10. Heart of Dallas Bowl (Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech)
I would rather go to jail than watch this game. How Illinois managed to win six games is a phenomenon that will be studied by science for years to come, and Tim Beckman’s men are somehow 6-point underdogs to Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs, by the way, lost five starters due to academic ineligibility last week.
9. Quick Lane Bowl (Rutgers vs. North Carolina)
Narrowly edged out for the No. 8 spot, mainly because this telecast is liable to have the worst B-roll of any bowl game. If you’re into discussions about academic and administrative scandals (and let’s be real, who isn’t?), this is the game for you.
8. Pinstripe Bowl (Penn State vs. Boston College)
This is probably the most unwatchable bowl in terms of what the on-field product will look like, but given the setting and the programs involved I’ll still be drawn to it like a moth to the zapper. Penn State boasts the No. 1 rushing defense in the country, and Boston College’s pass offense is ranked No. 121. That bodes well for the Nittany Lions until you remember that their offensive line hasn’t changed. Of the 38 (!!!) bowl games, this is the only one where the over/under (39.5) is less than 40 points. Woof city.
7. Foster Farms Bowl (Maryland vs. Stanford)
This poor bowl has gone through six names since its inception in 2002 and the latest branding effort might be the worst. The others, for the record: San Francisco Bowl, Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Fight Hunger Bowl. How many times can a bowl lose a sponsor? Bring back the Emerald Nuts commercials! Anyways, I don’t want to see 2014 Maryland play football again this season. Once was enough.
6. Taxslayer Bowl (Iowa vs. Tennessee)
Life is all about managing expectations, and this bowl is an interesting case study in that regard. Iowa paid Kirk Ferentz $3.55 million to turn one of the nation’s easiest schedules into a 7-5 record. Butch Jones, on the other hand, entered this fall with one of the youngest teams in the country and probably overachieved by taking the Vols to a bowl game. This also might be the best pregame people watching of any bowl game, assuming the two fan bases interact with each other.
5. Citrus Bowl (Minnesota vs. Missouri)
Not sure how a game featuring the Big Ten Coach of the Year isn’t higher, but life isn’t fair. This matchup offers the Big Ten one of its best chances to land a solid blow with a win against an SEC team. The Tigers won the SEC East but word on the street is that it’s possible for a Big Ten team to beat them.
4. Outback Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Auburn)
Poor Wisconsin. After losing 59-0 to Ohio State, the Badgers get to spend the next three weeks reliving their shortcomings while preparing to take on another offensive power. Despite the disaster in Indianapolis, I think this will be a great game.
3. Holiday Bowl (Nebraska vs. USC)
I can’t explain why I’m excited for this one. Logically, it feels like it should be sixth or so. But if it came on at the same time as the above games, this is the one I’d watch. Morbid curiosity? Some sort of traditional power bias? Actually, growing up in Louisiana means I’ve seen more Florida-based Big Ten-SEC bowl matchups than anyone should ever be subjected to.
Also, ZOO VISITS
2. Cotton Bowl (Michigan State vs. Baylor)
I would pay actual money to watch this game, even in the form of a television PPV. This is by far the best non-playoff matchup, and games like this are why I’m glad the committee was tasked with all of the New Year’s Eve/Day bowls. In all likelihood, this game would not have happened last year. There is no shortage of storylines related to the game itself, and on top of that, the Spartans get a chance to make a big statement for the conference for the second straight season.
1. Sugar Bowl (Ohio State vs. Alabama)
Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer with a trip to the title game on the line. Yeah, I guess I’ll watch that.