Bowl season is wonderful. So many games packed into such a small window of time is a football fan’s dream. Yet bowl season can be terrible. If your team doesn’t make a game, the winter months become more of a what could’ve been, than a celebration of football. But more than anything else, bowl season is over saturated. Games with no name teams playing in no name stadiums sponsored by no name companies have become a staple of the month of December. Fortunately for you, we’ve ranked every game this season in terms of what games to watch. Some games exude quality, like Oregon vs Florida State or Michigan State vs Baylor. Some games will be offensive shootouts, like Texas A&M vs West Virginia. Some games might peak your fancy if you’re some kind of masochist, like South Alabama vs Bowling Green (yes this is an actual bowl matchup). With bowl season kicking off Saturday, and LTP’s Bowl Mania (it’s a confidence pool where you pick the winner and assign points to each pick – sign up here on ESPN.com and look for the group name LakeThePosts) about to ruin my credibility as a football analyst, it’s time to rank all 39 bowl games. With help from Megan O’Brien, we’ve done that for you. Enjoy games 39-21. The top 20 will run on Friday. Let’s get it on.
39: Hawai’i Bowl
- Dec 24, 7 PM (ESPN)
- Fresno State (6-7, 5-3 MW) vs Rice (7-5, 5-3 C-USA)
- BG Ranking: 39
- MOB Ranking: 39
BG: By a unanimous selection, the Hawai’i Bowl is literally the worst bowl game of the year, which doesn’t seem fair considering how sweet of a venue it is. But when you have one team that’s under .500 and another that has a total enrollment of under 5,000, it leads to a severe lack of hype.
MOB: I totally agree, Ben. For such an amazing venue, the Hawaii bowl is a complete let down. Fresno State and Rice, not a very exciting matchup. At one point, after beating Notre Dame, Northwestern was projected to be in this very bowl, but obviously that is not what happened. Attendance at the game will be low, but for the players, its a nice place to spend your winter break. I take Rice over Fresno in this matchup.
BG: There are literally two reasons to watch this game. First is that Rice has a walk-on running back who is 4-9. Second is that if you’re watching this game on a big enough TV with the heater turned on just high enough, you might actually be able to convince yourself that you’re in Hawaii. Or you’re just going to realize that you’re stuck in the Midwest in 20 degree weather and you get wrecked by Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. Give me Fresno. The day I pick Rice to win an athletic contest is the day I stop watching sports. Texas nerd schools deserve nothing.
38: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
- Dec 23, 8:30 PM (ESPN)
- Navy (7-5, Independent) vs San Diego State (7-5, 5-3 MW)
- BG Ranking: 38
- MOB Ranking: 37
MOB: The second worst bowl game of the year goes to the Poinsettia Bowl.
BG: Which begs the question: what is a Poinsettia?
MOB: Now, I only know this because when I was in junior high band, we had to sell Poinsettias to raise money. They are those red flowery plants that are around during this time of the year. Anyways, the second worst bowl game of the year. Now, Navy vs. Army is always a good game, which provides a little bit of false hope for the excitement behind this game, because there really isn’t much hype behind this matchup. San Diego State is at home, so the crowd will be alright, but the game itself won’t have much excitement.
BG: This is how Army-Navy games go. You turn it on because it’s midshipmen vs cadets and it’s the best atmosphere in sports. Then you realize that two teams are running the triple option and your eyes start bleeding. Having sat through that NU vs Army game 4 years ago, or whenever because I’ve purged it from memory, I am not about to watch another game of triple option football if I can at all help it. Navy’s coach’s accessories almost make me want to catch 5 minutes of this one.
MOB: I’ll take San Diego State
37: R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
- Dec 20, 10 AM (ESPN)
- Nevada (7-5, 4-4 MW) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4, 7-1 Sun Belt)
- BG Ranking: 36
- MOB Ranking: 38
BG: This year’s curtain raiser of bowl season clocks in at 37th in our power rankings, which is a criminally high rating for this one. I feel like Louisiana-Lafayette nearly beat some SEC teams once so I guess there’s something.
MOB: I remember when Northwestern beat an SEC team two year ago in the Gator Bowl… good times!
BG: WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THAT. The only reason to watch this one is that it’s the first game of bowl season, so you’re going to be in college football withdrawl. I guess Nevada wins because Colin Kaepernick went there a long time ago. (Cue “I’m The Man” music)
MOB: Sorry Ben, didn’t mean to get you down. By the time the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl rolls around we will all be missing college football. Other than that, not much reason to watch. I’ll take Louisiana-Lafayette, I guess.
BG: RAGIN CAJUNS BABY.
36: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
- Dec 20, 4:45 PM (ESPN)
- Western Michigan (8-6, 6-2 MAC) vs Air Force (9-3, 5-3 MW)
- BG Ranking: 37
- MOB Ranking: 36
MOB: The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl! Again, the first day of the Bowl games, so I guess if you are so hyped from the Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette game you could flip this one on.
BG: Do you think of the Potato Bowl as a bowl made of potatoes or a bowl filled with potatoes? Does it matter? I’d like to think so. It could be like a bread bowl, but more ridiculous.
MOB: I always tell myself I’m being environmentally friendly to make myself feel better when I consume an entire bread bowl with broccoli cheddar soup at Panera. But anyways, back to things that matter, the Potato Bowl, not a whole lot to be excited about except for the whole first day of bowl games thing. I ‘ll take Western Michigan.
BG: Here’s the weird thing: this game has really good history. Matt Ryan, Branden Oliver, and Colin Kaepernick have all been MVPs of this game. Is it weird that I knew that? Almost definitely. Never watch triple option teams. Never pick triple option teams. Never run the triple option. Directional Michigan wins by 10.
T-34: Gildan New Mexico Bowl
- Dec 20, 1:20 PM (ESPN)
- Utah State (9-4, 6-2 MW) vs UTEP (7-5, 5-3 C-USA)
- BG Ranking: 35
- MOB Ranking: 34
BG: We’ve failed Megan. This was supposed to tell the people what games to prioritize over another, and we have our first of more than a few ties. Let’s look at Utah State vs UTEP first. Now I’ve been to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. And I can say that El Paso is a boring town. So I’m avoiding picking UTEP in this one. Is there a worse conference than Conference USA? I don’t think I care enough to find out.
MOB: I sure hope there isn’t a worse conference. I can’t say that I have been to either El Paso or Utah for that matter. I think the coolest thing about the New Mexico Bowl is that the winner takes home a 20-inch piece of Zia Pueblo pottery as the trophy. Not only that, but the pottery is painted with Pueblo symbols, the New Mexico Bowl logo, football players, and the logos of the competing teams. That’s way cooler than just any trophy.
BG: Such are the steps taken to move a bowl game from “Dear God, why are you watching this?” to just “Why are you watching this?” I can dig it. This game also gets a bump from having a sponsor that I have no idea what it is. Who ya got?
MOB: I’m taking Utah State.
T-34: Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
- Dec 24, 11 AM (ESPN)
- Central Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4 C-USA)
- BG Ranking: 34
- MOB Ranking: 35
MOB: The Bahamas? I thought Hawaii was cool. AND Popeyes sponsors this one that’s just awesome. Ok, So back to Ben’s favorite conference, Conference USA facing off against the MAC. This one is played at 11am, and it’s on Christmas Eve, lets be real, the day is getting better when the game is over. Hit snooze, catch the fourth quarter, and grab some Popeyes chicken and this one will be worth it.
BG: This whole game is a mess. First of all the stadium. Look at it.
“Hey is that a football game going on all the way over there?”
“Maybe. But I didn’t bring binoculars, so I’m not sure.”
Then there’s the fact that Popeyes is sponsoring this game. Are there even Popeyes in the Bahamas? Is there market demand for mid-tier fried chicken in the Bahamas? Then there’s Western Kentucky’s mascot, which is just an amorphous blob. I think that’s a good way to describe this game. An amorphous blob.
MOB: Woah, Ben, don’t be calling out Popeyes. The chicken is not that bad. But I must say, now this stadium is on my list of places to visit just because I would like to run on that track. The game will be an amorphous blob, that is for sure. Who ya got?
BG: Hilltoppers. Because what the hell is a hilltopper? Also Central Michigan lost 40-3 to freaking Syracuse.
MOB: I think the view of this game from the stadium might look like you’re watching from the top of a hill. That is a hill that is very, very, far away. So, I guess I will take them too.
33: Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
- Dec 20, 8:15 PM (ESPN)
- South Alabama (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) vs Bowling Green (7-6, 5-3 MAC)
- BG Ranking: 33
- MOB Ranking: 33
BG: I have so, so many questions. How did this game make it out of the bottom five in our rankings? How is South Alabama 6-6? How in a world where these teams can play in a bowl game did NU miss out on bowl games in back to back years? What is a Camellia? What is Raycom Media? WHY IS THIS IN PRIMETIME? Megan, help.
MOB: I have been asking myself the NU question a lot today. I can’t really come up for answers to any of those questions and I am not sure if it is because my brain is fried from finals or because I don’t think there is an answer. ESPN got this one wrong though. Primetime for the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl is just not right.
BG: Wouldn’t you love to try and get your team pumped for this one if your Bowling Green’s head coach? “GUYS WE GET TO GO TO MONTGOMERY AND PLAY SOUTH ALABAMA!” Do we have to, coach? Well I don’t. Bowling Green wins. Yay, MAC, yay Mick McCall’s old stomping grounds. Yippee.
MOB: On the plus side, either team has the chance to set a record for the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl because this is the first time the bowl will be played. Bowling Green wins. Mighty MAC conference! Woo!
32: Miami Beach Bowl
- Dec 22, 1 PM (ESPN)
- BYU (8-4 Independent) vs Memphis (9-3, 7-1 American)
- BG Ranking: 32
- MOB Ranking: 31
MOB: Our first legitimate matchup! If your eyes are done bleeding from December 20th, you should flip on this game. BYU has had a pretty decent program and plus, Super Bowl MVP Steve Young once played at BYU. I think BYU wins this one, but it will be a close game with legitimate teams, FINALLY!
BG: Finally is right. Memphis had that short time when DeAngelo Williams was there and they were really good not too long ago. The big story here is that these teams don’t suck. BYU I think is the underdog, but they knocked off Texas and Cal. Memphis very nearly beat UCLA. I like Memphis in this one, but more than anything, I’m just liking that there’s good football. December 20th is straight from football hell.
MOB: Yes, Ben is right. Watch on the 20th just enough that you get your taste of college football, but the real stuff starts on the 22nd with this game.
T-30: Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
- Dec 26, 7 PM (ESPN)
- NC State (7-5, 3-5 ACC) vs UCF (9-3, 7-1 American)
- BG Ranking: 31
- MOB Ranking: 30
MOB: When I think of NC State, I get giddy for baseball because that’s where the White Sox top prospect, Carlos Rodon pitched, and word on the street is that Rodon will be in the bullpen this season! WOO! Anyways, I guess NC State has football too…. This one should be a decent matchup. UCF beat BYU and played very well against Penn State. NC State had an alright year. They played alright against Florida State, but then again, I feel like every team plays well against the Seminoles.
BG: Well neither of these teams are good. UCF might have won 9 games, but they lost to UCONN. You don’t lose to UCONN. UCONN’s only other win was a 3 point win over Stony Brook. I didn’t know Stony Brook could field a football team. NC State meanwhile got to 7 by beating 7 bad teams. It’s kind of a dead game, but at least there is some power conference talent on the field. Give me State.
MOB: I feel like if I don’t pick State, I am being disloyal to Rodon, so NC State it is. GO PACK.
T-30: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
- Dec 20, 2:30 PM (ABC)
- Utah (8-4, 5-4 Pac 12) vs Colorado State (10-2, 6-2 MW)
- BG Ranking: 29
- MOB Ranking: 32
BG: This is actually a good game. Utah has some awfully good wins this year. Colorado State has a top 10 passing attack. There could be some points put up in this one. If you’re going to catch a game on the 20th, make sure it’s this one.
MOB: Ben, you’re so right. The saving grace of December 20th. This is the game you have to watch on that day. Utah beat USC, UCLA, and Stanford this year. I’m taking the Utes.
BG: Definitely the safe pick. Beyond just the game, the fact that this is played in Las Vegas makes it just that more interesting. I’m glad I’m not coaching either of these teams. Something about college kids and Vegas would make me pretty nervous.
MOB: I agree, but you know what they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I wonder how the NCAA would feel about that. Just kidding!
29: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
- Jan 2, 11 AM (ESPN)
- Houston (7-5, 5-3 American) vs Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
- BG Ranking: 30
- MOB Ranking: 28
BG: It’s time to have a serious discussion, Megan. Why are games like this allowed to be played after New Year’s Day? Why did you rank this above Utah vs Colorado State?
MOB: Now that I am looking this I don’t know what I was thinking. Well, actually I do. I remember last year when Notre Dame lost to Pitt and it was disgusting, but ever since that loss I have always semi-considered Pitt as a threat, but that’s just because I can still hear the echos of both my father and sister screaming at the TV during that game.
BG: I’m excited to see part two of “Games That For Some Reason Are Sponsored by the Military Industrial Complex.” Lockheed Martin should be building mach-speed helicopters that fly themselves instead of sponsoring bowl games. Pitt nearly beat Duke and can run the ball, so I guess they win. This game might be over ranked on our part.
MOB: We overhyped this one. Sorry, guys. I second the Pitt motion.
28: Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
- Dec 27, 12 PM (ESPN)
- Cincinnati (9-3, 7-1 American) vs Virginia Tech (6-6, 3-5 ACC)
- BG Ranking: 27
- MOB Ranking: 29
MOB: Northrop Grumman, they are located in Chicago, so that’s cool!
BG: I want to see a Northrop Grumman vs Lockheed Martin Bowl Game. Last team standing gets a military contract.
MOB: Now, that I would love to see! Cincinnati had a pretty good year. Virginia Tech, eh not great, but they beat Duke. I think this one is actually going to be a pretty close game. Again major conference action. I’m gonna go with Cincinnati in this one.
BG: Yeah it’s gotta be Cincy. Va Tech doesn’t get into this bowl game if Ohio State didn’t play an absolutely abysmal game against them. Remember when these teams were really good? It feels so long ago…
27: AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
- Dec 29, 8 PM (ESPN)
- Arkansas (6-6, 2-6 SEC) vs Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12)
- BG Ranking: 28
- MOB Ranking: 27
BG: The Big 8 is getting back together for one week only, and you’re invited. Texas is nothing short of a disaster area right now. Charlie Strong might get it done, but he’s a long way away from where Texas should be. The fact that these two teams are just 6-6 doesn’t feel right.
MOB: I have a really hard time understanding why Texas has not been good as of late. I feel like they should be rubbing elbows with Baylor and TCU, but I digress. Good conference matchup. Despite the possibility of some atrocious football, this one should be pretty close. I’m taking the Longhorns.
BG: I’m taking Arkansas. The Big 12 doesn’t believe in defense. Arkansas can stifle just about anyone in the entire country. If the Razorbacks can score 14, they’re going to win this one. Woo Pig Suey. What a weird freaking chant that is.
T-25: GoDaddy Bowl
- Jan 4, 8 PM (ESPN)
- Toledo (8-4, 7-1 MAC) vs Arkansas State (7-5, 5-3 Sun Belt)
- BG Ranking: 25
- MOB Ranking: 25
(This is where a GoDaddy ad would go, but it was deemed “unsavory”)
MOB: That same question comes up again. Why is this being played after New Years? Also, I think we may have overhyped this one too. Toledo, well, I guess they played well in Conference, but outside of the MAC, I don’t think they can handle much. Arkansas State lost to Texas State and Appalachian State. I guess both teams are about equal so it could be pretty close.
BG: We screwed up again, Megan. I can’t even blame you, because we both ranked this game the exact same. Toledo is a top 20 offense, so you gotta figure that they’re going to light up the scoreboard. I guess the sponsor should make this interesting, or at least the commercial break.
MOB:GoDaddy has the best commercials so that alone give you a reason to watch. I hope Toledo has some “Holy Toledo” moments because I live for corny jokes like that. I take Toledo because I like the MAC today.
BG: Toledo hangs 45, wins easy.
T-25: Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
- Dec 26, 12 PM (ESPN)
- Illinois (6-6) vs Louisiana Tech (8-5, 7-1 C-USA)
- BG Ranking: 24
- MOB Ranking: 26
BG: What is a Zaxby? Who knows! IT’S INTRIGUE!
MOB: I feel really bad for knowing this, but Zaxby’s is fried chicken. The further we get into this article the more I am revealing to the world how much I enjoy food that is bad for me. Popeyes, bread bowls, Zaxby’s… Whatever, I run so it’s fine, right? But, Ben, we have made it to our first B1G bowl game, and this one stings a little bit. Illinois vs. your favorite conference. Gosh, if Illinois doesn’t win this one, the Big Ten is in trouble.
BG: You can’t help but thinking about how NU would matchup in this game…moving on. Illinois can’t stop a nosebleed and La Tech does actually have a top half offense. I still think Illinois wins, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t.
MOB: Well, on the plus side, Lousiana State already lost to Northwestern this year… oh wait, that’s Northwestern State. Well, GO ILLINI! Should be a close one.
24: New Era Pinstripe Bowl
- Dec 27, 3:30 PM (ESPN)
- Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC) vs Penn State (6-6, 2-6 B1G)
- BG Ranking: 26
- MOB Ranking: 23
MOB: New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Well, I know why I will be watching this one. Maybe if I squint my eyes, get out some peanuts, and grill up a dog, I can pretend like they are playing baseball at Yankee Stadium.
BG: The way Penn State struggles to score, the final score may look a lot like a Yankees-Red Sox game. Words cannot express how boring this game will be. Penn State can’t score. BC can only run. The field will be a mud bowl by the end of the first quarter. I hate the Pinstripe Bowl, I hate this matchup. BC wins because they score a touchdown early, which will be an insurmountable lead. Wake me up for the night game.
MOB: I agree with you, Ben. This one is going to be ugly. However, I do like that it is ACC vs. B1G. I’ll take the Eagles as well.
23: Quick Lane Bowl
- Dec 26, 3:30 PM (ESPN)
- Rutgers (7-5, 3-5 B1G) vs North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
- BG Ranking: 23
- MOB Ranking: 24
BG: It hurts me deeply that Rutgers is in a bowl game. They don’t deserve it. Not after this being their first year in the conference. Not after them being bad at football. Not ever.
MOB: Well, doesn’t this game earn points for having a name not tied to a place? Or does it lose points? UNC should put up some points. Another game where the B1G team is an underdog.
BG: And rightfully so. Gimme NC and the points, even though I don’t know what the spread is
22: TaxSlayer Bowl
- Jan 2, 2:20 PM (ESPN)
- Iowa (7-5, 4-4 B1G) vs Tennessee (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
- BG Ranking: 22
- MOB Ranking: 22
BG: Good memories of this bowl game for NU fans. The Gator Bowl was a fun time. Which Iowa team shows up? The one that pounded NU into the dirt? Or the one that got taken behind the woodshed by Minnesota? Some decent storylines here.
MOB: The Gator Bowl was a great time. I think the thing that stands out to me about Iowa, is with the exception of the Minnesota game, they have played pretty well in just about every game. Tennessee beat Kentucky 50-16 and if that team shows up, I think Iowa is going to be challenged.
BG: Tennessee has the second best fight song. But even that won’t save them. Maybe it’s a heart over head pick, but I like Iowa to save some B1G face.
MOB: So you’re saying Michigan number one fight song? Because I have to go Notre Dame, Michigan, then Tennessee, followed by Northwestern, of course. I’m taking Iowa as well because I’m B1G biased.
BG: OH I WISH THAT I WAS ON OLE ROCKY TOP DOWN IN THE TENNESSEE HILLS!!! Look into your heart. You know it’s better than Notre Dame’s.
21: VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
- Dec 31, 3 PM (ESPN)
- Boise State (11-2, 7-1 MW) vs Arizona (10-3, 7-2 Pac 12)
- BG Ranking: 21
- MOB Ranking: 21
MOB: VIZIO. I like their TVs. The price is right, the quality is, ya know, whatever, but it’s still a flat screen so that means they are kinda nice, right? This is the best matchup so far. I am still wondering how Arizona beat Oregon, but I guess that just shows this team can play when they want to.
BG: The resurrection of Rich Rod continues. After such an abysmal tenure at Michigan, he’s landed on his feet down in the southwest. This game shouldn’t be close. Arizona is clearly the better team. But Boise State has pulled the upset before, and they’ve done it in this bowl game. Maybe history repeats itself in Tempe.
MOB: I have been playing this far too safe. I am taking Boise State with the upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw overtime action in this game. Expect a fight till the end finish.
BG: There we go. I’m not as much fun. Unless Arizona are still hungover from their loss to Oregon, they’re going to win this one going away. A good game to end part 1, Megan.
MOB: Ben, it’s always a pleasure. Looking forward to part 2.