College football's sprawling bowl season is back again, with 40 FBS games available for your viewing between Dec. 15 and the Playoff National Championship on Jan. 7. It's a lot to take in. While all bowl games are good, there's a ton of football for ...
College football’s sprawling bowl season is back again, with 40 FBS games available for your viewing between Dec. 15 and the Playoff National Championship on Jan. 7.
It’s a lot to take in. While all bowl games are good, there’s a ton of football for you, the consumer, to take in this time of year. All of the lower-division college playoffs are going on, too, while the NFL’s still in the stretch drive of its regular season.
So if you’re not just going to watch every bowl — which is a great plan, if you can — it’s best to be smart about how you’re spending your TV time. That’s why SB Nation brings you this BOWL WATCHABILITY RANKING every year. A big group of us gets together and ranks all 39 pre-championship bowls on a watchability scale from 1 (bad) to 5 (amazing).
These are the results, averaged out after 13 of us voted: the games we think will be tremendous TV, the ones that will be solid, and the ones that will be ... football games.
Orange Bowl semifinal: Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Dec. 29Watchability score: 4.8
Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. UCF, Jan. 1Watchability score: 4.8
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington, Jan. 1Watchability score: 4.8
Cotton Bowl semifinal: Clemson vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 29Watchability score: 4.5
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Texas, Jan. 1Watchability score: 4.5
Bama-Oklahoma is by far the sexier of the two Playoff semifinals, with the two best offenses in the country and Oklahoma’s defense sure to provide us with a lot of points. But Clemson-Notre Dame has its own positive attributes and should be a fine other semi.
LSU-UCF has less subtext than UCF playing in-state Florida would have, but it’s still juicy to have the Knights going up against a big, bad SEC team known for its physicality. It’ll be fun to watch it dawn on LSU fans that UCF is also really strong and really fast.
The national title game will also be in this group, of course.
Camping World Bowl: Syracuse vs. West Virginia, Dec. 28Watchability score: 4.2
Music City Bowl: Auburn vs. Purdue, Dec. 28Watchability score: 3.9
Alamo Bowl: Iowa State vs. Washington State, Dec. 28Watchability score: 3.8
Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. Houston, Dec. 22Watchability score: 3.5
New Mexico Bowl: North Texas vs. Utah State, Dec. 15Watchability score: 3.4
A couple of all-mid-major games crash the party here, and with good reason.
Army-Houston loses a good bit of luster because Cougars QB D’Eriq King is injured and star DT Ed Oliver won’t play in the bowl as he gets set for the NFL Draft. But UH remains one of the most talented Group of 5 teams, and Army’s efficient triple-option game almost beat Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, North Texas-Utah State is a battle of one team that pulled off an audacious FAKE FAIR CATCH and another that was good enough to get its coach hired by Texas Tech.
Quick Lane Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Minnesota, Dec. 26Watchability score: 3.3
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Fresno State, Dec. 15Watchability score: 3.3
Gator Bowl: NC State vs. Texas A&M, Dec. 31Watchability score: 3.2
Citrus Bowl: Kentucky vs. Penn State, Jan. 1Watchability score: 3.2
This is a nice grab bag.
One is Paul Johnson’s last game as a head coach. Another features Jeff Tedford and Herm Edwards, who both had good seasons coaching college football in the year 2018.
In NC State-A&M and Kentucky-Penn State, nothing jumps out and thrills you, but the quality of play should be strong.
First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. Boise State, Dec. 26Watchability score: 2.8
Redbox Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon, Dec. 31Watchability score: 2.8
Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin, Dec. 27Watchability score: 2.8
Peach Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan, Dec. 29Watchability score: 2.8
New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Middle Tennessee, Dec. 15,Watchability score: 2.8
Florida-Michigan is horrible by the standards of a New Year’s Six game, in large part because the teams have played in two of the last four seasons. Boston College has faded in recent weeks, making the First Responder Bowl less enticing. Miami-Wisconsin is mostly sad, because they were playing in the Orange just a year ago. Appalachian State’s fun to watch and has a great defense, giving the New Orleans a boost.
Camellia Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Georgia Southern, Dec. 15Watchability score: 2.7
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 22Watchability score: 2.7
Liberty Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State, Dec. 31Watchability score: 2.7
Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 22Watchability score: 2.7
Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. UAB, Dec. 18Watchability score: 2.6
We might have been too low as a group on Missouri-Oklahoma State. The Tigers are better than they got credit for in a division Georgia dominated, and the Cowboys are unpredictable — maybe terrible, but maybe both good and fun. It depends on the day!
Sun Bowl: Pitt vs. Stanford, Dec. 31Watchability score: 2.6
Potato Bowl: BYU vs. Western Michigan, Dec. 21Watchability score: 2.6
Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo vs. Troy, Dec. 22Watchability score: 2.5
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. Mississippi State, Jan. 1Watchability score: 2.5
Military Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 31Watchability score: 2.4
Every game in this little group has upside. Pitt can be loads of fun. WMU has a top-40 offense to put up against BYU’s top-30 defense. Buffalo and Troy have both won games in Big Ten stadiums. Iowa’s actually fun on offense now, and MSU has a great defense. The Virginia Tech-Cincy meetup is cool because it’ll officially make Tech’s bowl streak 26 years, the longest postseason run going.
Belk Bowl: Virginia vs. South Carolina, Dec. 29Watchability score: 2.1
Cheez-It Bowl: Cal vs. TCU, Dec. 26Watchability score: 2.1
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt, Dec. 27Watchability score: 2.1
Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Nevada, Dec. 29Watchability score: 2.0
Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. USF, Dec. 20Watchability score: 2.0
Independence Bowl: Duke vs. Temple, Dec. 27Watchability score: 2.0
Holiday Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah, Dec. 31Watchability score: 1.9
Cure Bowl: Tulane vs. UL Lafayette, Dec. 15Watchability score: 1.9
Frisco Bowl: Ohio vs. San Diego State, Dec. 19Watchability score: 1.8
There’s a strong chance that one of these games turns out to be good. Best not to bank on any more than that, and I could never tell a person in good conscience that they needed to invest three hours of their time in any of these. Northwestern-Utah should be rated X.
The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: FIU vs. Toledo, Dec. 21Watchability score: 1.7
Yeah, that’s real.
Your voting panel: Alex Kirshner, Jason Kirk, Bill Connelly, Steven Godfrey, Morgan Moriarty, Richard Johnson, Ryan Nanni, Harry Lyles Jr., Charles McDonald, Caroline Darney, Matt Brown, Adam Stites, and Sarah Hardy. To the surprise of no one, Connelly rated the average game a 3.7, almost a full point higher than anyone else.
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