Dienhart: Ranking the Bowls, from 1-35

The Poulan-Weedeater Bowl is long gone, unfortunately. But there is no shortage of bowl action. To get you ready for a holiday feast of 35 bowls, following is a ranking of the bowls from best to worst. With so many postseason games, you have to choose wisely with time at a minimum during this busy time of year.

1. All State BCS Title Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Alabama. It’s time to stop the criticism and embrace this for what it is—a matchup between the two best teams in America. And that’s exactly what the BCS formula is supposed to do. Defense can be a beautiful thing. Just watch.

2. Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin. I can’t wait to see these two offenses lock horns. The sheer power of the Badgers against the sheer speed of the Ducks. Last team with the ball wins.

3. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford. Brandon Weeden vs. Andrew Luck. Does it get any better? Just hope the Pokes will be motivated after thinking they belong in the title game.

4. Outback Bowl, Jan. 2: Georgia vs. Michigan State. Gotta love watching these two great defenses and great quarterbacks face off. The Spartans look to make amends for last year’s poor outing vs. Alabama.

5. All State Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan. Can’t wait to see defensive coordinators Greg Mattison (Michigan) and Bud Foster (Virginia Tech) match wits. No one envisioned the Wolverines being here. Do the Hokies belong over K-State or TCU? Debatable.

6. Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2: South Carolina vs. Nebraska. Neither offense is great, so it will come down which defense can make the most plays.

7. Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen (WVU head coach) vs. Chad Morris (Clemson OC). Enough said. Buckle up, as the Tigers make their first BCS appearance.

8. Champs Sports Bowl: Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State. Two iconic programs coming off disappointing seasons. Still, the brand names make this a must-watch as each builds for tomorrow.

9. Valero Alamo Bowl: Dec. 29: Baylor vs. Washington. Probably the last chance to watch Bear QB Robert Griffin one last time. Poor Husky defense. But Washington has a dynamic quarterback, too, in Keith Price.

10. Insight Bowl, Dec. 30: Oklahoma vs. Iowa. Remember when the Sooners were No. 1 and a legit national title contender? That was a long time ago. Still, this should be a good offensive battle with each defense struggling.

11. TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State. A rematch of the BCS title game after the 2006 season. Even juicer: Urban Meyer’s new team vs. his old team. But Meyer won’t be on the sideline in this battle of 6-6 teams.

12. ATT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 6: Arkansas vs. Kansas State. The Wildcats aren’t pretty, but they do more with less than anyone else in the nation. Can they deal with the Hogs’ speed?

13. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 30: Tulsa vs. BYU. If you like offense, you’ll like this. Could be a four-hour game with all the passes.

14. TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State. I wanna see the Cougar offense vs. the Nittany Lion defense. But I wonder if Kevin Sumlin will be coaching Houston, which was one win from likely playing in the Sugar Bowl. This was a far drop. Penn State also fell in the bowl pecking order, but for other reasons.

15. Belk Bowl, Dec. 27: N.C. State vs. Louisville. Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien needs this one. No one wins uglier than the Cardinals, led by rising star coach Charlie Strong.

16. Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31: Auburn vs. Virginia. Why isn’t UVa’s Mike London getting more national coach of the year love? Life without Cam Newton finds the Tigers way out of the spotlight.

17. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28: Texas vs. Cal. One last chance for the Longhorns to figure out their offense. Ah, forget it.

18. Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31: Utah vs. Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jacket option offense can be a thing of beauty. Do the Utes wanna be here after just missing the Pac-12 title game?

19. MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Dec. 22: Boise State vs. Arizona State. To quote Barry Switzer, I think the Broncos are gonna “hang half a hundred” on the Sun Devils.

20. Military Bowl, Dec. 28: Air Force vs. Toledo. Two of the best coaches you never heard of—the Falcons’ Troy Calhoun and the Rockets’ Tim Beckman.

21. AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31: Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati. Two bowls in four years for Vandy, while the Bearcats almost got a BCS bid. Vandy’s James Franklin is a wunderkind.

22. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 21: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech. The Horned Frogs may be mad after missing out on the BCS. Look out for Sonny Dykes high-flying offense, which may do some damage to the Horned Frog defense.

23. Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 17: Wyoming vs. Temple. I love watching Dave Christensen’s offenses. The Owls have better talent and probably should have won the MAC.

24. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 26: North Carolina vs. Missouri. The Tigers’ last game as a member of the Big 12. It’s all about building toward 2012. This may be Everett Withers’ last game as coach of UNC, a school with so much talent that seemingly underachieves each year.

25. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24: Southern Miss vs. Nevada. Bring your calculator, as the points will come fast. Will Larry Fedora be on the sideline for Southern Miss?

26. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 31: Northwestern vs. Texas A&M. It’s eight bowl losses in a row for the Wildcats, who could feast on a floundering Aggie team that has fired coach Mike Sherman.

27. New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30: Iowa State vs. Rutgers. This quickly is becoming one of my favorite bowls. And we get to watch the Cyclone’ Paul Rhoads—the most underrated coach in America—do this stuff in Gotham.

28. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 17: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. San Diego State. I love what Mark Hudspeth has done, as he has the school in its first bowl since 1970. Yes, you read that correctly.

29. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Dec. 31: UCLA vs. Illinois. Ron Zook already is gone. Will the Bruins be motivated to win one more for Rick Neuheisel, who has been fired but will coach this game?

30. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30: Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State. This is an underrated Demon Deacon team that has something to prove vs. an SEC foe.

31. BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 7: Pitt vs. SMU. Pitt coach Todd Graham meets a former C-USA foe looking to end the season an up note.

32. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dec. 17: Utah State vs. Ohio. Could this be Frank Solich’s last game? Some think he may retire.

33. Little Caesars Bowl, Dec. 27: Purdue vs. Western Michigan. Can the Boilermakers keep up with the high-charged Bronco offense? Inconsistency—and injuries—have hurt Purdue.

34. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Dec. 20: Marshall vs. Florida International. Another chance for FIU coach Mario Cristobal to show how good he is for this rising program.

35. GoDaddy.com Bowl, Jan. 8: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State. Dave Doeren is looking to cap a spectacular debut season in DeKalb.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Got something to tell him about this post? He wants to hear about it. Follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart or send a question to his weekly mailbag here. You can also subscribe to his RSS feed.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (18 Comments)
SeaBass on 12/6/2011 @ 4:02pm EDT Said:

Sorry Dienhart, I along with many others will be boycotting the NCG. It’s not an interesting matchup, in fact sequels are rarely better than the original. I really don’t have a problem with rematches in the title game but they just played less than 4 weeks ago. Had they met up earlier I would feel different but like I said, they just played and not much has changed over the course of 4 weeks.

huskerred on 12/6/2011 @ 4:31pm EDT Said:

Mr. Dienhart your statement with the BCS Championship game is complexing at best. If viewed that the two most deserving teams should meet in a championship game, then “body of work” should be a relevant point. Would you not agree?

As sportswriter, Stewart Mandel, has pointed out the BCS system is flawed at best. Therefore, I say one of the America’s best team will be there and the other one got sold out just as Michigan did six years ago. The BCS needs to go! Being replaced by some sort of playoff (I say 8-team). Until then we are crowning Coaches and Sportwriters Champions; being my own personal belief.

Article can be seen at: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/stewart_mandel/11/27/bcs-sec-voters-rematch/index.html?eref=sircrc

Johnnyboiler on 12/6/2011 @ 4:33pm EDT Said:

There is only one Bowl. That is the Rose Bowl period.

aroznowski on 12/6/2011 @ 5:03pm EDT Said:

The Fiesta, Outback, and Cotton Bowls all have better matchups than the Rose Bowl. We will just have to wait and see what folks have to say after Oregon’s high-tempo, lightning-fast offense wears out and runs all over the Badgers’ defense to the point that the Ducks begin to easily pull away for the victory.

beavwarius on 12/6/2011 @ 10:50pm EDT Said:

badger o-line will wear down quacks. lots of points in first half. badgers win 48-35. big ten should do well this year.lots of good matchups. hunger bowl,and pinstripe bowl should be at bottom of this list.

David on 12/7/2011 @ 8:02am EDT Said:

Why so hard on Poulan-Weedeater? They saved the Independence Bowl, which by the way is still in existence.

shaney711 on 12/7/2011 @ 1:31pm EDT Said:

The Ticket City Bowl (AKA mini Cotton Bowl) is one of the best match ups. Both Houston and Penn St. could be in a so called higher bowl but playing in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 with a Heisman QB on one side vs. a top 10 defense on the other should be fun to watch…..much more than the few bowls you have ranked higher in your pecking order ( taxslayer, Champs, helicopter, Insight and even the Sugar, who has 2 teams that are there for money and political reasons)

Randy on 12/7/2011 @ 10:27pm EDT Said:

I won’t be watching this bogus national championship game. College football is no longer fun now that there isn’t even an attempt to hide the corruption.

bob jones on 12/8/2011 @ 12:09pm EDT Said:

I am of agreement with many others about the NCS rematch. I could care less. Partly because we have already seen it and Alabama doesn’t deserve a rematch, they had their shot and lost, there are other deserving teams that should have gotten a chance, and partly because the media [mostly ESPN] have pushed so hard for “their” dream rematch. The fools keep tweaking their nonsensical BCS formula instead of fixing the problem very simply with a playoff, and no, not a one-plus game. It would actually make a lot of these insignificant, non-watchable bowl games relevant if it were an elimination game. If I take my car in because the transmission is out, I don’t want them checking the tires to see if that fixes the problem, and when that doesn’t work, don’t see if cleaning the windshield fixes the problem. In other words, address the problem, don’t dishonestly mess around with some nonsensical tweeks, hoping that will quiet the critics. Get a damn playoff, it works, it’s exciting and every other sport, including FCS and lower divisions in football do it. But that makes too much sense, and you don’t see many sensible solutions to problems anywhere anymore.

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/8/2011 @ 7:27pm EDT Said:

    I disagree. I think Bama and LSU clearly are the two best teams. It doesn’t matter if they already have played. That’s the ONLY thing the BCS formula is supposed to tell us: What are the two best teams? Period. Oklahoma State lost to a 6-6 Iowa State team. You think the Pokes REALLY are one of the two best teams in the nation? C’mon. Bama lost 9-6 in OT to the No. 1 team in the nation for its lone loss.

      SeaBass on 12/8/2011 @ 7:39pm EDT Said:

      The Pokes only loss was on a day a bunch of people from their school died. Bama lost in their own house. Yes, I think OK State is the second best team in the country.

      Clearly we should just get rid of all of college football and just watch the SEC since they are so clearly better than the rest of them.

      Do you think Ohio State and Michigan should have rematched in ’06?

Scott on 12/16/2011 @ 4:33pm EDT Said:

The godaddy.com bowl at #35?!? Most other “rank the bowls” articles accurately put that game somewhere between 10th-15th in importance. It features two 10+ win teams, both with high-scoring offenses, both teams being conference champs.


    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/20/2011 @ 10:08am EDT Said:

    Northern Illinois and Arkansas State each did have fine seasons. I probably should have had this game a bit higher. I really like what Dave Doeren is doing at NIU. He had a great debut season and building on a strong foundation laid by Jerry Kill. Too bad Arkansas State saw coach Hugh Freeze take the Ole Miss job, but the school rebounded well by hiring Auburn OC Gus Malzahn!!! What a hirer!!!!

Nathan on 12/16/2011 @ 5:13pm EDT Said:

Godaddy.com should be much much much higher. That game features two of the hottest teams in the nation that both won their conference championships. It might end up being the most exciting, most competitive bowl game. Id place it somewhere around #10.

Scott on 12/16/2011 @ 5:55pm EDT Said:

We need to go to the 16 team playoff, with each FBS conference champ getting an automatic slot.

Death to the BCS!

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/20/2011 @ 10:02am EDT Said:

    Changes to the BCS look to be coming, as the system may just be used to determine who will play in the national title game. But a playoff? In the near future? I don’t see it.

HMM on 12/16/2011 @ 6:56pm EDT Said:

Sorry, the Kraft Fight for a Winning Record Bowl should be dead last. What a horrible game and a joke that UCLA is allowed to play in the game. ILL should have declined the invite as well due to their 6 game losing streak and lack of a head coach. Disgusting.

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/20/2011 @ 10:01am EDT Said:

    If you watch this game, there’s a special place in football heaven for you!! UCLA will be the first team EVER to play in a bowl with a losing record. Oh, and the Bruins have allowed an aggregate 99 points in their last two games. And Illinois comes in rising a six-game losing streak. Want more? Each team will be led by an interim head coach.