NCAA

Bolta: Ranking the bowl games from best to 35th most exciting

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Ryan Bolta
12/19/2013 11:34:18 AM
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Great news for NCAA fans in Canada, as 16 of the 35 bowl games this season can be found on TSN, TSN2 or TSN1050 (and in some cases multiple platforms).  All of the games aren't created equal and with bowl season kicking off Saturday with the first four matchups, it's time to rank them from best to "35th most exciting." 

1. BCS National Championship - Florida State vs Auburn (January 6th, 8:30 on TSN and TSN1050)
The easiest decision on the list sees #1 and #2 in the BCS fighting for the National Championship.  The only remaining FCS undefeated team in the Seminoles takes on the biggest Cinderella story college football has seen in years in the Auburn Tigers.  If watching the two best teams of the season battle for the crystal trophy isn't enough, tune in for a chance to watch Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston cap off his freshman season.

2. Rose Bowl - Michigan State vs Stanford (January 1st, 5:00 on TSN2)
The granddaddy of them all takes place on a loaded New Year's Day and features two of the best defenses in the country.  Stanford came out of the difficult Pac-12 while Michigan State ended Ohio State's title hopes to win the BIG 10.  If you love smash mouth football this is the game for you. 

3. Valero Alamo Bowl - Texas vs Oregon (December 30th, 6:45 on TSN1050)
This game shot up my list the minute Mack Brown announced it would be his last game on the sidelines for the Longhorns.  After a storied career that included a national championship he'll step down after this game.  Texas has a chance to win one for their coach against a very talented Oregon team that may not be excited to be playing in the Alamo bowl after opening the season with national championship hopes.  Still, this game has intriguing storylines and talent all over the field it's a must-see game.

4. Orange Bowl - Ohio State vs Clemson (January 3rd, 8:30 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
Ohio State had the inside track to the title game before losing to Michigan State in the BIG 10 Championship.  Clemson had their championship hopes dashed earlier in the year when they fell, and fell hard against Florida State.  Even though both teams had higher hopes, they'll both be out to win a very competitive BCS bowl game against a similar style team.  Neither defense is very imposing this season, and both offences are incredible.  Braxton Miller facing off with Tajh Boyd could be the best QB battle of the bowl season.
 
5. Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Texas A&M vs Duke (January 31st, 8:00)
Johnny Manziel is expected to bolt to the NFL after this game, so it's the last chance to see one of college's most electric players put on a show.  It's ironic that a player with red flags for off-field partying issues will ring in the New Year trying to hang points on what should be an over-matched Duke squad.  The Blue Devils enjoyed their most successful football season ever, but did it in a weak ACC and were exposed against FSU in the conference title game.  They'll look to bounce back and prove they belong amongst college football's semi-elite.

6. All-State Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs Oklahoma (January 2nd, 8:30 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
Nick Saban signed an extension that'll pay him nearly $7 million a season to roam the sidelines in Tuscaloosa.  He can start to earn some of that coin with a victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  The Crimson Tide may have missed out on a chance on a third straight national championship but adding to their recent resume with a win in this game would still be a great coup.  It's also the last chance to watch Heisman runner-up AJ Mccarron before he graduates and heads to the NFL.

7. Fiesta Bowl - Baylor vs UCF (January 1st, 8:30, TSN2 or TSN1050)
Both of these teams over-achieved and find themselves in a BCS bowl for the first time.  Interesting story line to follow for this one is Bears head coach Art Briles who has been linked to gigs with Texas and in the NFL with the Washington Redskins despite signing an extension this year.  It's a last audition for him to show off his exciting and productive offence.  QB Bryce Petty has decided to come back next year, but watching him and RB Lache Seastrunk alone makes this appointment viewing.

8. AT&T Cotton Bowl - Missouri vs Oklahoma State (January 3rd, 1:00)
Missouri lost their chance at the title game when they took their second loss of the season in the SEC championship game.  Oklahoma State missed their chance at a Big 12 crown when they lost their finale to Oklahoma.  Despite both teams coming in after taking an "L" they both had incredible years and should match-up to provide some entertainment in a battle of programs trending in the right direction.

9. Capital One Bowl - South Carolina vs Wisconsin (January 1st, 1:00)
Jadeveon Clowney has his last chance to impress NFL scouts on a football field before turning pro after what was a disappointing campaign.  He is still a freak, and properly motivated could provide viewers with quite the show.  On the other side will be a Wisconsin team that would like to be playing in a different New Year's Day game but should still be very motivated to knock off a tough SEC opponent.  RBs Melvin Gordon and James White both ran for over 1,000 yards and are among the best tandems in college football.  It'll be interesting to see how those two avoid Clowney on the other side of the ball.

10. Russell Athletic Bowl - Louisville vs Miami (December 28th, 6:45)
QB Teddy Bridgewater claims he hasn't made up his mind regarding leaving college for the pro game, but make no mistake he's leaving Louisville after this bowl game.  Much like Clowney and a few others vying for the number one draft slot it's his last on-field chance to make a statement.  Miami could prove to be a worthy foe; they were a top-10 program before getting slammed by FSU.

11. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State vs USC (December 21, 3:30)
The best game of the opening day sees QB Derek Carr of Fresno State take on the Trojans who will be auditioning for new coach Steve Sarkisian.  While USC won't have their new boss on the sidelines, it's always added incentive for players when they know their new coach is taking notes.  As for Carr, this is the 3rd straight game on the list that has a top-tier NFL draft prospect stating his case.  Carr's brother David was a number-one selection, and while Derek may not go that high he does have the chance to be the first QB off the board.

12. Taxslayer.com Bowl - Georgia vs Nebraska (January 1st, Noon)
There are a few SEC versus BIG 10 matchups this bowl season.  Bo Pelini may be coaching for his job for the Cornhuskers, and he's also coaching to give some respect to the BIG 10.  A win in this game would go a long way for the conference in their bid to shake the "down" label.  One player to watch is RB Todd Gurley for Georgia, watch for him to pick up the slack with QB Aaron Murray out due to injury.

13. Outback Bowl - LSU vs Iowa (January 1st, 1:00 on TSN2)
This game features an SEC team with an injured QB taking on a BIG 10 program fighting for respect.  It's crazy how similar this game is to the Taxslayer.com bowl.  Iowa's defense has a chance to keep them in this one, and with QB Zach Mettenberger out, LSU may struggle to score points.  This game has a chance to be a defensive battle, but that doesn't mean it won't be fun to watch.

14. Poinsetta Bowl - Northern Illinois vs Utah State (December 26th, 9:30 on TSN1050)
Huskies QB Jordan Lynch was a Heisman nominee and one of the few players in the country you must watch.  He plays in the MAC which doesn't receive much attention but his game is definitely worth enjoying.  His combination of pass/rush is very unique and very successful.  He is similar to Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, but plays for a team that relies on him much more. 

15. Hawaii Bowl - Boise State vs Oregon State (December 24th, 8:00 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
When you're done with dinner on Christmas Eve cozy up by the fire place and turn on the television to watch these two programs do battle.  Much like USC, the Broncos will be out auditioning for a new head coach after Chris Petersen bolted to Washington.  

16. Sun Bowl - UCLA vs Virginia Tech (December 31st, 2:00)
UCLA QB Brett Hundley may head to the NFL after this one and he may go with a prominent agent.  Hundley's father joked about a meeting with JAY-Z saying if they were going to meet he wanted Beyonce in the room.  Sounds funny, but with a big performance in this one it's all but a done deal Hundley moves on.  For those who love coaching controversy UCLA's Jim Mora has been rumored as an option at Texas.  A big win here could keep his name in those discussions.

17. Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers vs Notre Dame (December 28th, Noon)
Sometimes the venue alone is reason to watch a game and that's the case with the Pinstripe Bowl which is held at Yankee Stadium.  Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees will play his final game against an awful pass defense that ranked 120th in the country and Vegas expects a big performance - the Fighting Irish are currently more than two touchdown favorites.

18. Advocare V100 Bowl - Arizona vs Boston College (December 31st, 12:30)
Kadeem Carey of Arizona and Andre Williams of Boston College are the two of the best backs in the country.  Williams rushed for 2,102 yards which was tops in the FBS, while Carey took top spot back in 2012.  The passing games may not be on display in this one, but the running attacks make it worth tuning in for.

19. Holiday Bowl - Arizona State vs Texas Tech (December 30th, 10:50 on TSN1050)
Todd Graham won Pac-12 coach of the year and Red Raiders HC Kliff Kingsbury is one of the fastest rising bosses in the NCAA.  Arizona State enters having won seven straight while Texas Tech has lost five in a row after starting with seven straight wins.  Two top-20 offenses could light up the scoreboard and provide one of the most exciting bowl games on the schedule.

20. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - Michigan vs Kansas State (December 28, 10:15)
This has been billed as a battle of two teams in a rebuilding year - but don't buy that story.  Michigan wasn't rebuilding, they underachieved and suffered five losses under third  year coach Brady Hoke.  On the positive side, the Wolverines came within a two-point conversion of winning "The Game" against Ohio State.  It's been Jeckyl and Hyde for Michigan this season and it's anyone's guess which team will show up for this one.  Two bright spots are QB Devin Gardner and WR Jeremy Gallon.  Kansas State looks for their first bowl win since 2002.

21. Fight Hunger Bowl - BYU vs Washington (December 27th, 9:30)
Steve Sarkisian is out as Huskies coach after taking over the USC Trojans program but Washington arguably upgraded landing Chris Petersen.  He won't be on the sidelines but he'll have eyes on this tilt which sees two top-15 offences do battle at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  QB Keith Price and RB Bishop Sankey of Washington are two key players to watch in this one.

22. Music City Bowl - Ole Miss vs Georgia Tech (December 30th, 3:15)
Ole Miss has won their last five bowl games but enter this one on a two-game losing streak.  They failed to score 10 points in both of those losses and may have a tough time putting up points against the Yellow Jackets.  Georgia Tech will run the ball to eat clock using the triple-option before sending out the nation's 21st ranked defence.  QB Bo Wallace will need to have a strong performance for Ole Miss to make it six straight bowl wins.

23. BBVA Compass Bowl - Houston vs Vanderbilt (January 4th, 1:00, TSN2)
HC James Franklin has Vandy trending in the right direction with 17 wins in the last two seasons.  To put how big of an accomplishment that is into perspective, it's the first time ever the program is heading to a bowl game for a third straight year.  They won their final four games, while Houston lost three of four4 heading into bowl season.  The Cougars will lean on their 16th ranked defense to keep this one close.

24. Belk Bowl - Cincinnati vs North Carolina (December 28th, 3:20)
UNC let the fans pick their uniforms for this one, which is cool and gives me a reason to tune in.  If you're looking for something a little deeper the atmosphere should be great with North Carolina playing only 140 miles from Chapel Hill.  On the other side of the field they'll see a Bearcats team that's been here before; they won the Belk Bowl last season.

25. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - Bowling Green vs Pittsburgh (December 26th, 6:00)
Bowling Green won the MAC title upending Jordan Lynch and the Huskies in the title game at Ford Field, and now they find themselves back in Detroit.  They average 14.8 points allowed per game which is fifth-best in the FBS.  Pitt boasts Senior Aaron Donald who won defensive player of the year. 

26. New Mexico Bowl - Washington State vs Colorado State (December 21st, 2:00 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
Colorado State will go as far as RB Kapri Bibbs takes them.  He's a high end talent that scored 28 TDs this season.  Cougars HC Mike Leach loves to pass the ball which is good and bad - fun to watch, but QB Connor Halliday threw 21 interceptions, which was worst in the FBS.  This game should be full of big plays, points, and mistakes.

27. GoDaddy Bowl - Arkansas State vs Ball State (January 3rd, 9:00)
You have to feel bad for juniors on Arkansas State - when they return for their fourth year next season they'll have a fourth head coach after Bryan Harsin accepted the Boise State gig.  That said; it's their third straight appearance in this bowl and got the bid after finishing as co-Sun Belt champs.  Ball State QB Keith Wenning will top 4,000 yards passing in this one and had an impressive 34:6 TD/INT ratio.

28. Autozone Liberty Bowl - Rice vs Mississippi State (December 31st, 4:00)
The Mississippi State Bulldogs won their final two games in overtime to get six wins and become bowl eligible.  Six wins may not be overly impressive, but all six of the Bulldogs losses came against Top 25 ranked teams (Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama).  Rice won 10 games and took home their first outright conference title since 1957.

29. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Buffalo vs San Diego State (December 21st, 5:30 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
Khalil Mack is the highlight of this bowl game.  He racked up 94 tackles, 11 sacks, three interceptions and two TDs this season for Buffalo.  Many NFL mock drafts have Mack in the top 10 and a big performance here could land him right there.  There are lots of offensive players worth watching this bowl season, but very few defensive stars that are worth tuning in for - Mack is one.

30. Texas Bowl - Syracuse vs Minnesota (December 27th, 6:00)
The Orangemen find themselves in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since Donovan McNabb  - and all it took was a victory over Boston College in the final week of the season to do it.  Minnesota returns to the Texas Bowl after losing last season.  The Golden Gophers are looking to win nine games for just the second time in 108 years.

31. Beef O'Brady St. Petersburgh Bowl - East Carolina vs Ohio (December 23rd, 2:00 on TSN2)
ECU has a great QB/WR tandem in Shane Carden and Justin Hardy that's worth seeing before the year is complete.  Carden was sixth in passing with 3,800 yards, while Hardy caught 105 passes; which was fifth best in the FBS.  The Bobcats 29th ranked pass defense will need to step up if they have any chance of hanging with ECU.

32. Bell Helicopter Bowl - Middle Tennessee vs Navy (December 30, 11:45AM on TSN2)
Navy runs the triple-option and was second best in the country with 322 yards per game on the ground.  MTSU was 85th versus the run.  This one could be a track meet, and who doesn't love long running plays and lots of scoring.

33. Military Bowl - Marshall vs Maryland (December 27th, 2:30 on TSN2)
The Terps head to the Big 10 next season, and would love to take a bowl win with them.  They'll play this one in front of a home crowd with Navy Stadium only 27 miles from campus.  Marshall is trying to win 10 games for the first time since 2002 - when QB Byron Leftwich was the star.  This year it's been another pivot leading the way in Rakeem Cato.  His 36:9 TD/INT ratio was one of the best in all of college football.

34. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Tulane vs Louisiana Lafayette (December 21, 9:00 on TSN2 and TSN1050)
Despite being 34th on the list, if I could attend one bowl game this season it would be this one for the BBQ at the tailgate parties alone.  The Green Wave vs the Rajin Cajun's is the battle of two of the coolest names in the NCAA.  If you're looking for a player to watch, try Tulane QB Nick Montana - he's the son of Joe Montana.

35. Heart of Dallas Bowl - UNLV vs North Texas (January 1st, Noon)
And the award for the "35th best" bowl game goes to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.  It's in tough against the packed New Year's Day schedule but it's still a bowl game - and that's saying something.

Follow The TSN College Football Show on twitter @TSNCollegeShow and tweet us your picks and comments throughout the entire bowl season.

Jameis Winston (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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