College football 2013: Ranking all 35 bowl games by quality

Here's a guide to which bowl games are worth watching

12/12/13 in NCAAF   |   Tyler_Waddell   |   407 respect

There are a lot of bowl games, and many of them are between teams that probably don’t really deserve to be in one. But hey, it’s the last two weeks of college football until August of 2014—so I suggest you watch every single one of them, because you’ll be filled with deprivation and heartache by February.

From the least-watchable New Mexico Bowl to the BCS National Championship between Florida State and Auburn, here are all 35 bowl games ranked by quality.

35) Colorado State vs. Washington State (New Mexico Bowl)

It’s nice to see both of these programs finally reaching the postseason, but I don’t think anyone is too excited about this matchup.

34) UNLV vs. North Texas (Heart of Dallas)

I’m a big Dan McCartney fan and he has done an excellent job with North Texas. Bobby Hauck was my No. 1 coach on the hot seat to begin the year, but won seven games with UNLV and earned a contract extension. Still, this game is “meh” at best.

33) San Diego State vs. Buffalo (Famous Idaho Potato)

The Aztecs were off to an abysmal start to the season but ended up winning six conference games, while Buffalo was an early favorite to win the MAC East and fell short.

32) Ohio vs. East Carolina (Beef O’ Brady’s)

The only reason I don’t have this game ranked lower—it’s going to be a blowout—is because this is the last time we’ll be seeing quarterback Shane Carden. He and the Pirates’ offense are fun to watch, and they’ll be putting up a lot of points on an Ohio defense that allowed 49 to Bowling Green and 44 to Kent State in recent weeks.

31) Syracuse vs. Minnesota (Texas)

Minnesota won eight games this year and was a nice surprise considering coach Jerry Kill’s health issues. The Gophers barely lost to Texas Tech in 2012’s edition, and Syracuse isn’t nearly the same caliber.

30) Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (Pinstripe)

We’re at No. 30 here for obvious reasons. Notre Dame is 8-4 and has lost both its offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching positions in the last week, while Rutgers struggled mightily in the AAC, losing five of its final seven games.

29) Rice vs. Mississippi State (Liberty)

Rice presents an interesting matchup for the SEC’s last team in. The Owls are the C-USA winners and gave Texas A&M a punch in the mouth during the season opener.

28) Ball State vs. Arkansas State (GoDaddy.com)

I expect Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning to throw for 350-plus yards, at least four touchdowns and a 40 spot on the scoreboard. The real question is whether Arkansas State can keep up without Bryan Harsin calling the plays.

27) Louisiana-at-Lafayette vs. Tulane (New Orleans)

Not the most glamorous matchup, but it’s LA-Lafayette’s third straight bowl appearance and Tulane’s first since 2002. There’s a lot of hard-earned pride between the two.

26) Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh (Little Caesar’s)

It’ll be interesting to see how Bowling Green will react to losing coach Dave Clawson. Pitt is a weird team that can put up 58 points one week and 14 the next, so preparation is going to be key. It’s not a given win for the MAC champs.

25) Middle Tennessee vs. Navy (Armed Forced)

MTSU finished 8-4 (6-2 Sun Belt) in 2012 and wasn’t invited to a bowl. This year, it went 8-4 (6-2 C-USA) and received the invite to play Navy. Oh, what a change in scenery can do.

24) Vanderbilt vs. Houston (BBVA Compass)

Will James Franklin still be around by January 4? He’s a dark horse candidate for the Texas job, but the Horns won’t take the risk unless they can’t land a top name. Franklin probably needs another year of winning at Vanderbilt before another big opportunity arises.

23) Arizona vs. Boston College (Independence)

Two of the nation’s best running backs square off in this one. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Heisman candidate Andre Williams could combine for 400 yards on the ground and no one would be too surprised.

22) Nebraska vs. Georgia (Gator)

Nebraska: backup quarterback. Georgia: backup quarterback. Rematch from last year. Eh.

21) Maryland vs. Marshall (Military)

I like this game because I’m a fan of points. I believe that this one could reach the 50s on both ends.

20) Kansas State vs. Michigan (Buffalo Wild Wings)

Bill Snyder really got his young Wildcats rolling toward the latter half of the regular season, winning five of six to head into the postseason. Devin Gardner and the Michigan offense played lights out against Ohio State and could continue to improve with nearly a month of preparation.

19) Boise State vs. Oregon State (Hawai’i)

Dude, it’s Hawai’i! Hula dancers, shirts with flowers and leis! Yeah, I’m watching.

18) Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss (Music City)

Nashville is awesome and the triple-option vs. Hugh Freeze is intriguing.

17) Cincinnati vs. North Carolina (Belk)

If this year’s edition of the Belk Bowl is anything like last year’s, this has potential to be a top-10 bowl game. Cincinnati did not disappoint against Duke in 2012, and UNC won five of six (lost by two points to the Blue Devils in the regular season finale) to become bowl eligible.

16) Iowa vs. LSU (Outback)

Without Zach Mettenberger, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has quite the challenge. Freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings looked great against Arkansas, but Iowa’s defense is much more complex. Expect a good portion of zone-read play calls and a ton of ground-and-pound from the Tigers’ committee of running backs.

15) Washington vs. BYU (Fight Hunger)

Quarterback Keith Price has had a very nice run at Washington and will be playing in his final collegiate game. He’ll have to do it without his offensive mastermind, Steve Sarkisian (left for USC).

14) Utah State vs. Northern Illinois (Poinsettia)

Jordan Lynch versus Chuckie Keeton. That is all.

13) Virginia Tech vs. UCLA (Sun)

Both teams have a collection of studs on defense and talented quarterbacks that have proven to be inconsistent. I’ll give the edge to UCLA, but this could go either way.

12) Louisville vs. Miami-Fla. (Russell Athletic)

Remember what happened the last time Louisville played a Florida team in a bowl game? If Miami can get healthy, I don’t see that happening again this year.

11) Arizona State vs. Texas Tech (Holiday)

The over/under in this game is set at 73 (Las Vegas Lines), but we could be seeing a much higher number than that if Texas Tech freshman quarterback Davis Webb has a strong start and feels confident all the way through.

10) Fresno State vs. USC (Las Vegas)

USC has faced two elite passing teams this season: Arizona State and Oregon State. The Trojans allowed 62 points to the former and just 14 to the latter. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr leads the nation with 409.8 yards per game and 48 touchdowns, and I expect him to give USC all it can handle and then some.

9) Baylor vs. Central Florida (Fiesta)

Yes, it’s a BCS game and it’s No. 9 on the list. This one could get real ugly 10 minutes into the game. Central Florida may or may not be deserving of this spot—it’s personal opinion, really—but beat Memphis, Houston, Temple, USF and SMU by a total of 22 points; all combined for a 20-40 record. Baylor scores an NCAA-best 53.3 points per game and could really put a hurting on the Knights if QB Blake Bortles doesn’t come out ready to ball out.

8) Duke vs. Texas A&M (Chick-fil-A)

This will probably be the last time you’ll see Johnny Manziel in a Texas A&M uniform, and freaking Duke is in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Those are big reasons to watch this game and the only two you need.

7) Texas vs. Oregon (Alamo)

Not necessarily ranked so high because of the matchup, but for the names alone. Texas will be playing in its first game without Mack Brown since 1997, and Oregon could very well score 60 points.

6) Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Sugar)

Will Nick Saban be coaching Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, or will he be in route to Austin? Either way, the Crimson Tide got the wrong end of the deal with the BCS and Oklahoma is just happy to be here—pending blowout and all.

5) Wisconsin vs. South Carolina (Capital One)

Wisconsin’s always-stout offensive line vs. Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defensive front. With Clowney possibly playing for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft—this game WILL matter to him—I expect him to have a big day. That could mean more plays like this.
         
4) Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Cotton)

The Big 12 runner-up against the SEC runner-up. While both have the ability to contain the passing game, Missouri is coming off a 42-point offensive outpour and Oklahoma State has put up at least 38 points in seven different games this season.
  
3) Clemson vs. Ohio State (Orange)

Talk about lighting up the scoreboard. Clemson-Ohio State might be the highest-scoring bowl game of the postseason. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd will want to finish his collegiate career with a bang, and he has a pretty easy task against a lacking Buckeyes secondary, while OSU’s tandem of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are always a risk to go yard.

2) Michigan State vs. Stanford (Rose)

There won’t be a more physical game played this bowl season than what you watch from the Rose Bowl. Michigan State and Stanford will have at least 15 combined defensive players drafted in May, and that’s just from those that are draft-eligible. Together, the two units have 13 games in which they held opponents to 14 points or under. If you like defense and blood, tune in.

1) Florida State vs. Auburn (BCS National Championship)

Well, duh. It’s the BCS title game; did you think it wouldn’t be the top-ranked bowl? Florida State comes in after pummeling opponents by a whopping 42.3 points per game, and Auburn is a winner of nine straight with four coming against top-7 teams. It’ll be a good one, folks.

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