Get Ready for College Football Overload: Ranking All 41 NCAA Bowl Season Matchups

(AP Photo/David Goldman, file)

As we enter the college football post-season, here is a rundown.

Last week it was announced that the NCAA was expanding its playoff schedule in 2024 to a 12-team format, making the run to the championship a four-round enterprise. Among the mixed reactions to this plan is the possibility that the biggest tradition in the sport – the post-season bowls – would become further diluted.


To this, I say it is a tepid complaint. For how long was the loudest critique of the game that a definitive champion needed to be declared. Then, the ensuing gripes about which schools got excluded? Beyond that, many of the bowl season traditions had been leeched over the last couple of generations. With the major bowls as an exception, the lesser bowls have been diminished with corporate sponsorships and crowded out by the arrival of entirely new bowl games, which were created arbitrarily.

That said, this is still a great time of year. In the coming days, we will be inundated with games on a near-daily basis, some being competitive or at least fun to watch, if meaningless. Not all of these more than three dozen contests will be scintillating contests, of course, so to help you decide which games to watch and which to just put on in the background–so you do not have to endure the kids watching “Home Alone” for the eighth time this week–here is the list of the games, in elevating value.

AP/Reuters Feed Library


Lending Tree Bowl – December 17, 5pm – Mobile, AL

  • Southern Mississippi / Rice

This probably has to be regarded as the biggest dog of this bowl season, with true interest beyond either school likely being minimal.. Both teams faltered at the end of the season, piling up losses, with Rice earning a bid despite a losing, 5-7 record. 

Bahamas Bowl – December 16, 11:30 am – Nassau, Bahamas

  • Miami (OH) /  University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

Not a bad reward for a mediocre season — getting the chance to play in paradise and make it home in time for the holidays. This kickoff bowl game is between two 6-6 teams who preferred playing at home this season. So, it is a stretch to guess who has the edge.

Quick Lane Bowl – December 26, 2:30pm – Detroit, MI

  • Bowling Green / New Mexico State

Two more teams without winning records, NMS finds itself with the invite since Ohio State became seeded in the College championship, and there were no other bowl-eligible teams in the Big 10. This marks the first bowl appearance for either school in five years, so they may bring a bit of energy to the game–even if the matchup does not deliver a ton of excitement.

Myrtle Beach Bowl – December 19, 2:30pm – Myrtle Beach, SC 

  • Marshall / Connecticut

There is a chance at this being a competitive game. Marshall, in its debut season in the Sun Belt Conference, was still glowing after upsetting Notre Dame and went on to finish 8-4. U. Conn has a new coach in Jim Mora, who turned this program around to have a winning season for the first time in years.

First Responder Bowl – December 27, 3pm – University Park, TX

  • Memphis / Utah State

Another .500 matchup, and a pair of teams with uneven seasons. Give an edge to Memphis since many of their losses were close, while the Aggies had close wins or suffered blowouts.

Birmingham Bowl – December 27, 6:45pm – Birmingham, AL

  • Coastal Carolina / East Carolina

After becoming the highest-ranked Sun Belt team ever after the 2020 season (14th overall), the Chanticleers settled back to expectations, and now approach their bowl game in a stripped-down fashion. Their former coach took the job at Liberty, and entertaining quarterback Grayson McCall is questionable with injuries. This means there could be some balance in this Carolina competition, as the Pirates have a postseason game for the first time in five years. Ironically, the last time was in this very same game.


Frisco Bowl – December 17, 9:15pm – Frisco, TX

  • Boise State / North Texas

Close to a home game for the Mean Green, and they might need that boost from the stands. Both teams come off losses in their conference championships, and North Texas saw their coach fired on Monday following that loss. They sport a 29-year-old QB. Meanwhile, Boise had its upheaval early in the season, firing the offensive coordinator and switching quarterbacks, and the season turned around as they went undefeated in the conference. Drop the money on the Broncos.

Camellia Bowl – December 27, Noon – Montgomery, AL

  • Georgia Southern / Buffalo

Georgia Southern hit a high note when they beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln in a shootout. Both teams make this bowl on the strength of narrow victories in the final game of their schedule. GSU topped Appalachian State in double overtime, and following a November delay due to a blizzard, Buffalo beat Akron last week by one point.

Marco Garcia

Hawaii Bowl – December 24, 8pm – Honolulu, HI

  • Middle Tennessee  / San Diego State

The Blue Raiders made a name for themselves with a rout of the University of Miami, one of three victories against Florida schools, but today that is more of a testament of UM’s dismal rebuilding year. The Aztecs, meanwhile, had a competitive season with a lower-caliber offense. 

Independence Bowl – December 23, 3pm – Shreveport, LA

  • Houston / Louisiana

Houston looks to be the offensive force here, as quarterback Clayton Tune has thrown for 3,845 yards, run for just under 500, with 42 total TD. The Ragin’ Cajuns are also not afraid to toss numbers on the scoreboard. So if these teams are on, this could become a fun watch.

Armed Forces Bowl –  December 22, 7:30pm – Fort Worth, TX

  • Air Force / Baylor

Baylor was in a major bowl last season but has seen much of its defense depart, plunging them down to a 6-6 level this year. That susceptible defense will be tested because the Air Force is – ironically – a ground team. Operating with the option, they barely throw the ball, with the fewest passing plays of any Division-1 school. This could either lead to an intriguing matchup or becoming a slog of a game to watch.

Pinstripe Bowl – December 29, 2:00pm – Bronx, New York

  • Minnesota / Syracuse

Don’t expect much in the way of fireworks in this one being played at Yankee Stadium, as both teams have run-heavy, workman-like offenses. It looks to be a battle of the running backs. Mohamed Ibrahim on Minnesota ran for just shy of 1,600 yards, while on the other side, Syracuse also has a 1,000-yard rusher in Sean Tucker.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – December 20, 1:30pm – Boise, Idaho

  • San Jose State / Eastern Michigan

It feels like an easily dismissed matchup of Mountain West and Mid-America Conference teams, but it has a chance at being a fun contest. San Jose’s season was rocked when its running back was killed in an accident, but after suffering losses following the tragedy, they began to put their season back together. EM had a solid year; a win in this game will give them the first, 10-win season since the 1980s.


Gasparilla Bowl – December 23, 6:30pm – Tampa, Florida

  • Wake Forest / Missouri

Feels like there could be the makings of a blowout. The Demon Deacons have a good aerial attack with QB Sam Hartman, and Missouri might be a bit in disarray. Although it beat late-season giant killer South Carolina and played Georgia surprisingly close, the Tigers have a number of players about to transfer. So, it is unclear how many will be playing at 100 percent – if they play at all.

Arizona Bowl – December 30, 4:30 – Tucson, AZ

  • Ohio U / Wyoming

OU had a great year, going 9-4 and making it to the MAC championship before losing to Toledo. But, their quarterback Kurtis Rourke is possibly out with an injury, and squaring off with a defensively-focused team like the Cowboys means this could end up as a low-scoring slog.

New Orleans Bowl – December 20, 9:00pm – New Orleans, LA

  • Western Kentucky / South Alabama

This one doesn’t sound sexy, but there is some competitive talent at play here. The Hilltoppers have quarterback Austin Reed, who has 4,247 yards on the season and 36 touchdowns. The Jaguars have a strong defense and a solid running attack. They boast an 8-2 record and almost beat UCLA, losing by one point. 

Boca Raton Bowl – December 20, 7:30 – Boca Raton Florida

  • Toledo / Liberty

What looks like a good contest is ranked a bit lower due to Liberty being a question mark. Their season was humming along and they managed to crack the top-25 rankings. But then head coach Hugh Freeze accepted the chance to be Auburn’s new leader; the team lost the final three games. On the Toledo side, they have a dynamic offense–if quarterback Dequan Finn is completely healthy. They just won the MAC Championship and might be cruising.

Military Bowl – December 28, 2:00pm – Annapolis, MD

  • Duke / Central Florida

This could actually be a higher-ranked game. Duke, under new head coach Mike Elko, saw a strong turnaround, with an eight-win team that sports close losses to Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Pitt by just a combined nine points. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, are a strong offensive force that lost in the AAC CHampionship to Tulane, whom the Knights beat in the regular season.

LA Bowl – December 17, 3:30pm – Inglewood, CA

  • Fresno State / Washington State

Two programs with seasons worth being proud of. WS had a solid schedule, with respectable losses they were competitive in, save for a final blowout at the hands of Washington. Fresno was the Mountain West Champion, avenging their earlier loss against Boise State.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl – December 27, 10:15pm – Phoenix, AZ

  • Wisconsin / Oklahoma State

A pair of powerhouse football programs that had disappointing seasons square off, with just two victories over .500 between them. The OSU Cowboys opened with only one loss, in overtime to TCU, in its first seven games. Then the wheels came off, and they finished 7-5. Wisconsin was an even bigger disappointment, favored to go to the Big-10 title game and instead saw their coach getting fired and QB Graham Mertz jumping into the transfer portal.


Cure Bowl – December 16, 3:00pm – Orlando, FL

  • UTSA (24) / Troy (25)

Never heard of this game? No matter. Unfamiliar with the teams? Don’t let that be a reason to miss it. Though surprising, there is a reason these two are ranked schools at the end of the season. Both teams won their last 10 games straight, with Troy winning the Sun Belt title, and the Roadrunners taking the Conference USA crown. Fun offenses and respectable defensive play are promised, as one of these schools will close the season in the top-25.

New Mexico Bowl – December 17, 7:30pm – Albuquerque, NM

  • SMU / BYU

My advice: Bet the over in this one. Both teams are in the top-40 in scoring, and both are ranked lower than 100 defensively. They both average better than 30 points per game in offense, and both teams defensively give up 30 points per game. So, fun should be had, is what I’m saying.

Music City Bowl – December 31, Noon – Nashville, TN

  • Iowa / Kentucky

There is just not a lot of tension and excitement here. These are two defensive-minded schools, to start with. Then you have Kentucky’s Will Levis likely to sit ahead of the draft, Iowa’s Spencer Petras out with an injury, and little else to elevate your blood pressure. These two schools met last year in the Citrus Bowl, further dampening the novelty; this year’s sequel looks to be less thrilling than that 20-17 result.

Seth Wenig

Fenway Bowl – December 17, 11:00am – Boston, MS

  • Cincinnati / Louisville

How about this for some drama leading to a lack of excitement? Head coach of Louisville Scott Satterfield has just announced he’s leaving for a new job. The school that hired him? Cincinnati, needing to replace its coach, who left for Wisconsin. That curious twist creates interest, but it also diminishes game quality; You now end up with a slight conflict between two teams–just out of the top-25–both led by interim coaches. 

Las Vegas Bowl – December 17, 4:30pm – Las Vegas, NV

  • Oregon State / Florida

The Gators make a rare trip west of the Mississippi River, and it may not be pretty. Florida had a mixed season, as it is younger and still building up. It faces an OSU squad that has been on the rise, seeing its first 9-win season in a decade, while playing tough against USC and Washington. The Gators are further hindered by the absence of exciting QB Anthony Richardson; he will not play, as he ranks high on the NFL draft board.

Gator Bowl – December 30, 3:30 – Gainesville, FL

  • South Carolina (19) / Notre Dame (21)

The Irish opened the season with a pair of losses, went 3-3, and had no inspiring victories aside from a decent BYU team and a faltering Clemson. But, this is Notre Dame, so they get ranked at 8-4 and see a respectable bowl invite. This game drops lower because the team was shocked by starting QB Drew Pyne’s decision to transfer, and a number of potential draft picks might be sitting this out as well. Meanwhile, South Carolina had a mixed bag, but capped the year, following a trouncing by the Florida Gators, with their blowout of Tennessee and beating rival Clemson. 

Duke’s Mayo Bowl – December 30, Noon – Charlotte, NC

  • NC State (17) / Maryland

This could turn out to be a fun one, with offensive possibilities on both sides. The Terapins had a mediocre year with wins over lesser teams and losses to expected betters. Tua’s brother Taulia Tagovailoa is a bit of a gunslinger, so he will provide some action. The Wolfpack has surprised many with a solid campaign, including a big rivalry win over North Carolina in overtime to cap the season.

Texas Bowl – December 28, 9:00pm – Houston, TX

  • Texas Tech / Ole Miss

This is a curious matchup, with a vibrant Ole Miss offense pitted against a decent defense from the Red Raiders. Lane Kiffin has turned the Rebels into a team most don’t like to play. The school needs to take the next step up, as it opened at 7-0, but then stumbled against a tougher second-half schedule. TT rebounded with a three-win close to the season against some weaker opponents, including Oklahoma, so they might feel some momentum coming into Houston.

Reliaquest Bowl – January 2, Noon – Tampa, FL

  • Mississippi State / Illinois

Even more of a chess match is seen in this contest, against two, 8-4 teams with contested styles. The Bulldogs’ offense is all about throwing the ball, while the Illini finished with the best passing defense. Meanwhile, Illinois loves to run its ground game; Mississippi St. was in the top half of the country in rushing defense. There could be as much mental intrigue as physical conflict in this one.

Ruben R Ramirez


Sun Bowl – December 30, 2:00pm – ElPaso, TX

  • UCLA (18) / Pitt

A real chance at some scoreboard lights going out, as both teams are able to move the ball. The Bruins put up 40 points in five of their first six games, and the lowest output was 28 points in a loss to Arizona. Pitt, meanwhile, put up 34 or more points in half of their games, with running back Israel Abanikanda leading the country with 20 rushing touchdowns. 

Citrus Bowl – January 2, 1:00pm – Orlando, FL

  • LSU (17) / Purdue

The Tigers had a season of extremes. Low expectations started in the preseason, with the arrival of new coach Brian Kelly indicating they were rebuilding. But by mid-season, they went on a tear, beating – on successive weeks – Florida, Ole Miss, and then ruining Alabama’s year with a huge upset. Then they sputtered with a surprising loss to Texas A&M; They also lost handily to Georgia in the SEC title game.

Purdue had a solid season overall, making it to the Big 10 Championship, but then things turned. After showing some competitiveness against Michigan, the Wolverines took over and dominated to a win. Then head coach Jeff Brohm left to take the job at Louisville. QB Aiden O’Connell is fun to watch, but he is also an NFL prospect and might sit out as a result.

Liberty Bowl – December 28, 5:30pm – Memphis, TN

  • Kansas / Arkansas

Kansas is the question mark here, as they opened the year 5-0, but then QB Jalen Daniels went down with an injury and they finished 6-6. This is a football program that was mired in losing seasons, so if Daniels is completely healthy, they could be a scary opponent. Arkansas is another program on the rise, but its slow build is somewhat hidden by playing in the SEC. This could turn out to be a very competitive game.


Cheez-It Bowl – December 29, 5:30pm – Orlando, FL

  • Florida State (13) / Oklahoma

This has the makings of a blowout, as FSU had a blistering second-half of the schedule, and Oklahoma was a mixed bag with a definitively uneven season. QB Jordan Travis on the Seminoles became a severe weapon and running back Trey Benson is also a threat, opening things up even further. This could spell trouble for the Sooners because, although they can score, the defense is porous–at one stretch surrendering over 40 points in four consecutive games.

Cotton Bowl – January 2, 1:00pm – Arlington, TX

  • USC (10) / Tulane (16)

Tulane is one of this season’s surprise schools, as they just continued to win on the way to the AAC Championship. This is a well-rounded team, with a solid defense that could be severely tested by Heisman favorite Caleb Williams. But it all depends on how well he comes back from a hamstring strain suffered in the PAC-12 title loss to Utah. The Trojans also looked suspect in that game, giving up an early lead and getting run over in the second half. Do not count Tulane out of this one.

Holiday Bowl – December 28, 8:00pm – San Diego, CA

  • Oregon (15) / North Carolina

Two very closely matched teams that could produce big numbers. Oregon had one of its prototypical seasons by challenging for a top slot and finding ways to miss out. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, excelled and fell just short of stepping up to the next level. These are two programs with strong quarterbacks and high-flying offenses, and neither cares much about stopping opponents. A good prop bet might involve how many lead changes take place.

Alamo Bowl – December 29, 9:00pm – San Antonio, TX

  • Texas (20) / Washington (12)

Two quarterbacks with a chance of racing their team down the field through the air makes this a possible thrill ride. Washington has surprised many with a two-loss season and an offense that loves the end zone. Texas was only a slight disappointment, but all four of its losses were in one-score games, including losing to Alabama by a point. Expect some fireworks and a lot of Longhorns fans in the stands.

Rose Bowl – January 2, 5:00pm – Pasadena, CA

  • Penn State (11) / Utah (8)

Utah has been impressive this year, leading up to their sound victory in the PAC-12 Championship, beating USC for the second time this season. Penn State, meanwhile, had something of a quiet season, as they had an unimpressive schedule and were defeated easily by Michigan and Ohio State. Two very solid programs are making this an intriguing game.

AP/Reuters Feed Library

Sugar Bowl – December 31, Noon – New Orleans, LA

  • Alabama (5) / Kansas State (9)

Anything less than a college championship bowl appearance is a disappointment for the Crimson Tide. A two-loss program is absolutely rare to see, but being Nick Saban’s squad, it means they still nearly got in. After being overlooked in the preseason, Kansas State had a steady rise up the polls, leading to the electric, Big 12 Championship, where they edged TCU in overtime. This game could be really close, since Alabama is sitting on a number of definitive NFL departures, including defending Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, which means we do not know how many will be sitting out this game.


Orange Bowl – December 30, 8:00pm – Miami Gardens, FL

  • Tennessee (6) / Clemson (7)

Want to bet what color will dominate in stands?? Besides both teams echoing the hue of the game, they both match as well on having tumultuous seasons. Both, at times, were highly rated and then went through some tough losses. Now, both teams are in the top-10, and both have quarterback questions. Tennessee lost Hendon Hooker to injury in its thumping by South Carolina. Clemson, meanwhile, is going with a freshman, Cade Klubnick, who took over the reins in the ACC title game and led the Tigers to a big win over North Carolina.

Fiesta Bowl – December 31, 4:00pm – Glendale, AZ

  • Michigan (2) / Texas Christian (3)

This one could be closer than some expect, as TCU has an explosive offense and the defense has been a bit underrated. QB Max Duggan is the real deal, as he can throw with abandon, as well as use his legs. He basically took this team on his back in the Big-12 Championship, getting them to overtime in a narrow loss to Kansas State. Many have dinged the team for a light schedule, but they have delivered this season.

Michigan is a complete team, and Jim Harbaugh has built it back into a powerhouse. They seem to play better against tougher opponents — look no further than dismantling Ohio State in the manner they did weeks ago.

Peach Bowl – December 31, 8pm – Atlanta, GA

  • Georgia (1) / Ohio State (4)

This is a stirring matchup beyond the top-ranked setting. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Georgia’s Stetson bennet are both Heisman hopefuls and NFL-bound. The Buckeyes’ offensive juggernaut will be pitted against Georgia’s vaunted defense in the kind of matchup you crave in the NCAA, and it might outshine the championship game in terms of that kind of battle. This one is not to be missed for any reason.

AP/Reuters Feed Library


January 9, 8:30pm – SoFi Stadium, Inglewood California

Broadcast will be on ESPN.


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