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

If you can't watch every bowl game this year, we're here to help you decide which ones are can't-miss.
Publish date:

Rating all 26 remaining FBS bowl games by their watchability, starting with the absolute worst matchups and ending with the absolute best. (Apologies to the Myrtle Beach Bowl, which happened so quickly—it was Monday!—that we didn’t get the chance to give it any hype.)

[Editor's note: With the news that South Carolina will not play in the Gasparilla Bowl vs. UAB due to COVID-19 protocols, we have left that bowl out pending a determination on its fate.]

26. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: No. 19 Louisiana vs. UTSA

Date: Dec. 26, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Watch it because … you might be seeing your school court Billy Napier next. In the last calendar year, the UL coach has been sought after by Mississippi State, Baylor, South Carolina and, most recently, Auburn. He has remained with the Cajuns through it all, building a little Group of Five dynasty down there in Lafayette.

Early line: Louisiana -14

Weird fact: UTSA has never won a bowl game. The Roadrunners are 0–1.

25. TransPerfect Music City Bowl: No. 15 Iowa vs. Missouri

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

Watch it because … this game features some dashes of old-school football. Each team has a running back who is averaging about 100 yards a game. Keep your eyes on Iowa’s Tyler Goodson (762 yards, seven TDs) and Missouri’s Larry Rountree III (972 yards, 14 TDs).

Early line: Iowa -15

Weird fact: The SEC has lost four of the last six meetings in this bowl.

Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz

24. Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin

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

Watch it because … you might be watching the future of Wisconsin quarterbacking. Freshman Graham Mertz has struggled in spots (he’s thrown five picks in six games), but he’s getting loads of experience for a career in Madison.

Early line: Wisconsin -6.5

Weird fact: In 1917 while living in Greenville, S.C., Eugenia Duke began selling sandwiches slathered with her homemade mayonnaise for two cents per sandwich. Now, a jar of Duke’s Mayo runs $3!

23. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: No. 24 Tulsa vs. Mississippi State

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

Watch it because … the Pirate is on the sideline. O.K., so Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense hasn’t been so potent this season against a 10-game SEC schedule, but the Bulldogs have a young quarterback in Will Rogers who has thrown for more than 290 yards in three of the last four games.

Early line: Tulsa -2.5

Weird fact: The Armed Forces Bowl hasn’t featured two ranked teams since … the very first one, in 2003, when No. 18 Boise State and No. 19 TCU met.

22. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Tulane vs. Nevada

Date: Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … one of the two quarterbacks in this game has the same touchdown-to-interception ratio as Trevor Lawrence. Meet Carson Strong, Nevada’s QB who has thrown 22 touchdowns and four interceptions, and averages 323 yards a game for sixth nationally.

Early line: Tulane -3

Weird fact: All three times that Idaho has been in the Idaho Potato Bowl it won and scored a lot of points in doing so (43, 41 and 61). Why is that relevant to this year’s game? It’s not.

21. New Mexico Bowl: Hawaii vs. Houston

Date: Dec. 24, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… we haven’t seen these teams play much? I mean, really, we haven’t. They’ve combined to play 15 total games this season, maybe the lowest number of any bowl matchup. Think 2020 has been weird? Dana Holgorsen and the 3–4 Cougars are playing their eighth game on Christmas Eve!

Early line: Houston -13

Weird fact: Due to the pandemic, the New Mexico Bowl will actually be played in—drumroll—Texas! Toyota Stadium will host the game because of COVID-19 protocols in the neighboring state.

20. Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs. No. 14 Northwestern

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

Watch it because … maybe by this time Auburn will have a coach? And maybe it will be the man pacing the sidelines in this bowl game? DC Kevin Steele is in the mix of a wild search that has jumped from one candidate to another—none of them either offered the job or willing to take it.

Early line: Northwestern -3.5

Weird fact: At $8.55 million per team, the Citrus has the largest payout of all the non–College Football Playoff bowls.

19. Montgomery Bowl: Memphis vs. FAU

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

Watch it because … Calvin Austin III is playing in the game. The junior amassed six 100-yard receiving games this season. Only four players have more touchdown catches this season (10) than Austin, and he’s getting fed the ball by a pretty good quarterback, Brady White, who’s put together a third straight season of 3,000 yards passing.

Early line: Memphis -9.5

Weird fact: The game is played in the Cramton Bowl, which is 98 years old and was originally built as a baseball park.

18. Mercari Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. TCU

Date: Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … it is the renewal of an old rivalry. Members of the old Southwest Conference, these border teams played annually from 1934 to 1991. The Hogs lead the series 44-24-2.

Early line: TCU -5.5

Weird fact: Mercari, a Japanese e-commerce company, has an app that has been downloaded by more than 100 million people.

WKU quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome

17. LendingTree Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

Date: Dec. 26, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… WKU QB Tyrrell Pigrome is capable of putting on a show. The former Maryland quarterback has passed for more than 1,400 yards, run for more than 300 and has accounted for 12 touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception.

Early line: Western Kentucky -4

Weird fact: The 2001 bowl between Marshall and East Carolina set the record for highest-scoring bowl game, with the Thundering Herd winning 64–61 in double overtime.

16. Taxslayer Gator Bowl: No. 23 NC State vs. Kentucky

Date: Jan. 2, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … of the Wolfpack’s two-headed rushing attack against an SEC defense. Zonovan White and Ricky Person have rolled up more than 1,300 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.

Early line: Kentucky -2.5

Weird fact: Coach Mark Stoops has led Kentucky to a fifth straight bowl game, which has happened just one other time in school history, tying the record.

15. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia Southern

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

Watch it because … Georgia Southern has four running backs each with at least 400 yards averaging more than five yards a carry. Hello, option football! Things don’t bode well for Louisiana Tech, which is giving up more than 180 yards rushing a game for 88th nationally.

Early line: Georgia Southern -6

Weird fact: When the Superdome suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the game was temporarily moved to Cajun Field in Lafayette and given the name New Orleans Bowl at Lafayette.

14. Arizona Bowl: Ball State vs. No. 22 San Jose State

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

Watch it because… you’re looking at one of the best stories of 2020. Because of COVID-19 protocols in Santa Clara County, the Spartans held every practice and game outside of the state of California. All they did was go 7–0 and win the Mountain West.

Early line: San Jose State -7.5

Weird fact: This is the rare bowl game without a title sponsor. NOVA Home Loans dropped sponsorship this year.

13. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 20 Texas vs. Colorado

Date: Dec. 27, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … it is your last shot to see QB Sam Ehlinger in a college uniform. He smashed through the 10,000-yard passing mark for his career recently. And though he might be best remembered for his claim that Texas was “back” after a bowl game a couple of years ago, he’s been one of college football’s best players.

Early line: Texas -11.5

Weird fact: The Big 12 has won this battle in four of the last five years.

12. Camellia Bowl: Marshall vs. Buffalo

Date: Dec. 25, 2:30 pm, ESPN

Watch it because … Jaret Patterson is playing. The Bulls running back leads the nation in rushing, averaging 178 yards a game. So about 15 yards more than the second-best rusher. He’s second in the nation in touchdowns with 19.

Early line: Buffalo -3

Weird fact: Marshall is participating in a bowl game for the seventh time in the last eight years.

11. Rose Bowl Game (CFP semifinal): No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Alabama

Date: Jan. 1, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … it’s a semifinal? No one expects this to be a good game. The Irish have flopped in recent big postseason games, so why would they contend against what is arguably Nick Saban’s best team ever? Like, ever.

Early line: Alabama -19.5

Weird fact: The Rose Bowl relocated to Arlington, Texas, because of COVID-19 protocols in California that would have prohibited player families from attending.

10. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 25 Oregon vs. No. 10 Iowa State

Date: Jan. 2, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … the Ducks, at just 4–2, are carrying the Pac-12 banner as four-win champions. A loss to the Big 12 runner-up will further bury the conference out West in embarrassment.

Early line: Iowa State -4.5

Weird fact: The two starting quarterbacks in this game, Brock Purdy and Tyler Shough, are from neighboring towns in the Phoenix area.

9. Cheez-It Bowl: No. 21 Oklahoma State vs. No. 18 Miami

Date: Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … one of college football’s most electric players is on the field. Miami’s D’Eriq King has more than 3,000 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns. The ex-Houston quarterback has helped coach Manny Diaz have his best season yet at 8–2.

Early line: Oklahoma State -2

Weird fact: Oklahoma State’s defense is … good? The Cowboys are 39th nationally this year, their best ranking since 2009.

UNC coach Mack Brown on the sideline

8. Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 North Carolina

Date: Jan. 2, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … Mack Brown is playing the Aggies. As the Texas coach, Brown was 10–4 against the Longhorns’ most-hated and then–Big 12 rival. Now he gets the chance to silence a strong group of people who believed the Aggies should have made the playoff.

Early line: Texas A&M -7

Weird fact: The Orange Bowl has been played every year since 1935.

7. Goodyear Cotton Bowl: No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Florida

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

Watch it because… there might be 100 combined points scored. Each of these offenses is averaging 41 points a game. Depending on how all the other bowls turn out, the winner could finish the year in the top five, which is always a milestone mark.

Early line: Florida -3

Weird fact: Marquette, Saint Mary’s College and Rice participated in the first three Cotton Bowls. Imagine that today.

6. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Army

Date: Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because… the triple option! The Black Knights were a late addition to the game after Tennessee pulled out due to COVID-19 issues. Thank goodness, too. Army, at 9–2, was in jeopardy of not playing in a bowl game.

Early line: West Virginia -7.5

Weird fact: The Liberty Bowl, before moving to Memphis in 1965, was first played in Philadelphia. Hence the name.

5. Outback Bowl: Ole Miss vs. No. 11 Indiana

Date: Jan. 2, 12:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Watch it because … you get offensive whiz Lane Kiffin against defensive-minded Tom Allen. These guys are very different—from personalities, to styles, to scheme—so expect a good one in Tampa. The Hoosiers are attempting to complete their best season, record-wise, since 1945.

Early line: Indiana -6.5

Weird fact: Indiana has lost its last five bowl appearances. The last victory came in the 1991 Copper Bowl.

4. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Georgia

Date: Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … the Bearcats could legitimize their claim to the College Football Playoff and, who knows, even claim a national title! And who would disagree with them? With a win over Georgia, Cincinnati would finish 10–0 and has a top-10 defense.

Early line: Georgia -7

Weird fact: Since JT Daniels took over as UGA’s QB, the Bulldogs have averaged 41 points in three victories.

3. Allstate Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinal): No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson

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

Watch it because … you like good football. QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne vs. QB Justin Fields and RB Trey Sermon is a hell of a foursome on one field. The Buckeyes have been dogged recently about the number of games they’ve played (six), but they get the chance to silence the doubters against Dabo & Co.

Early line: Clemson -7.5

Weird fact: The Superdome will allow just 3,000 fans in the stands.

2. Boca Raton Bowl: UCF vs. No. 16 BYU

Date: Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … the Cougars' offense is F-U-N fun. Zach Wilson & Co. may have stumbled on the big stage against Coastal Carolina, but they get one last dance this season in the national spotlight, and it comes against an equally potent offense. In fact, each of these units rank in the top six nationally in scoring, averaging a combined 77 points a game. Vegas’s over/under opened at 66.5. LOL.

Early line: -6.5

Weird fact: took over naming rights this year, giving the bowl its fifth different name since its inception in 2014.

Coastal Carolina

1. Cure Bowl: No. 9 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 23 Liberty

Date: Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Watch it because … America’s team is playing! The Chanticleers are the Cinderella of 2020. Just three years ago, they were 3–9 in their first season in the FBS, and now they’ve got a chance to hit the 12-win mark (they won 10 games in their last two seasons combined!). Meanwhile, Hugh Freeze is on the opposite sideline, so don’t miss that.

Early line: Coastal Carolina -6

Weird fact: This is Coastal’s first-ever bowl trip.