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

Author:
Publish date:
College football bowl game rankings schedule

Rating all 39 FBS bowl games by their watchability, starting with the absolute worst matchups and ending with the absolute best.

39. Frisco Bowl: Utah State vs. Kent State

Date: Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Watch it because… you have nothing else better to do on Dec. 20. I kid. You should watch the final chapter of what’s been a historic season for the Golden Flashes. This is just their second bowl game since 1972. You read that correctly—1972.

Early line: Utah State -8.5

Weird fact: The corporate headquarters of both T-Mobile and the Dallas Cowboys is located in Frisco, Texas.

38. Arizona Bowl: Wyoming vs. Georgia State

Date: Dec. 31, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN

Watch it because… these teams beat SEC programs this season, and that should be enough to warrant your attention. The Cowboys whacked Missouri while the Panthers beat Tennessee.

Early line: Wyoming -7

Weird fact: This game has produced consecutive overtime games the last two years.

37. Quick Lane Bowl: Pitt vs. Eastern Michigan

Date: Dec. 26, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… Pitt’s defense is fun. The Panthers get after it. They are 11th nationally in yards allowed and third in sacks. Jaylen Twyman and Patrick Jones are have combined for 19 sacks this season.

Early line: Pitt -10

Weird fact: In 2016, instead of giving the bowl MVP trophy to a single player, game officials announced the MVP would be the entire defensive line for Boston College, which beat Maryland that day 38–30.

36. LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio)

Date: Jan. 6, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… the Cajuns have a three-headed rushing attack you gotta see. Elijah Mitchell, Raymond Calais and Trey Ragas have all run for at least 800 yards this season, each of them in the country’s top 100 of rushers.

Early line: Louisiana -14

Weird fact: This is the fifth different name for this bowl game. It started as the Mobile Alabama Bowl, became the GMAC Bowl, then the GoDaddy.com Bowl and next the Dollar General Bowl.

35. First Responder Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky

Date: Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

Watch it because… the Broncos have a 2,900-yard passer and a 1,400-yard receiver. QB Jon Wassink and RB LeVante Bellamy will battle against a WKU defense that ranks 29th nationally.

Early line: Western Kentucky -2

Weird fact: The 2018 edition of this bowl game, pitting Boston College against Boise State, ended in a no contest as it was canceled due to severe weather just 10 minutes into the game.

34. New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan vs. San Diego State

Date: Dec. 21, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you might see San Diego State score more than 31 points this year. The Aztecs have somehow managed to go 9–3 while scoring more than 20 points just five times. They’ve won games 6–0, 13–3 and 17–11, and have lost games 14–11, 17–13 and 23–17. This doesn’t sound like an enticing reason to watch a game, but we’ve got nothing else.

Early line: San Diego State -4.5

Weird fact: The New Mexico Bowl trophy is made from Zia Pueblo pottery.

33. Armed Forces Bowl: Tulane vs. Southern Miss

Date: Jan. 4, 11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you might be seeing your next head coach on the field. Tulane’s Willie Fritz is a hot commodity these days, his name circulated with jobs open at Missouri and Arkansas. Fritz, in his fourth year, led the Green Wave to consecutive bowls for the first time since 1979–80.

Early line: Tulane -6

Weird fact: Army’s 70–14 win over Houston in last year’s bowl game tied the FBS record for largest margin of victory in a bowl game.

32. Idaho Potato Bowl: Nevada vs. Ohio

Date: Jan. 3, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… the Bobcats are a feel-good story in football. They had to win their final two games to qualify for a bowl in Frank Solich’s 15th season. It’s a fifth consecutive bowl game for a program that had played in two—two!—bowl games before Solich took over.

Early line: Ohio -6.5

Weird fact: This game is played in Boise, Idaho, where most longtime residents pronounce the city’s name as BOY-see while the rest of us call it BOY-zee. The more you know!

31. Camellia Bowl: FIU vs. Arkansas State

Date: Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you can see one of the best freshman quarterbacks in the country. Arkansas State’s Layne Hatcher, who redshirted as an Alabama reserve last year before transferring, has thrown for 23 touchdowns, just nine interceptions and is averaging 283 yards a game. He’s nearly completing 70% of his passes.

Early line: Arkansas State -3

Weird fact: Since its inception in 2014, this game has been decided by one score each year. In fact, the five winners have won by a combined 17 points.

30. Bahamas: Charlotte vs. Buffalo

Date: Dec. 20, 2 p.m. EST, ESPN

Watch it because… it’s the first bowl game! The Bulls and 49ers kick off at 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 to begin the bowl season. In addition to that, they’re playing in the Bahamas.

Early line: Buffalo -5

Weird fact: The first edition of this bowl, played in 2014, was the first major bowl game played outside the United States and Canada between two U.S. teams since the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Cuba.

29. Independence Bowl: Miami vs. Louisiana Tech

Date: Dec. 26, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… Miami (LOL) is playing in Shreveport, Louisiana. Surely this is not where the Hurricanes thought they’d end up at the start of the season, but here they are, playing the Bulldogs at their home venue. Look out—Louisiana Tech, which finished tied atop the Conference USA West division, is no joke.

Early line: Miami -7.5

Weird fact: The Independence Bowl was named such because it was inaugurated in 1976, the year of the United States Bicentennial.

28. Military Bowl: North Carolina vs. Temple

Date: Dec. 27, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you’re certain to get a close game. Nine of UNC’s 12 games this season were one-score results, including all six losses. Every time the Tar Heels play, it’s usually a must-watch—from a one-point loss to Clemson to a four-point win over South Carolina.

Early line: North Carolina -6

Weird fact: Rod Carey is the fourth different head coach to lead Temple into a bowl game in five years, joining Matt Rhule (2015), Ed Foley (2016 and 2018) and Geoff Collins (2017).

27. Cure Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Liberty

Date: Dec. 21, 2:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN

Watch it because… of GSU’s option offense. Only seven other teams in the nation average more rushing yards than the Eagles. They run it 51.6 times a game, the fifth-most in the country, and rush for 261 a game.

Early line: Georgia Southern -6

Weird fact: This bowl moves this year from Camping World Stadium to 25,000-seat Exploria Stadium, the home of MLS franchise Orlando City SC and the NWSL's Orlando Pride.

26. Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. UCF

Date: Dec. 23, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… of UCF QB Dillon Gabriel, a true freshman from Hawaii who has thrown for nearly 3,400 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Early line: UCF -17.5

Weird fact: Starting as the St. Petersburg Bowl, the game in 2017 was renamed the for legend of José Gaspar, a mythical pirate who supposedly operated in the Tampa Bay area.

25. Liberty Bowl: 23 Navy vs. Kansas State

Date: Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… the Midshipmen are good. Navy’s two losses came on the road against top-15 squads, Memphis (35–23) and Notre Dame (52–20).

Early line: Kansas State -1

Weird fact: The inaugural Liberty Bowl in 1959 was held in Philadelphia, where No. 12 Penn State beat No. 10 Alabama 7–0.

24. Redbox Bowl: Illinois vs. Cal

Date: Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET, FOX

Watch it because… of Lovie Smith’s beard. Have you seen this beautiful white fuzzy thing? Smith has groomed more than a beard this season. On the verge of being fired after a 2–4 start, Smith’s squad won four games, including a 24–23 victory over then-No. 6 Wisconsin, securing the school’s first bowl trip since 2014.

Early line: Cal -6

Weird fact: Redbox, a movie rental company specializing in kiosk sales, had over 42,000 kiosks at more than 34,000 locations at its height in 2012.

23. New Orleans Bowl: 20 Appalachian State vs. UAB

Date: Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… it’s the Clark Bowl! The head coaches participating, UAB’s Bill Clark and App State’s Shawn Clark, meet in New Orleans. The latter landed the head job after Eli Drinkwitz left for Missouri.

Early line: Appalachian State -17

Weird fact: Since its inception in 2001, this game has been played in New Orleans every year expect one. The 2005 New Orleans Bowl was played a few hours away in Lafayette.

22. Holiday Bowl: 16 Iowa vs. 22 USC

Date: Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET, FS1

Watch it because… it’s the Air Raid against Old School. Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have their usual pesky defense (12th nationally), and the Trojans are running a pass-happy scheme that puts up 335.9 yards a game through the air, fifth in the country.

Early line: Iowa -2.5

Weird fact: The Holiday Bowl was originally founded to give the Western Athletic Conference an automatic bowl bid to a bowl game.

21. Boca Raton Bowl: FAU vs. SMU

Date: Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Watch it because… of SMU QB Shane Buechele, who is the seventh-most prolific quarterback in college football this season, averaging 302.2 yards a game and holding a 33-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Early line: SMU -3

Weird fact: In five editions of the bowl, this game has produced, basically, five blowouts. The average margin of victory is 25 points.

20. Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State

Date: Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you’ll want to see a future pro at running back. Bulldogs tailback Kylin Hill has run for more than 1,300 yards, hitting the 100-yard mark in eight games this season.

Early line: Louisville -3.5

Weird fact: The Cardinals are searching for their first win—on the field—over Mississippi State in the sixth meeting between the two. The Bulldogs had to vacate two wins over UL in 1975–76.

19. Hawaii Bowl: BYU vs. Hawaii

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

Watch it because… of the Rainbow Warriors’ offense. QB Cole McDonald and Hawaii average 469.3 yards a game. They’ve got four receivers with more than 800 yards, a 3,600-yard QB and a running back who averages 5.4 yards a carry.

Early line: BYU -2

Weird fact: The Warriors are making their ninth appearance in the 18th Hawaii Bowl.

18. Birmingham Bowl: 21 Cincinnati vs. Boston College

Date: Jan. 2, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… the Bearcats are one of the best Group of Five teams this season. Two of their three losses came to Memphis and the other was at Ohio State. Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is on the way to a Power 5 gig.

Early line: Cincinnati -6.5

Weird fact: This is the fourth different bowl to reside in Birmingham. The Dixie Bowl had a two-year run in 1947–48, the Hall of Fame Classic eventually moved to Tampa Bay and became the Outback Bowl, and the All-American Bowl was canceled in 1990 after five years because the SEC originally awarded its championship game to the city.

17. Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Florida State

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

Watch it because… of true freshman QB Jayden Daniels. He might look like a toothpick out there, but Daniels is on his way to a bright future. He’s spun the ball for more than 2,700 yards, a 62.3% completion rate and 17 TDs to one interception for the Sun Devils.

Early line: Arizona State -5.5

Weird fact: The Sun Bowl, dating back to 1935, is the second-oldest bowl game in the country along with the Sugar and Orange bowls and ahead of the Rose.

16. Orange Bowl: 9 Florida vs. 24 Virginia

Date: Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… of these quarterbacks. UVA’s Bryce Perkins has thrown for 3,215 yards and ran for 745 yards, and UF’s Kyle Trask has completed nearly 70% of his passes for 2,636 yards.

Early line: Florida -13

Weird fact: The first Orange Bowl in 1933 pitted Miami and… Manhattan College, a private school in the Bronx that suspended its football program in 1942.

15. Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky

Date: Dec. 31, 12 p.m. EST, ESPN

Watch it because… of Lynn Bowden, the do-it-all UK quarterback. While Bowden starts at QB, he leads the team in rushing (1,235 yards) and receiving (348). Think about that for a second.

Early line: Virginia Tech -3

Weird fact: In 2016, an Arkansas player was suspended from the Belk Bowl after he was accused of shoplifting $260 worth of items on a bowl shopping trip.

14. Camping World Bowl: 15 Notre Dame vs. Iowa State

Date: Dec. 28, 12 p.m. ET, ABC

Watch it because… of Iowa State’s passing attack. QB Brock Purdy & Co. light it up through the air at 318 yards a game. He’s got options, too, with four receivers with at least 600 yards.

Early line: Notre Dame -3.5

Weird fact: Raycom, the former TV broadcasting company based in Montgomery, originally founded the bowl in 1990.

13. Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest

Date: Dec. 27, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… QB Jamie Newman is superman. Newman is fun to watch. The Demon Deacons have, yes, lost three of their last four games, but Newman is an electric player in that offense, scoring 23 through the air and six on the ground.

Early line: Michigan State -3.5

Weird fact: This is one of three bowls played outdoors in what are considered cold-weather cities, joining the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl held in Boise, Idaho.

12. Alamo Bowl: 11 Utah vs. Texas

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

Watch it because… this might be the best Upset Special of the bowl season. While the Utes are the better team and Texas’s staff is amid an overhaul, will Utah really be up for this game? The Utes were a win away from the playoff before the loss in the Pac-12 title game.

Early line: Utah -6.5

Weird fact: The Big 12 has won three of the last four matchups in this one.

11. Sugar Bowl: 5 Georgia vs. 7 Baylor

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

Watch it because… the SEC could get upset for a second straight season by a Big 12 offense. UGA’s defense has been lauded as one of the best in the country, but the Bears, like Texas did last year, have the potential to score on the Bulldogs.

Early line: Georgia -7

Weird fact: The 1942 Sugar Bowl final score was 2–0 as the Fordham Rams won on a first-quarter safety over the Missouri Tigers.

10. Gator Bowl: Tennessee vs. Indiana

Date: Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… of upstart Indiana. The Hoosiers have eight wins for the first time since 1993. They haven’t won nine games since 1967 and will have to do it without injured starting QB Michael Penix Jr.

Early line: PICK

Weird fact: The Gator Bowl actually used to be the Outback Bowl, from 1992–94, before Outback began took over sponsorship for the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa Bay.

9. Cotton Bowl: 17 Memphis vs. 10 Penn State

Date: Dec. 28, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… we all want to see if the highest ranked Group of Five team can take down a Power 5 program. The G5 representative in three of the last five New Year’s Six bowls has won its matchup against a P5, including UCF (over Auburn), Boise State (over Arizona) and Houston (over Florida State).

Early line: Penn State -7

Weird fact: Texas has made the most appearances in the Cotton Bowl (22), far out-distancing second-place Texas A&M (13). This will be Memphis’ first-ever trip.

8. Las Vegas Bowl: 19 Boise State vs. Washington

Date: Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Watch it because… it is UW coach Chris Petersen’s farewell game. Petersen announced his resignation after the regular season, saying he needs to “recharge” and leaving the door open for a potential return to coaching. In his final game with the Huskies, he gets his old program, Boise State.

Early line: Washington -3

Weird fact: A Pac-12 team hasn’t won this game since Utah in 2015.

7. Texas Bowl: 25 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M

Date: Dec. 27, 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… of Chuba Hubbard, the Cowboys’ running back. No one has run for more yards this season (1,936) than Hubbard. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 of the 12 games this season and has hit the 200-yard mark in four games.

Early line: Texas A&M -4.5

Weird fact: The SEC has lost three straight Texas Bowl games to the Big 12.

6. Outback Bowl: 13 Auburn vs. 16 Minnesota

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

Watch it because… you won’t want to miss catches made by Minnesota receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. They’ve each got over 1,100 yards receiving and combine for 22 touchdowns.

Early line: Auburn -8

Weird fact: The first bowl game played in Tampa Bay was the Cigar Bowl, from 1947–54.

5. Cheez-It Bowl: Washington State vs. Air Force

Date: Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… of last year’s game (and this particular matchup). Who can forget last year’s instant classic, a 10–7 TCU win over Cal in overtime? Expect more points this year. Mike Leach and his Air Raid meet Troy Calhoun and his spread triple option attack.

Early line: Air Force -3

Weird fact: A Cheez-It is made from ingredients that include wheat flour, vegetable oil, cheese made with skim milk, salt and spices.

4. Citrus Bowl: 13 Alabama vs. 14 Michigan

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

Watch it because… Jim Harbaugh, hater of all things SEC, and Nick Saban, SEC dynasty maker, are playing one another. There’s really not much more that needs to be said.

Early line: Alabama -6.5

Weird fact: The Citrus Bowl was first played as the Tangerine Bowl in 1947.

3. Rose Bowl: 8 Wisconsin vs. 6 Oregon

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

Watch it because… it might take football back 40 years. These teams have two of the nation’s best defenses, and they can each struggle at times on offense. First one to 20 wins!

Early line: Wisconsin -2.5

Weird fact: The Rose Bowl was first played in 1902 as the Tournament East–West football game in which Michigan bludgeoned Stanford 49–0.

2. Fiesta Bowl: 2 Ohio State vs. 3 Clemson

Date: Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… it’s a semifinal! But really, there’s only two games in this list that really mean something significant and this is one of them. Justin Fields vs. Trevor Lawrence. Chase Young vs. Isaiah Simmons. This is a game loaded with NFL prospects on both sides.

Early line: Clemson -2

Weird fact: The winner of the 2-vs-3 seed matchup in the CFP has won the championship three out of the last five years.

1. Peach Bowl: 1 LSU vs. 4 Oklahoma

Date: Dec. 28, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… you like mesmerizing quarterback play. The surefire Heisman Trophy winner, LSU’s Joe Burrow, meets dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts in what could turn into an offensive shootout of epic proportions.

Early line: LSU -12.5

Weird fact: The combined payout for the Peach Bowl is $7 million.