- From bobbleheads to belt buckles and everything in between, the participants at this year's 39 bowl games look to be in for a treat.
Every bowl game is a reward, but not every bowl game is the same reward. Certain games on this year’s schedule offer better primetime slots, bigger stadiums and less wintry locales. And of course, every game gives out a different set of gifts and gear to its participating players. With the bowl season set to kick off on Saturday, we’ve ranked every bowl’s offerings, working off of Sports Business Journal’s comprehensive list and reaching out to bowl representatives for additional clarification.
Missing from this list is the Cotton Bowl, which chooses to preserve the element of surprise for its players because the alternative "would be like telling someone what their birthday gift or Christmas present is going to be two weeks ahead of time." Whatever Clemson and Notre Dame's players ultimately receive, here's what they're up against, listed in descending order from the most enticing to the perfectly fine.
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl (Alabama vs. Oklahoma)
Gift suite; Tourneau watch; personalized bobblehead of each student-athlete; sling bag
Now we see the true reason for the Cotton Bowl's silence: It didn't want to get so directly shown up by its CFP semifinal counterpart giving out bobbleheads of every player. It's a shame that Nick Saban doesn't get one. The most original and thoughtful swag of the season deserves the top spot.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (LSU vs. UCF)
PS4 gift package including a PS4 console, controller and games; Fossil watch with engraved caseback; Ogio X-Fit backpack
Going to the game sponsored by PlayStation provides an immediate leg up on the rest of the gift suite/package crowd.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl (FIU vs. Toledo)
Gift suite; Yeti Rambler bottle; Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl custom board shorts, towel, pin and string backpack
For a bowl that from firsthand accounts sounds extremely stable and sustainable, all that game-branded swag could become quite the collector's item soon.
Quick Lane Bowl (Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech)
$175 Best Buy gift card; JBL E55BT over-ear wireless headphones; life-sized Fathead decal for each participant of his likeness; Quick Lane Bowl backpack, shirts, mini helmet and football
The Quick Lane Bowl keeps its spot among the elite after making waves a few years ago with the introduction of the personalized Fathead decals. Note also that the coaches of both teams receive "luxury watches from Detroit based company Shinola, a welcome basket featuring Michigan made products and a Quick Lane Bowl merchandise package." Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson will no doubt get worse retirement presents.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl (Arkansas State vs. Nevada)
Ghostek backpack with a power bank and external USB port; Beats Buds; Kindle Fire with built-in Alexa; hydroflask; cooling towel; Frito Lay products in each bag
Equally excited about the Kindle and the free chips.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl (Fresno State vs. Arizona State)
Gift suite (Value: $300); Las Vegas Bowl hat and beanie; branded fanny pack
What do we as a country need to do to get a picture of Herm Edwards rocking the Las Vegas Bowl fanny pack?
Cheez-It Bowl (Cal vs. TCU)
Fossil watch with engraved caseback; JBL Charge 3 Bluetooth speaker; Baggo bag toss tailgate cornhole set; Yeti Roadie 20 cooler; Yeti rambler; dry duffel bag; RuMe reveal quart bag; Branded Bills cap; Dollar Shave Club starter set
With this deep lineup, the Cheez-It Bowl is doing everything it can to distract us from the fact that there is a bowl game called the Cheez-It Bowl, and you know what, it's working. Well played, Cheez-It Bowl.
Valero Alamo Bowl (Iowa State vs. Washington State)
$425 Amazon gift card; custom Valero Alamo Bowl Fossil watch; mini helmet featuring both schools; team panoramic photo
Don't underestimate the value of not having your gift card limited to some big box store. What better way to spend $425 than at the online retail behemoth that may soon take over the world?
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Florida vs. Michigan)
$300 Vanilla Visa gift card; Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Fossil watch; Mophie Powerstation XL; Amazon Echo Dot 3; souvenir football
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Missouri vs. Oklahoma State)
Shopping trip to Bass Pro Shops; Bose SoundLink micro Bluetooth speaker; Bulova watch; Nike athletic shoes; sport sandals; backpack and sunglasses; football
This is not the only shopping trip on this list, but it is the only shopping trip to a Bass Pro Shops.
Redbox Bowl (Michigan State vs. Oregon)
Fossil watch; Timbuktu backpack; Roku; headphones; Redbox Bowl merchandise
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (NC State vs. Texas A&M)
Fossil watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; Amazon Echo; ISlides; SIC tumbler; dopp kit
Outback Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Iowa)
Fossil watch; Jostens ring; $125 Best Buy gift card; Outback Steakhouse gift card; hat
Like a high school state championship I never stopped chasing the thrill of, I would wear my Outback Bowl ring out to all future Outback Steakhouse trips and flash it knowingly at the restaurant staff, so the gift card is really the second-most valuable addition to the dining experience listed here.
Camping World Bowl (West Virginia vs. Syracuse)
$400 Best Buy gift card; Ogio backpack with luggage tag; Fossil watch
VRBO Citrus Bowl (Kentucky vs. Penn State)
$400 Best Buy gift card; Fossil watch; Ogio backpack with luggage tag
Belk Bowl (South Carolina vs. Virginia)
Shopping trip to Belk department store with $450 gift card; Fossil watch
This trio of late-season bowls is handing out a pretty respectable amount of coin, especially for the stores it goes toward. You can really make $450 go a long way at Belk—maybe not as long as Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle made it go two years ago, but long enough.
Allstate Sugar Bowl (Texas vs. Georgia)
Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era cap; Rock ’Em socks; cufflinks
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (Washington vs. Ohio State)
Gift suite; Commemorative Fossil watch; Ogio backpack; New Era 9Fifty snapback adjustable hat
Given that these are both New Year's Six bowls, one can only assume that the respective gift suites and other prizes are a cut above the rest. The game logo is nice and all, but you can find cufflinks shaped like actual sugar bowls elsewhere on the Internet.
New Mexico Bowl (North Texas vs. Utah State)
Gift suite; Oakley Jupiter Squared sunglasses; Oakley 5 Speed backpack; Bluetooth speaker; water bottle; beanie; Montgomery pen; Pacific Headwear trucker’s cap
Dollar General Bowl (Buffalo vs. Troy)
Yamaha sound bar with built-in subwoofer; Timely Watch Co. watch; Maui Jim sunglasses; Wilson game ball
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl (Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii)
Electronics gift suite; Oakley backpack; Oakley sunglasses; Tori Richard aloha shirt; shorts/swim trunks; performance T-shirt; beach towel
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (UAB vs. Northern Illinois)
Custom fit Sanibel Sunglasses; Logoed drawstring bags; Logoed autographed footballs; Logoed beach towels; logoed USB chargers
AutoNation Cure Bowl (Tulane vs. Louisiana)
Holloway Force jacket; sunglasses with carry case; Energizer powerbank; duffle bag; Pebble Beach slides; dopp kit; Sportek long-sleeve contender T-shirt; cap
Points for quantity and quality in this group.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman (Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech)
Dell Mobile Projector M318WL; $100 Amex Gift Card; ISlides
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (Baylor vs. Vanderbilt)
Gift suite; Academy Sports + Outdoors gift card; Adidas backpack; belt buckle
Coming from Waco and Nashville, these teams should be all set on belt buckles already.
DXL Frisco Bowl (San Diego State vs. Ohio)
Gift suite; Justin cowboy hat; beanie cap; coin; pin; Big Game football
Coming from San Diego and Athens, these two teams should be pretty far from all set on cowboy hats.
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Stanford vs. Pitt)
Team gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; Majestic fleece pullover; Ogio Excelsior backpack; Under Armour hat; commemorative coin
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl (Temple vs. Duke)
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; New Era skull cap; football
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Western Michigan vs. BYU)
Gift suite; Oakley backpack; Hydroflask; beanie
Jared Birmingham Bowl (Memphis vs. Wake Forest)
Gift suite; Oakley backpack or sunglasses; cooling hoodie; football
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Houston vs. Army)
Gift suite; Bluetooth speaker helmet; football
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (Northwestern vs. Utah)
Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era cap
The Holiday Bowl's greatest reward is getting to play the last game of your season in San Diego.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan)
Gift suite; Fossil watch; Samsonite rolling duffle bag; beanie; Big Game football
Servpro First Responder Bowl (Boston College vs. Boise State)
Gift suite; RFID-blocking Ridge wallet; Big Game football
We came agonizingly close to seeing Wake Forest land wallets that protect their owners' personal data.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State)
Gift suite; Fossil watch
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Purdue vs. Auburn)
Gift suite ($350 of value); Fossil watch
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Marshall vs. South Florida)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Miami vs. Wisconsin)
A variety of New Era products
Despite their place on this list, each of these vague offerings could include an item that truly makes the bowl experience worthwhile for each player. The lesson, as always: Don't look a gift suite in the mouth.