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Ranking every college football bowl game from worst to best

Ranking every college football bowl game from worst to best

Welcome to bowl season!

It’s the most glorious time of the year. And from the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Dec. 16 to the College Football Playoff national championship on Jan. 8, there will be 42 FBS postseason games played.

Not including the national title game, we have ranked all 41 bowl games from worst to best. Beyond the CFP bowls, there are many intriguing matchups to look forward to in the coming weeks.

(Full 2023 bowl game schedule with dates, times and TV channels)

41. Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26, 2 p.m., ESPN) Minnesota (5-7) vs. Bowling Green (7-5)

Minnesota is the only sub-.500 team in a bowl game thanks to its Academic Progress Rate. The Gophers will play without QB Athan Kaliakmanis after he entered the transfer portal. Minnesota averages just 303 yards a game and gives up six yards a play. Bowling Green won five of its last six to get bowl eligible and its only loss in that span came to Toledo as the Rockets got a 59-yard TD to go ahead with 1:45 to go.

40. Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 21, 8 p.m., ESPN) South Florida (6-6) vs. Syracuse (6-6)

The Bulls are bowling for the first time since 2018 under first-year coach Alex Golesh after winning just eight games over the last four seasons. One of USF’s six losses this season came by a score of 17-3 to Alabama in a game that was the catalyst for QB Jalen Milroe’s emergence after he didn’t play at all against the Bulls. Syracuse fired coach Dino Babers before the final week of the season and interim coach Nunzio Campanile got a 35-31 win over Wake Forest to get the Orange into a bowl game.

39. 68 Ventures Bowl (Dec. 23, 7 p.m., ESPN) South Alabama (6-6) vs. Eastern Michigan (6-6)

South Alabama also gets to host a bowl game this season. The Jaguars had a 26-point win at Oklahoma State in Week 3 before losing to Central Michigan the following week. South Alabama has outscored its opponents by a combined 108 points thanks to midseason blowout wins over Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Miss. Eastern Michigan also lost to CMU and won its final two games of the season to qualify for the postseason.

38. Potato Bowl (Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m., ESPN) Georgia State (6-6) vs. Utah State (6-6)

QB Levi Williams’ powerful run in overtime got the Aggies a win over New Mexico in Week 13 to get to a bowl game. This will be Williams’ last game before he begins training to become a Navy SEAL. Georgia State lost its final five games and was outscored by at least three possessions in four of them before that dramatic defeat to Old Dominion.

37. Camellia Bowl (Dec. 23, Noon, ESPN) Arkansas State (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (6-6)

Butch Jones is back in a bowl game. The former Cincinnati and Tennessee coach has Arkansas State in the postseason for the first time since 2019. The Red Wolves won more games in 2023 than they had in Jones’ first two seasons with the program combined (five). NIU opened the season with a win at Boston College before losing four straight — including a game to Southern Illinois in Week 2. Huskies RB Antario Brown has rushed for 1,164 yards and 10 TDs on just 187 carries.

36. Famous Toastery Bowl (Dec. 18, 2:30 p.m., ESPN) Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (6-6)

The Monarchs got bowl eligible in the final week of the season in dramatic fashion. ODU scored 11 points in the final two minutes to turn a 24-14 deficit into a 25-24 win over Georgia State. Western Kentucky’s offense took a step back in 2023 despite the return of QB Austin Reed. He’s thrown for fewer yards and TDs per game this season.

35. Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 22, 6:30 p.m., ESPN) UCF (6-6) vs. Georgia Tech (6-6)

UCF played in four games that were decided by one or two points this season and went 2-2 in them. This could be a close one. Georgia Tech is powered by the rushing duo of Haynes and Haynes. Both RB Jamal Haynes and QB Haynes King average six yards a carry. This game was originally reported to be a Military Bowl rematch of a year ago between UCF and Duke before an apparent swap of ACC teams with the Birmingham Bowl.

Gus Malzahn and the UCF Knights are staying in Florida for the Gasparilla Bowl. (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

34. New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 16, 2:15 p.m., ESPN) Jacksonville State (8-4) vs. Louisiana (6-6)

The Gamecocks had a fantastic debut season at the FBS level under former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. RB Malik Jackson averages 6.5 yards a carry. Louisiana lost three consecutive games to begin November before becoming bowl-eligible with a 52-21 win over Louisiana-Monroe to end the season.

33. Myrtle Beach Bowl (Dec. 16, 11 a.m., ESPN) Georgia Southern (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-3)

The Eagles were bowl eligible on Oct. 26 with a 44-27 win over Georgia State. That ended up mattering as GSU lost its last four games of the season. Ohio beat Iowa State in Week 4 and limits opponents to just 265 yards per game. MAC champ Miami (Ohio) is the only team to score more than 23 against the Bobcats.

32. Military Bowl (Dec. 27, 2 p.m., ESPN) Tulane (11-2) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)

Tulane will play this game without coach Willie Fritz after he was officially announced as Houston’s new coach on Sunday. The Green Wave were a win away from the Fiesta Bowl themselves, but lost 26-14 to the Mustangs. Virginia Tech sealed bowl eligibility in Week 13 with a 38-point win over rival Virginia.

31. Fenway Bowl (Dec. 28, 11 a.m., ESPN) Boston College (6-6) vs. SMU (11-2)

SMU finished just one College Football Playoff rankings spot behind Liberty for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl berth. Instead of going to the Fiesta Bowl, the Mustangs make the trip to Boston to play a .500 team that they will share a conference with going forward. That’s a bummer for SMU.

SMU won the AAC championship in a game against Tulane but finished one spot behind Liberty for a New Year’s Six bowl. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

30. First Responder Bowl (Dec. 26, 5:30 p.m., ESPN) Texas State (7-5) vs. Rice (6-6)

The Bobcats are in a bowl game for the first time ever after a season that included a win over Baylor and two other bowl-eligible Sun Belt teams. Rice is looking for its first winning season since 2014 and will be without QB JT Daniels as he’s been forced to medically retire due to multiple concussions.

29. Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28, 2:15 p.m., ESPN) Rutgers (6-6) vs. Miami (7-5)

The Scarlet Knights qualified for a bowl game as a non-COVID replacement for the first time since 2014. RB Kyle Monangai has rushed for 1,099 yards and seven scores. He’s the only Rutgers RB or WR with more than 500 total yards. Miami will be without QBs Emory Williams and Tyler Van Dyke as Williams suffered a season-ending injury against Florida State and Van Dyke has entered the transfer portal.

28. Frisco Bowl (Dec. 19, 9 p.m., ESPN) Marshall (6-6) vs. UTSA (8-4)

It’s our last chance to see UTSA seventh-year senior Frank Harris. He’s accounted for 22 total TDs and has thrown for over 2,500 yards in 10 games this season. Marshall won just two of its last eight games after a 4-0 start and needed a win over Arkansas State in the final week of the regular season to make a bowl.

27. Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m., ABC) Northwestern (7-5) vs. Utah (8-4)

The Wildcats won four of their last five games as interim coach David Braun was named the team’s permanent coach. Northwestern gives up more points and yards per game than it scores, but also relies on forcing nearly two turnovers a game. The Utes played all season without QB Cameron Rising — who is coming back for 2024 — and now will be missing backups Nate Johnson and Bryson Barnes after they both entered the transfer portal. No. 4 QB Luke Bottari started for the Utes in the season-ending win over Colorado.

26. Independence Bowl (Dec. 16, 9:15 p.m., ESPN) Texas Tech (6-6) vs. Cal (6-6)

The Red Raiders won three of their last four games to get bowl eligible, including a 16-13 win over Kansas and a 24-23 win over UCF. Cal was 3-6 with three games to go but scored wins over Washington State, Stanford and UCLA to get to the postseason for the first time since 2019.

25. Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 23, 10:30 p.m., ESPN) Coastal Carolina (7-5) vs. San Jose State (7-5)

The Spartans lost out on a chance to play for the Mountain West title thanks to the conference’s computer tiebreakers. SJSU won six straight to end the season after a 1-5 start. Coastal Carolina makes the longest trek of the bowl season after a five-game win streak in the middle of the season got the Chanticleers bowl-eligible, but we’re guessing they won’t mind the trip to Hawaii.

24. New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 16, 5:45 p.m., ESPN) New Mexico State (10-4) vs. Fresno State (8-4)

New Mexico State is one of the most fun stories of the college football season. The Aggies won 10 games in a season for the first time since 1960 and took down Auburn. Fresno State lost three straight to end the season and will be without coach Jeff Tedford for the bowl game because of a health issue. Tim Skipper will serve as the interim coach.

Jerry Kill (right) and New Mexico State are in the New Mexico Bowl after a season that included a win over Hugh Freeze’s Auburn Tigers. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

23. Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 23, Noon, ABC) Duke (7-5) vs. Troy (11-2)

The Trojans get to stay in their home state after winning the Sun Belt title. It’s a good chance to check out Troy RB Kimani Vidal if you haven’t seen him yet. Vidal has rushed for 1,582 yards and 14 TDs this season. The Blue Devils won’t have coach Mike Elko or QB Riley Leonard this time either. Elko is the new coach at Texas A&M and Leonard has entered the transfer portal. Leonard was limited to just seven games due to injuries in 2023.

22. LA Bowl (Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m., ABC) Boise State (8-5) vs. UCLA (7-5)

Boise State promoted interim coach Spencer Danielson to the permanent gig on Sunday, a day after the Broncos won the Mountain West title over UNLV. Boise State won four straight to end the season and three of those wins were by 24 points or more. UCLA enters without 5-star freshman Dante Moore after he entered the transfer portal and defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn was named the new defensive coordinator at USC.

21. Texas Bowl (Dec. 27, 9 p.m., ESPN) Texas A&M (7-5) vs. Oklahoma State (9-4)

The old Big 12 foes met in the 2019 Texas Bowl where the Aggies snapped a four-game OSU win streak in the series. Jaylen Henderson will get the start at quarterback for Texas A&M after Max Johnson entered the transfer portal at the end of the season. Henderson completed 71% of his passes and threw two TDs against LSU. Oklahoma State is just a win shy of a 10-win season despite outscoring its opponents by a combined six points.

20. Gator Bowl (Dec. 29, Noon, ESPN) Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-4)

This is going to be a slobberknocker. Clemson hasn’t allowed more than 28 points in regulation all season and held North Carolina to 20 points in Week 12 and South Carolina to seven in Week 13. After losing five of six games entering the final week of the season, Kentucky scored the most points it had since Week 4 in a 38-31 upset win over Louisville.

19. Liberty Bowl (Dec. 29, 3:30 p.m., ESPN) Iowa State (7-5) vs. Memphis (9-3)

Memphis earned a home bowl game with its 5-1 finish to the season. That loss was a four-point defeat to eventual AAC champion SMU. The three teams the Tigers lost to finished with a combined record of 32-6. Iowa State scored 42 points on 35 plays in its season-ending win over Kansas State and finished the year 5-2 after a 2-3 start.

18. Music City Bowl (Dec. 30, 2 p.m., ABC) Maryland (7-5) vs. Auburn (6-6)

This could be the chaos game of bowl season. Both offenses can vacillate from dangerous to infuriating from drive to drive. Maryland relies on QB Taulia Tagovailoa’s arm while Auburn does most of its offensive damage on the ground. The Tigers average nearly 200 yards a game rushing and less than 160 yards a game passing.

17. ReliaQuest Bowl (Jan. 1, Noon, ESPN2) Wisconsin (7-5) vs. LSU (9-3)

Jayden Daniels is the presumptive Heisman winner, but will we see him for an encore in Tampa? If we do, this game moves up the watchability rankings significantly. Wisconsin won its final two games of the season to finish with a winning record in Luke Fickell’s first year since moving from Cincinnati.

16. Cure Bowl (Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m., ABC) Appalachian State (8-5) vs. Miami (Ohio) (11-2)

The Miami defense is one of the most underrated units in the country. The RedHawks haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game since giving up 24 in a win at Cincinnati in Week 1 and the Miami Hurricanes are the only team to score more than 28 against Miami (Ohio) all season long. App State is the only team to beat James Madison this season and had won five straight before losing to Troy in the Sun Belt title game.

15. Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27, 8 p.m., Fox) USC (7-5) vs. Louisville (10-3)

Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley said Monday that star QB Caleb Williams will not play in the Holiday Bowl. The 2022 Heisman winner is a prohibitive favorite to be selected in the top three of the 2024 NFL Draft. Backup Miller Moss will likely get the start in his stead. Louisville was stifled by Florida State’s defense in the ACC title game but should find much better luck against a USC defense that’s been gashed time and time again this season.

Will we see top NFL Draft prospect Caleb Williams play one more game for USC? (Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

14. Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Dec. 26, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN) Kansas (8-4) vs. UNLV (9-4)

The Jayhawks are in a bowl game for the second consecutive season and produced a thriller a season ago against Arkansas. UNLV is making its first bowl appearance since 2013 and looking for its first 10-win season since 1984. Don’t be surprised if this is one of the most high-scoring games of bowl season.

13. Pop-Tarts Bowl (Dec. 28, 5:45 p.m., ESPN) NC State (9-3) vs. Kansas State (8-4)

Both teams’ starting QBs are in the transfer portal. KSU’s Will Howard entered the portal last week and MJ Morris entered the portal at NC State after playing in four games and redshirting the rest of the season. The Wolfpack still have an experienced starter in Brennan Armstrong and freshman Avery Johnson has been dynamic in spot duty for the Wildcats.

12. Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m., ABC) Air Force (8-4) vs. James Madison (11-1)

The Dukes got into the postseason because there weren’t enough six-win teams and get a fun matchup with Air Force. James Madison will be playing without coach Curt Cignetti, however, as he was recently announced as the new coach at Indiana, and QB Jordan McCloud as he’s in the transfer portal. Air Force started the season 8-0 but lost four straight in November as the team was wracked by injuries. We’ll see if QB Zac Larrier and others can return for the bowl game.

11. Arizona Bowl (Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m., The CW) Toledo (11-2) vs. Wyoming (8-4)

This game will be available on broadcast television for the first time as The CW will televise it. Toledo was the best team in the MAC during the regular season but lost to Miami in Saturday’s title game. Wyoming beat Texas Tech in Week 1 and gave Texas a scare in Week 3 before the Longhorns pulled away in the fourth quarter.

10. Sun Bowl (Dec. 29, 2 p.m., CBS) Oregon State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (9-3)

This was a possible New Year’s Six bowl matchup at one point earlier in the season. Instead, the Sun Bowl gets a great matchup of top-20 teams, even though Oregon State will be a little shorthanded as DJ Uiagalelei has already announced his intention to transfer. It’ll also be the first game for new Oregon State coach Trent Bray after he was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace new Michigan State coach Jonathan Smith.

9. Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m., ESPN) West Virginia (8-4) vs. North Carolina (8-4)

Will Drake Maye play in the bowl game? He’s a possible No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. While we’d love to see Maye play one more time for the Tar Heels (assuming he declares for the draft), we’d understand if he opts out. And no matter if he plays or not, this game could feature a lot of points. Both teams score over 30 points per game and give up more than 27 a contest.

8. Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1, Noon, ESPN) Oregon (11-2) vs. Liberty (13-0)

The Flames are in their first New Year’s Six bowl with a 13-0 record against a schedule that ranks among the weakest in college football. Oregon missed out on the playoff thanks to a Pac-12 title game loss to Washington. Coach Dan Lanning said Heisman candidate Bo Nix will play one more game as a Duck in the bowl game.

Bo Nix and the Oregon Ducks will be heavily favored against Liberty. (AP Photo/David Becker)

7. Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, Noon, ABC) Iowa (10-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

This is an incredible matchup of contrasting styles. Tennessee loves to push the tempo on offense and can gain yards by the dozens. Iowa is exactly the opposite. The Hawkeyes average four yards a play on offense and only three teams score fewer than Iowa’s 16.6 points per game. Conversely, the Iowa defense only gives up four yards a play and allows 13 points a game.

6. Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28, 9:15 p.m., ESPN) Arizona (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

The Alamo regularly ranks highly among the non-New Year’s Six bowl games and this year is no different. Arizona closed the season on a tear with a six-game win streak and Oklahoma has a legitimate case to be in a New Year’s Six bowl. After losing back-to-back games to Kansas and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma scored 159 points over its final three games of the season.

5. Peach Bowl (Dec. 30, Noon, ESPN) Ole Miss (10-2) vs. Penn State (10-2)

Lane Kiffin’s creative Ole Miss offense will present a challenge for a stout Penn State defense. We’re betting Ole Miss will have a few trick plays. We’re also looking forward to seeing what the Penn State offense looks like with weeks of bowl prep. After parting ways with coordinator Mike Yurcich following an ugly offensive showing against Michigan, the Nittany Lions scored 69 points and rushed for over 500 yards in the final two games of the regular season.

4. Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29, 8 p.m., ESPN) Missouri (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1)

Missouri is in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the first time since 2013. Ohio State could have some opt-outs for the NFL Draft, but this should be a fantastic matchup no matter what. Missouri RB Cody Schrader led the SEC in rushing, while the Buckeyes defense gives up just 4.1 yards per play and 11 points per game.

3. Orange Bowl (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN) Florida State (13-0) vs. Georgia (12-1)

Both teams are going to be salty about missing the playoff, but this is still a fantastic matchup, even if Jordan Travis is unable to play. Florida State’s defense has been incredible over the past two weeks and Georgia is the first team to ever fall from No. 1 to outside the playoffs over conference championship weekend.

2. Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN) No. 2 Washington (13-0) vs. No. 3 Texas (12-1)

The Sugar Bowl is just the second time in the playoff era that teams are meeting in a rematch of a non-playoff bowl the previous season. The Huskies beat Texas 27-20 in last season’s Alamo Bowl. This year, both teams are even better as Michael Penix Jr. and Quinn Ewers both had MVP performances in their respective conference title games.

1. Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN) No. 1 Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 4 Alabama (12-1)

This matchup of two of the most iconic programs in college football is a tantalizing playoff semifinal. The Crimson Tide and Wolverines have met just three times and just once during the tenures of Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban. That game came on Jan. 1, 2020, when Alabama won 35-16 in the Citrus Bowl.

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