The college football bowl scene has moved to the dark side and nowhere is that more evident than this season’s Sun Bowl.
USC, ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press poll before collapsing to also-ran status at 7-5 overall, will play a Georgia Tech team with a 6-7 record Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.
Yes, 6-7. Losers.
A glut of meaningless match-ups put together strictly to fill TV time usually reserved for Strong Man contest reruns and billiard competitions has left bowl committees filling their slots with teams that have done so poorly that they fire their coaches.
All this makes it difficult for college football fans to decide whether such nonsense is worth setting aside a four-hour window to spend on the couch.
So here is a little help. The bowls are rated from best to worst.
1. The Fiesta Bowl
Kansas State (11-1) vs. Oregon (11-1). Jan. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.
A pair of 11-1 teams that both match-up very favorably to Alabama. This game features two of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (30 touchdown passes) and Kansas State’s Collin Klein (22 touchdowns rushing, 15 touchdowns passing). These teams should have had an opportunity to win a national title.
2. National Championship
Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1), Jan. 7 in Miami
The hate-love relationship the nation shows toward Notre Dame adds drama to a game many expect Alabama to dominate. Are the Irish for real in terms of being the best team in the nation? We will find out.
3. The Cotton Bowl
Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2), Jan. 4 at Arlington, Texas
We get to watch A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel prove to the nation he deserves the Heisman against traditional power Oklahoma.
4. Orange Bowl
Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2), Jan. 1 at Miami
OK, admit it. You are curious to see if Northern Illinois can pull a Boise State and prove it belongs with the big boys. Of course, there are others who would like to see the Seminoles win by 50, proving that the BCS system stinks worse than a decaying mouse under the front porch on a 100-degree day.
5. Chick-fil-A Bowl
LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2), Dec. 31 at Atlanta
New Year’s Eve at the adult’s dinner table. Two great teams provide for a must-see game if you can get away from the New Year’s Eve party.
6. Sugar Bowl
Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2), Jan. 2 in New Orleans
If the Cardinals didn’t stumble down the stretch, this would have been rated even higher. However, it’s still worth checking out a terrific Gators’ squad.
7. Rose Bowl
Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), Jan. 1 in Pasadena
The grandaddy of bowl games never has had a five-game loser, so this traditionally stellar match-up loses some of its luster. However, the whole Barry Alvarez takes over for one game scenario makes this game intriguing.
8. Alamo Bowl
Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3), Dec. 29 at San Antonio
Once in a while, one of the minor bowls uncovers a major gem. The Beavers had a terrific season and Texas draws interest as a traditional power. Better than a turkey salad sandwich.
9. Capital One Bowl
Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3), Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla.
The Cornhuskers’ flop in the Big Ten title game gives notice that this game should be the Bulldogs in a romp. Still, a lot of talent will be showcased.
10. Gator Bowl
Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3), Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Two teams that had a surprisingly successful year create a solid match-up. It’s hard to get past the fact, though, that Mississippi State lost four of its last five.
11. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), Saturday at Boise, Idaho
The Aggies lost their two games by a total of five points, to Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin and BYU. They are for real. The Rockets would like to show viewers that the MAC is for real.
12. Outback Bowl
South Carolina (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4), Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.
This isn’t a filet mignon game, but it’s a pretty juicy hamburger. Say goodbye to Denard Robinson.
13. GoDaddy.com Bowl
Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3), Jan. 6 at Mobile, Ala.
I just can’t get past the fact that Kent State got pounded by Kentucky. Watch at your own peril.
14. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
Ball State (9-3) vs. Central Florida (9-4), Dec. 21 at St. Petersburgh, Fla.
The Little Engine That Could game. These are a couple of very good teams that the nation doesn’t know about. Tune in the game and make believe you are watching The Discovery Channel.
15. Holiday Bowl
Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4), Dec. 27 at San Diego
The Bruins almost seem to be getting punished for losing to Stanford twice. This is not a good match-up, but UCLA had a quality season and is worth checking out.
16. Military Bowl
Bowling Green (8-4) vs. San Jose State (10-2), Dec. 27 at Washington
Spartans’ coach Mike MacIntyre should be the nation’s coach of the year hands down. San Jose State’s turnaround is a major story and it makes this bowl a lot of fun to watch.
17. Las Vegas Bowl
Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), Dec. 22 at Las Vegas
The Broncos aren’t the power they have been over the years, but they still have a big-time offense which should be too much for the Huskies. Boise State, as usual, deserved a better bowl matchup. Worth viewing to see a national perennial power.
18. Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (7-5), Dec. 31 at Nashville, Tenn.
North Carolina State wouldn’t appear to be in Vanderbilt’s class, so this looks like a bit of a mismatch. Beats taking down Christmas lights.
19. New Mexico Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5), Saturday at Albuquerque, N.M.
This game should be fun as I just enjoy watching Rich Rodriguez coached teams (sorry Michigan fans) while Nevada coach Chris Ault is a Hall of Fame type of coach.
20. Independence Bowl
Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4), Dec. 28 at Shreveport, La.
The Independence Bowl has a tradition of putting together some interesting matchups, but the bowl committee deserves a lemon award for not allowing Louisiana Tech, the nation’s highest scoring team, to have more time to check out its bowl opportunities. What’s left is a well-matched pairing, but still a notch below the big boys.
21. Bussell Athletic Bowl
Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Rutgers (9-3), Dec. 28 at Orlando, Fla.
The Hokies had a bad year and don’t deserve to be in a bowl, and yet, they most likely will beat a Rutgers team that played a soft schedule and struggled when the tougher teams came around.
22. New Orleans Bowl
East Carolina (8-4) vs. Louisiana Lafayette (7-4), Dec. 22 at New Orleans
Nobody is being kidded here. These are two teams that play soft schedules and that don’t compare to the major programs. So if you are just a fan of college football in general, this is a decent match-up. If you want to see major players, look elsewhere.
23. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Michigan State (6-6) vs. TCU (7-5), Dec. 29 at Tempe, Ariz.
The Spartans had one of the nation’s top running backs in Le’Veon Bell and still couldn’t win a close game. The Horned Frogs struggled in a tougher conference. Mildly entertaining.
24. Poinsettia Bowl
San Diego State (9-3) vs. BYU (7-5), Dec. 20 at San Diego
This looks like a pretty darned good match-up. Although BYU has five losses, it almost beat Notre Dame on the road and its only loss by more than a touchdown was to Oregon State. San Diego State has won seven in a row, including a victory against Boise State. Enjoy.
25. Pinstripe Bowl
Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5), Dec. 29 at New York
Syracuse won five of its last six and the Mountaineers have that explosive offense and a leaky defense so this could be mildly entertaining, kind of like a Friends rerun.
26. Fight Hunger Bowl
Navy (7-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5), Dec. 29 at San Francisco
Navy’s wins were over a Who’s Who of nobodies. Defensive tackle Will Sutton is ASU’s main draw. Just a slightly interesting game.
27. Liberty Bowl
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3), Dec. 31 at Memphis, Tenn.
Classic bad big conference team against non-BCS opponent game. Tulsa rushed for 240 yards a game in Conference USA, so if you like pound-it-out football, you might skip that New Year’s Eve party.
28. BBVA Compass Bowl
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6), Jan. 5 at Birmingham, Ala.
The Panthers get props for bouncing back after losing to Youngstown State to begin the year, and almost beating Notre Dame before bowing in three overtimes. Ole Miss beat bad teams and lost to good ones. The definition of mediocre. This is the kind of game that should be playing in the background while you are playing euchre.
29. Heart of Dallas Bowl
Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5), Jan. 1 in Dallas
Three of Purdue’s wins were against Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Marshall. The Cowboys flopped. Do you want to start off the New Year in this manner?
30. Hawaii Bowl
SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3), Dec. 24 at Honolulu
You’re Fresno State and you close the season with five straight wins, you play Oregon tough earlier in the year and you are rewarded with a game against a sad-sack SMU squad. Plus you are in Hawaii on Christmas Eve. Think the Bulldogs will care about this football game? Why should we?
31. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5), Dec. 26 at Detroit
The MAC has come far, but not far enough that I want to see a .500 MAC team on a day when I could be returning Christmas presents.
32. Belk Bowl
Duke (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3), Dec. 27 at Charlotte, N.C.
The Blue Devils steam into this game having lost four in a row and five of six. Nice mismatch here. All three of Cincinnati’s loses were to bowl teams. The Crime and Punishment fans should enjoy this one.
33. Meinke Car Care Bowl
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (6-6), Dec. 28 at Houston
How does a team with a 2-6 conference record like the Gophers end up in a bowl game? Texas Tech had wins over Northwestern State and Texas State or it would have been left out otherwise. Time to work on that family photo album.
34. Armed Forces Bowl
Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6), Dec. 29 at Fort Worth, Texas
Rice was 1-5 and then finished against some really crummy teams. Air Force lost to both Army and Navy. There is no defense for this Armed Forces Bowl.
35. Sun Bowl
USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), Jan. 31 at El Paso, Texas
Can’t do it. Can’t watch a USC team that lost four of its last five games against a Georgia Tech team with a losing record that lost by 21 points to Middle Tennessee State. The basement needs cleaning.