30. Wasabi Fenway Bowl: SMU vs. Virginia

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

Watch it because … it will be the last time, presumably, that Bronco Mendenhall will coach the Cavaliers. He stunned the college football world when he stepped down last week. The 55-year-old has a 36–38 record at UVA (so, no, he can’t get to .500).

Early line: Virginia -1.5

Weird fact: The title sponsor isn’t what you think. Wasabi Technologies is a cloud storage company. It’s not the green stuff that lights your mouth ablaze.

29. Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky

Date: 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, ABC

Watch it because … you’ve lost your television remote and are unable to change the channel. This isn’t the most glamorous of matchups. Expect lots of punting, stifling defense and missed field goals! Having said that, Kentucky QB Will Levis is an electric player who will entertain you, with both mistakes and highlights.

Early line: Kentucky -2.5

Weird fact: Wildcats coach Mark Stoops’s brother, Bob, played and coached for the Hawkeyes under Hayden Fry.

28. Myrtle Beach Bowl: Old Dominion vs. Tulsa

Date: 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, ESPN

Watch it because … you like interceptions? Tulsa QB Davis Brin has thrown 16 picks this year, the most in the country. Also, ODU is a solid team to root for. The Monarchs didn’t play at all last year and went 1–11 in 2019. Here they are in a bowl!

Early line: Tulsa -9.5

Weird fact: This is just the second year of this bowl’s existence.

27. Quick Lane Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Nevada

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 27, ESPN

Watch it because … even Vegas doesn’t know who will win! The game is a pick’em at most sportsbooks due to the uncertainty around whether Nevada QB Carson Strong is playing. He passed for four touchdowns in five games this season and had six in one game, but a lingering injury and the looming NFL draft could keep the prospect off the field.

Early line: PK

Weird fact: Things usually don’t go well for Western Michigan in bowl games. The school is 1–9 all-time.

26. Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel: Utah State vs. Oregon State

Date: 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18, ABC

Watch it because … there will surely be laughs, if Jimmy Kimmel has anything to do with it. Also, because this one pits two of the greatest stories in college football this year. In his first season at the helm, Blake Anderson led the Aggies to their first conference title in nine years. Meanwhile, at OSU, Jonathan Smith has the Beavers in a bowl for the first time since 2013.

Early line: Oregon State -7.5

Weird fact: The game is the first bowl named after a living person.

25. Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Washington State

Date: 2 p.m. on Dec. 31, CBS

Watch it because … you’ll see the future, maybe, of Miami football. QB Tyler Van Dyke has helped the Hurricanes win five of their last six games (and still, that didn’t save Manny Diaz’s job). He’s thrown for nearly 3,000 yards in 10 games and has a 25–6 touchdown-interception ratio.

Early line: Miami -2.5

Weird fact: The first Sun Bowl, in 1938, featured two Texas high school teams.

24. Tailgreeter Cure Bowl: Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois

Date: 6 p.m. on Dec. 17, ESPN2

Watch it because … the Chanticleers’ triple-option offense is one of the most fun to watch in college football. Unfortunately, the conductor, QB Grayson McCall, has been nursing an injury, but he did play in the final two games of the regular season. That’s a good sign. The Huskies, meanwhile, had what amounts to the best turnaround in 2021, winning the MAC championship and going 9–4 a season after being winless.

Early line: Coastal Carolina -10

Weird fact: One of the many new bowl sponsors this year, Tailgreeter “connects fans attending sporting events with experienced tailgate hosts.” It might be the first time that a tailgating company sponsors a bowl game. Fitting!

23. Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl: UAB vs. BYU

Date: 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 18, ABC

Watch it because … you like watching a top-15 team play in Shreveport? It’s quite the rarity. The 13th-ranked Cougars are the highest-ranked team to appear in this bowl and are the first ranked team to accept an invite since 1997!

Early line: BYU -7

Weird fact: The Independence Bowl is one of the oldest bowls outside of the legacy ones (such as the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Cotton). It began in 1976.

22. Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl: UCF vs. Florida

Date: 7 p.m. on Dec. 23, ESPN

Watch it because … it seems more like a rivalry game than any other bowl. Two in-state schools separated by just 120 miles who have, until recently, been involved in media spats over one school (Florida) not wanting to schedule a game against the other. Ultimately, they did get that game scheduled—three games, in fact (2024 and ’33 in Gainesville; ’30 in Orlando). Depending on which side you ask, the game is for bragging rights.

Early line: Florida -7.5

Weird fact: This is just the third meeting between these two, the last of which came in 2006—a 42–0 Gators win.

21. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: UCLA vs. NC State

Date: 8 p.m. on Dec. 28, Fox

Watch it because … you enjoy football in a baseball stadium. The Holiday Bowl used to be played at Qualcomm Stadium, now demolished. Its new home is Petco Park, where the Padres play. This is the first time the park is hosting a football game. This is a homecoming of sorts for NC State coach Dave Doeren, a San Diego native who was born on Coronado Island.

Early line: NC State -1

Weird fact: No two bowl opponents reside farther apart (2,556 miles).

20. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Houston

Date: Noon on Dec. 28, ESPN

Watch it because … it’s Group of 5 vs. Power 5. One of the best gifts of bowl season is delivering us games pitting G5 and P5 teams. In this case, one of the AAC’s best plays one of the SEC’s worst. Everyone likes to root for the underdog, and there’s no better guy than Houston QB Clayton Tune, who has thrown 16 TDs against three interceptions in his last six games.

Early line: Auburn -3

Weird fact: Three previous bowl games were held in Birmingham: the Dixie Bowl (1947–48), the Hall of Fame Classic (’77–85) and the All-American Bowl (’86–90).

19. Barstool Sports Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Boise State

Date: 2 p.m. on Dec. 31, Barstool Live

Watch it because … you like a different kind of bowl experience. Barstool is not putting on your normal bowl game. There will be a pregame tailgate festival, skydivers are scheduled to fly into the stadium before kickoff and there’s a downtown New Year’s Eve bowl bash in Tucson.

Early line: Boise State -8

Weird fact: This is the only bowl not broadcast on linear TV. It will be streamed.

18. Guaranteed Rate Bowl: West Virginia vs. Minnesota

Date: 10:15 p.m. on Dec. 28, ESPN

Watch it because … you don’t want to miss one of the country’s best defenses. Wait, what? That’s right, Minnesota is allowing just 284 yards a game, fourth nationally. Only one team, Ohio State, reached the 30-point mark against the Gophers this season.

Early line: Minnesota -4

Weird fact: Over the last week, Minnesota has hired away West Virginia analyst Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator. He will be available to coach against his former team in the bowl.

17. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Missouri vs. Army

Date: 8 p.m. on Dec. 22, ESPN

Watch it because … you enjoy the Black Knights’ long-established method of slowly wearing down a team until it gives up. The ol’ triple option will be on full display against an SEC team that, for the most part, operates an opposite style of offense. The contrast should be fun! The Tigers’ rushing defense (50th nationally) will be tested.

Early line: Army -3.5

Weird fact: Army is playing in this game for the third time in five years. The Knights won the last two times, including putting up a 70-burger on Houston in 2018.

16. LendingTree Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty

Date: 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 18, ESPN

Watch it because … Flames QB Malik Willis might just be playing on Sundays soon. He averages about 215 yards through the air and another 70 on the ground. In fact, Willis averages the third-most yards rushing a game among FBS quarterbacks and has scored 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Early line: Liberty -8

Weird fact: These two programs have combined to appear in just seven bowl games before this season.

Purdue players celebrate their October win over then-No. 2 Iowa.

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY Network

15. TransPerfect Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Purdue

Date: 3 p.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN

Watch it because … the only school this year to beat two top-three teams is playing. The Boilermakers knocked off then No. 3 Michigan State and then No. 2 Iowa. They’ve got a pretty lethal passing attack that should test one of the SEC’s worst defenses.

Early line: Tennessee -3

Weird fact: Purdue’s last trip to the Music City Bowl turned out poorly. It lost to Auburn, 63–14.

14. SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State

Date: 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN

Watch it because … it features the best defense in the country. The Badgers have been on a tear lately, winning seven of their last eight games, mostly attributed to an incredible defensive effort. They lead the country in total D by allowing just 236 yards a game, nearly 20 yards better than Georgia.

Early line: Wisconsin -7

Weird fact: This bowl game originated in California as the Raisin Bowl.

13. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland vs. Virginia Tech

Date: 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

Watch it because … Taulia Tagovailoa is throwing passes. Tua’s younger brother set the Terrapins’ program record for completions (308) and yards passing (3,595) in a single season. He also has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 straight games, the longest streak in the nation.

Early line: Virginia Tech -1

Weird fact: The winner of the game is awarded a trophy. Its name? The George M. Steinbrenner Trophy.

Taulia Tagovailoa Is Reviving Maryland’s QB Position

12. Cheez-It Bowl: Clemson vs. Iowa State

Date: 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

Watch it because … you haven’t seen Clemson play in a normal bowl game since 2014! The Tigers missed the Playoff for the first time in seven years. But really, you should be watching because it could be Iowa State junior Breece Hall’s last hurrah. The No. 1 running back on NFL draft projections, Hall was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

Early line: Clemson -1

Weird fact: This is the first time that Iowa State will play in a bowl for a fifth consecutive season.

11. Duke’s Mayo Bowl: North Carolina vs. South Carolina

Date: 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN

Watch it because … you love border wars between two programs that went in very different directions than expected this year. In his first year, Shane Beamer has the 6–6 Gamecocks in a bowl with wins over Auburn and Florida. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels, in preseason top 10, staggered to a 6–6 finish.

Early line: North Carolina -7

Weird fact: Last year, during a postgame celebration in the Wisconsin locker room, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl Trophy shattered.

10. Outback Bowl: Penn State vs. Arkansas

Date: Noon on Jan. 1, ESPN2

Watch it because … Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson is the real deal. You’ll be seeing the speedster play on Sunday one day. It’s unclear whether he’ll play in the bowl game, but if he does, tune in. He amassed 91 catches, 1,182 yards and 12 TDs this year—the best numbers in the Big Ten.

Early line: Penn State -2.5

Weird fact: The Hogs have never played in the Outback Bowl, a longtime SEC bowl tie-in.

9. Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Oklahoma

Date: 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

Watch it because … Bob Stoops will be on the sideline. The retiree is making his comeback as interim coach of the Sooners after Lincoln Riley’s departure to USC. Stoops last coached a college football game on Jan. 2, 2017, when the Sooners beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

Early line: Oklahoma -4

Weird fact: The 1998 MVP of the Alamo Bowl was … Drew Brees!

8. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 31, ESPN

Watch it because … who doesn’t want to see one of the most fun, most productive offenses up against an SEC defense? Texas A&M DC Mike Elko has the Aggies among the top 20 defenses nationally, and Dave Clawson’s group ranks 12th among offenses.

Early line: Texas A&M -6

Weird fact: This is a rematch of the 2017 Belk Bowl, which Wake won 55–52 in a thriller.

7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech

Date: 6:45 p.m. on Dec. 28, ESPN

Watch it because … it’s the Mike Leach Bowl! The Bulldogs coach and former Texas Tech coach claims he is still owed money from Tech for his firing in 2009. If he can score 100 on the Red Raiders, he just might. Tech’s defense is 91st nationally, so triple digits aren’t out of the question.

Early line: Mississippi State -8

Weird fact: The Liberty Bowl’s first game was in 1959. Penn State beat Alabama 7–0.

6. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Michigan State vs. Pitt

Date: 7 p.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN

Watch it because … the best running back and (maybe) the best quarterback in college football collide. MSU RB Kenneth Walker III and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett combine to average 500 yards of offense per game and 60 touchdowns.

Early line: Pitt -4

Weird fact: The last team from the ACC or Big Ten to win the Peach Bowl was Clemson in 2012.

5. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State

Date: 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

Watch it because … Marcus Freeman, just 35 years old, will be coaching in his first game as the permanent coach. Freeman was elevated from the defensive coordinator role after the departure of Brian Kelly to LSU. A big challenge awaits him. The Cowboys are no slouches. If they had beaten Baylor in the Big 12 title game, they might be in the Playoff.

Early line: Notre Dame -2

Weird fact: The Irish have lost four straight Fiesta Bowls, against Ohio State (2016 and ’06), Oregon State (’01) and Colorado (1995).

Notre Dame Embraces Marcus Freeman After Transformative Week

4. Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah

Date: 5 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

Watch it because … C.J. Stroud is playing. The Ohio State quarterback is an electric player who should enter next season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. He completed 70% of his passes this year, throwing 38 touchdowns against just five interceptions.

Early line: Ohio State -6.5

Weird fact: The Rose Bowl Stadium turns 100 years old in 2022.

3. Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Alabama

Date: 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, ESPN

Watch it because … it features the first Group of 5 team in Playoff history. The Bearcats broke through the glass ceiling with an undefeated AAC championship year. Their reward? Big, bad Alabama.

Early line: Alabama -13

Weird fact: The Crimson Tide are an even 4–4 in Cotton Bowls all-time.

Cincinnati and the Football Opportunity of a Lifetime

2. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Baylor

Date: 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

Watch it because … there is not a game that features two more diametrically opposed coaches. Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss and Dave Aranda of Baylor couldn’t be any more different, both from a personality standpoint and their football backgrounds. The two teams play a lot like their coaches. Get ready for an electric Rebels offense, headlined by Matt Corral, against one of the best defenses in the country.

Early line: Baylor -1.5

Weird fact: These teams have played one other time in their history—a 20–10 Baylor win in 1975.

1. Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan

Date: 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, ESPN

Watch it because … the SEC is pitted against The Alliance. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 formed the grouping over the summer in response, partially, to the SEC’s additions of Oklahoma and Texas. There is animosity between the two groups. It’s time to put the bad blood on the field.

Early line: Georgia -7

Weird fact: Michigan and Georgia have met twice on the football field. The last time was 1965.

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