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Every bowl game, ranked by entertainment value

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Tua, Lawrence key for College Football Playoff (1:03)

David Pollack gives his take on the CFP, pinpointing the health of Tua Tagovailoa for Alabama and the excitement of Trevor Lawrence for Clemson. (1:03)

It's December. You've got a busy schedule. There's work you need to wrap up before vacation, trips to the mall to check those final items off your shopping list, holiday parties where Tony from accounting has a bit too much eggnog. It's as if the whole world is conspiring to keep you from your TV and the fabulous wealth of college football action you should be enjoying.

Well, fear not. We're here to help you organize that schedule by prioritizing the games you can't miss, the ones to leave on in the background while wrapping presents, and the ones that will invariably be on a break-room TV with the sound off as Tony from accounting awkwardly tells everyone in the office he loves them.

It's bowl season. It's all about priorities, so let us help you prepare by ranking every game from worst to first by sheer entertainment value.

40. Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Arkansas State vs. Nevada
Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

This game between two mid-level Group of 5 teams kicks off smack-dab in the middle of the biggest bowl day of the season, but you can tune in for the fourth quarter of this one as something of a palate cleanser between the Belk Bowl and the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

39. AutoNation Cure Bowl

Tulane vs. Louisiana
Dec. 15, 2:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

Two teams from the heart of Cajun Country traveling to the heart of chain-restaurant country. But we assume it'll be salvaged by the Cure's halftime show. What's that? They're not the sponsor? Ah. Well, then.

38. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan
Dec. 15, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama

As a general rule, games between two directional schools aren't going to pique our interest. But credit to EMU for making just its third bowl appearance in program history and Georgia Southern for winning 11 of its past 14 after having dropped 16 of its previous 18. We always enjoy a good comeback story.

37. SoFi Hawai'i Bowl

Hawai'i vs. Louisiana Tech
Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

As Hawai'ian football goes this year, Tua Tagovailoa and McKenzie Milton took top billing, but the Rainbow Warriors actually had a nice season, improving from three wins to eight. Hawai'i also averaged 40 passing attempts per game, while Louisiana Tech averaged 37 -- both top 25 nationally -- so you're bound to get your money's worth here.

36. Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

FIU vs. Toledo
Dec. 21, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas

Toledo scored 50 points six different times this season, including in each of its final two games. Butch Davis led FIU to another solid season. You know what? We're convinced. Let's all hop on a plane and go to the Bahamas to watch in person. You know, for the game.

35. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Western Michigan vs. BYU
Dec. 21, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Action on a blue field and about a 99.6 percent chance we'll hear BYU running back Squally Canada rap. We can't speak for the actual matchup, but there should be some peripheral fun here.

34. Dollar General Bowl

Troy vs. Buffalo
Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

Troy has wins over Nebraska and LSU in the past two seasons, so the Trojans are no joke. Buffalo was one of the most improved teams in the country this season, and receiver Anthony Johnson is a legit NFL prospect. Plus, Troy Buffalo would make a great fake name in a Will Ferrell movie.

33. Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Marshall vs. South Florida
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

If Jalen Hurts got his redemption story in the SEC championship game, why not give another Alabama backup a shot to leave on a high note, too? Blake Barnett missed two of USF's final three games, but if he plays in the bowl, it's worth tuning in just to see how much more his Bama career gets discussed than his USF career.

32. DXL Frisco Bowl

San Diego State vs. Ohio
Dec. 19, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

With Bill Snyder's retirement at Kansas State, Frank Solich is officially the oldest FBS coach at 74. A victory here would give him his sixth season of nine or more victories during his tenure at Ohio. That's the type of thing that gets a coach fired at Nebraska.

31. Walk-On's Independence Bowl

Temple vs. Duke
Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana

From 1989 to 2008, Temple won two or fewer games 13 times. Duke won two or fewer 10 times. Both programs were horrific -- among the biggest embarrassments in BCS leagues. Now, here we are. Duke's been to a bowl game in six of seven years, and Temple is bowling for the fourth straight season. So, the lesson here is that there's hope for us all. Except maybe Kansas.

30. Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T
Dec. 15, noon ET, ABC
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Alcorn State has three players with more than 750 rushing yards and ranks eighth in FCS in rushing. North Carolina A&T allowed just 799 rushing yards all season and led FCS in rushing defense. That's a strength-on-strength matchup that should make for a terrific game.

29. Cheez-It Bowl

Cal vs. TCU

Dec. 26, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Chase Field, Phoenix

Two of the better defenses in the country (Cal ranked ninth in efficiency, TCU was 17th) aren't likely to make for a particularly high-octane game, but we do appreciate any bowl game that also suggests what snack you should be eating while watching it.

28. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Dec. 27, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
NRG Stadium, Houston

This is one of just four bowl games (in addition to the Orange Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl) featuring two starting quarterbacks (Charlie Brewer and Kyle Shurmur) who completed 60 percent of their passes, accounted for at least 2,750 yards and 23 touchdowns and less than 10 turnovers. We had to work really hard to come up with that stat, so the least you can do is watch this game.

27. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State
Dec. 15, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

The final game for MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill playing for his dad, coach Rick Stockstill. This should make for some heartwarming father-son moments, ending, one hopes, with the two of them playing catch in the end zone after it's all over, like a college football "Field of Dreams."

26. Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 31, noon ET, ESPN
Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

Kansas transfer Ryan Willis has had a surprisingly solid season at quarterback for Virginia Tech. We say this because you rarely have an opportunity to talk about Kansas and bowl games in the same paragraph. Anyway, this is one of the rare bowl games where the Group of 5 team looks markedly better than its Power 5 foe, so if you like the David vs. Goliath story, tune in. That means you, UCF fans.

25. Belk Bowl

South Carolina vs. Virginia
Dec. 29, noon ET, ABC
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Bronco Mendenhall rides horses and lived in a trailer. Will Muschamp head-butts players until his forehead bleeds. That's a lot of testosterone for one bowl game, and if it goes to overtime, we suggest the winner be decided by a staring contest between the two coaches.

24. Hyundai Sun Bowl

Stanford vs. Pitt
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

Paul Chryst used to coach Pitt. Paul Chryst's nephew used to quarterback Stanford. So this is probably a pretty big deal in the Chryst household. For you, though? Maybe not so much.

23. Quick Lane Bowl

Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech
Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ford Field, Detroit

There's no chance Paul Johnson doesn't do something awesome in his final game before retirement. Maybe he abandons the option and throws it 50 times. Maybe he lets a random fan call plays for the entire third quarter. Maybe he just leaves at halftime, walks across the Ambassador Bridge and takes up ice fishing in Canada full time. There's literally nothing we can write off.

22. Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

UAB vs. Northern Illinois
Dec. 18, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

The Blazers are one of college football's best stories. NIU's Sutton Smith is among the best players you probably don't know. Plus the game's in Boca, so there's at least a 40 percent chance Lane Kiffin wanders onto the field and does something hilarious. That's all worth tuning in for.

21. New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Miami vs. Wisconsin
Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Yankee Stadium, New York

For years, finding the most disappointing team in the country was left to the talking heads on debate shows. Finally, thanks to the Pinstripe Bowl, we can settle it on the field.

20. New Mexico Bowl

North Texas vs. Utah State
Dec. 15, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Utah State ranked third in scoring offense this season. North Texas was 21st. That's usually a recipe for some fireworks, even if there's a chance neither team still has its head coach by kickoff.

19. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Houston vs. Army
Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

While we're bummed this game won't include Ed Oliver or D'Eriq King, we're still holding out hope that Oliver shows up anyway, arriving to the game on horseback and wearing the George Costanza Gore-Tex Coat just to stick it to Major Applewhite. As for the game itself, there's at least a 3 percent chance Houston never runs the ball and Army doesn't throw a pass. That's the dream.

18. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Northwestern vs. Utah
Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET, FS1
SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California

As consolation prizes for losing a conference championship game go, a bowl trip to San Diego isn't too bad. Both teams feature strong defenses, so don't expect much scoring. On the upside, if you made the trip to see the game in person, be sure to grab a burger at Rocky's. Best in the county.

17. Outback Bowl

Mississippi State vs. Iowa
Jan. 1, noon ET, ESPN2
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

If you like seeing teams chuck the ball all over the field, this isn't the game for you. But if you're a fan of some old-school, smashmouth power football, well, you've come to the right place. Iowa's ground game vs. Mississippi State's elite front four should make for one of the most physical bowl games of the season, and because it kicks off at noon on New Year's Day, you might still be a little tipsy from the night before.

16. Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State vs Arizona State
Dec. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

Would we have liked to see Jeff Tedford take on Cal in this game? Sure. But no one should complain about having Herm Edwards involved. We're bound to get a few fun sound bites out of this. The downside is we don't get to see N'Keal Harry one final time, so that kills a bit of the excitement. You might play. To win. The game. But you don't play if you're going to be a first-rounder.

15. VRBO Citrus Bowl

Kentucky vs. Penn State
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

For the second consecutive year, a college star named Josh Allen is being touted as a top-five draft pick. The upside this time around is you can watch him in a bowl game without having to sit through a Wyoming-Central Michigan tryst.

14. Jared Birmingham Bowl

Memphis vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 22, noon ET, ESPN
Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Two strong offenses. Two pretty bad defenses. Add in one of the most electric players in college football in Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. This has all the makings of being this season's 70-64, triple-overtime offensive eruption and, frankly, we can't wait. Also, Jared Birmingham would be another good fake name in a Will Ferrell movie.

13. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Boston College vs. Boise State
Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Cotton Bowl, Dallas

This is one of the better low-key matchups of bowl season. Brett Rypien and Boise State make for a top-tier Group of 5 program, and while BC failed to meet expectations, the Eagles still have a roster chock full of NFL talent like AJ Dillon, Tommy Sweeney, Zach Allen and Hamp Cheevers. It's not a glamorous game, but it's probably one of the most evenly matched games between two solid teams outside the New Year's Six.

12. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

NC State vs. Texas A&M
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Jimbo Fisher returns to the state of Florida for the first time since leaving his Christmas tree by the side of the road on his way out of Tallahassee. NC State is looking for its first 10-win season since 2002 and is repping a little ACC conference pride against the coach who used to dominate the league. Add in players like Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Finley, Jace Sternberger and Trayveon Williams and this one should be worthy of spending your New Year's Eve planted on the couch with half-drunk bottle of Korbel, staring at the TV.

11. Redbox Bowl

Michigan State vs. Oregon
Dec. 31, 3 p.m. ET, Fox
Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

The matchup between one of college football's top QB talents in Justin Herbert and one of its stingiest defenses in Michigan State is actually an intriguing one. And the best part? The game will be immediately available on Blu-ray just outside your local Walgreens right after the game.

10. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Purdue vs. Auburn
Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

These two teams finished a combined 13-11, but they each own a win over a team playing in a New Year's Six bowl. In other words, despite the records, there's ample talent on display here. It's an NFL preview for Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, and it figures to be a fun matchup for Purdue star Rondale Moore. And you have to love any game between a team whose fan base is jubilant its 6-6 coach decided to stay and a team with a fan base furious its 7-5 coach didn't get canned.

9. AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee

Two top-20 offenses. Two really talented quarterbacks. Two teams that had some impressive wins. This hardly feels like a battle between teams that finished 8-4 and 6-6, respectively. At the very least, tune in to see Drew Lock's farewell performance and the otherworldly talent of Oklahoma State receiver Tylan Wallace.

8. Valero Alamo Bowl

Iowa State vs. Washington State
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

If this game doesn't come with a six-hour history lesson on the Alamo from Mike Leach, we'll be disappointed. Either way, you'll get to see one of the country's top freshmen in Brock Purdy and easily the nation's top mustache on Gardner Minshew.

7. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Florida vs. Michigan
Dec. 29, Noon ET, ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Dan Mullen perfected dad dancing this season. Jim Harbaugh taught us all that chicken is bad for you because they're nervous birds. This is the type of middle-aged dad coaching matchup that will one day result in an ABC sitcom starring Kevin James and Tim Allen. Urban Meyer will drop by as the wacky neighbor.

6. Camping World Bowl

West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

First off, let's just say we're awfully jealous of the media covering this game. You can't ask for a better news-conference tandem than Dino Babers and Dana Holgorsen. Of course, the two know a little about offense, too, and with quarterbacks Eric Dungey and Will Grier winding down their college careers, this has a chance to be one of the most fun offensive games of the entire bowl season.

5. Allstate Sugar Bowl

Texas vs. Georgia
Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

We agree, Georgia is one of the four best teams in the country. So tune in for that. But we're particularly excited about Texas. Think about all we got from the Longhorns this season: random and confusing Steinbeck references, constant "are they back" debates, two great Red River games, the second-best catchphrase of the season ("Let's go win the f---ing game") and the best catchphrase of the season ("OK, cool. Hook 'em.") What does Texas do for an encore? We can't wait to find out.

4. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

Washington vs. Ohio State
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Dwayne Haskins throwing against Taylor Rapp and the Washington secondary makes for one of the best individual matchups of bowl season. Jake Browning says goodbye after a long and distinguished career as either the best mediocre QB in college football or the most mediocre good one. And, of course, we say goodbye to Urban Meyer. Sure, he lasted longer at Ohio State than any of his text messages did, but it still feels all too soon. But don't be too sad. Like Jason Voorhees, the XFL and any sitcom that was mildly popular in the '80s, Meyer will be back someday.

3. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

LSU vs. UCF
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Ed Orgeron alone makes a bowl watchable, and since we've heard all season how UCF can't compete with the big boys, we're hoping LSU players give Coach O a Gatorade bath before the opening kickoff. Of course, UCF might have a small chip on its shoulder, too, so seeing the Knights' spectacular offense go against LSU's stout defense should actually be a whole lot of fun.

2. College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Notre Dame vs. Clemson
Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

We've already seen Dabo Swinney in a cowboy hat, so the Cotton Bowl has eclipsed the entertainment value of most other bowl games weeks before it even kicks off. On the field, though, there's a ton to like about this matchup, from the two quarterbacks who replaced successful returning starters to the two running backs who've helped carry their teams to some of the best defensive-line talent in the nation. The last time these two teams met, there was a hurricane in South Carolina and Swinney coined the term "BYOG" (for Bring Your Own Guts). That might be tough to top, but we're excited to see Clemson and Notre Dame try.

1. College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Tua vs. Kyler. Heisman winner vs. Heisman runner-up, we presume. What's not to like? Sure, we heard all the stories about Oklahoma's shoddy defense, but who cares? Aren't we tuning in to see Tagovailoa throw for 800 yards? And what could be better than seeing Murray's athleticism put to the test by Alabama's ferocious defense, led by Quinnen Williams? Sure, the SEC folks wanted Georgia again. Of course they did. They know Alabama can win that one. But Murray is exactly the type of quarterback who has challenged Nick Saban in the past, and Oklahoma's offensive line will likely be the best one Alabama has faced this season. This game really has it all -- from the high stakes to the elite QB play to the potential for offensive fireworks from the opening kick. Whether or not Oklahoma deserved to be the fourth team in, the playoff committee ensured it created one heck of a matchup.