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Ranking The Bowl Games From Worst To Best: How Good Was Your Bowl?

College Football News logo College Football News 1/3/2019 Pete Fiutak
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How good were the bowl games? Ranking all the bowl games from the worst to the best.

There's still one to go, but the College Football Playoff National Championship isn't really a bowl. It's a national title game, the two playoff games were to keep the season alive, and the rest were one-off exhibitions.

It wasn't a strong bowl season. There weren't too many memorable moments, classic games, or phenomenal performances that will be remembered years from now - at least on the good side.

However, there were a few that set the bowl standard for ineptitude, pain and suffering.

To be reranked after what we can all hope and pray will be a special national championship, here's how good the bowl games were this season.

The Total Dud Bowls

These weren't just the worst games of this bowl season. These were among the worst things in the history of things.

39. Cheez-It Bowl

TCU 10, Cal 7 OT

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 36

It was expected to be one of the worst games of the bowl season, but this one took things to a whole other level. It'll forever be known as the standard to which all other bad bowl games will be measured - rat on your pop, and you'll have to watch the Cheez-It Bowl. It wouldn't die, going into overtime and closing out on a Horned Frog field goal after a missed kick kept this monstrosity going.

- 5 Thoughts on the Cheez-It Bowl

38. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Boise State vs. Boston College

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 7

It looked like one of the better bowl matchups going into the season, but the bowl quit on itself. Cancelled after a long lightning delay, there was no effort to make it up the next day when the weather was supposed to be perfect - it's not like there were a whole slew of fans that showed up to be inconvenienced. It got called after almost ten minutes - and it was still better than the Cheez-It Bowl.

- 5 Thoughts on the Cancellation Bowl

37. Frisco Bowl

Ohio 27, San Diego State 0

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 39

This was the least-interesting looking matchup before the bowl season for a reason - and about four people showed up to watch it in the rain. Ohio pitched a shutout, neither passing game worked, and San Diego State couldn't stop screwing up. The Aztecs turned it over four times, the defense didn't do enough, and it never got interesting.

- 5 Thoughts on the DXL Frisco Bowl

36. Belk Bowl

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 39

South Carolina … what the hell was that? Virginia's defense was dominant - holding the Gamecocks to 261 yards - and the O held on to the ball for almost 43 minutes. The USC defense was a wreck, allowing UVa to convert 11-of-17 third down chances.

- 5 Thoughts on the Belk Bowl

35. Goodyear Cotton Bowl

Clemson 30, Notre Dame 3

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 13

Clemson proved it was awesome, Notre Dame was exposed for being the pumped-up brand name team with the unbeaten record that it was, and it turned into a laugher at the end of the first half. The second half was a complete dud and disappointment.

- 5 Thoughts on the Cotton Bowl

34. Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Utah State 52, North Texas 13

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 2

A brutal disappointment, this was supposed to be a wild and crazy shootout, and only one side got the memo. Utah State lost head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech, and it didn't matter. The Aggies were up 38-7 in the first half, and North Texas stayed in the locker room.

- 5 Thoughts on the New Mexico Bowl

33. Quick Lane Bowl

Minnesota 34, Georgia Tech 10

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 24

Seriously, Georgia Tech. If you didn't want to play, you should've spoken up sooner. Head coach Paul Johnson went out with a crushing loss as his team with the vaunted ground game was outgained 260 rushing yards to 206. The Gophers got up 13-0 early in the second, and that was all they needed - they were never threatened.

- 5 Thoughts on the Quick Lane Bowl

32. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Appalachian State 45, Middle Tennessee 13

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 29

The hope was for a decent game despite the loss of Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville. The Mountaineers were really down and sad after the loss of their head man - for a quarter. They got behind 3-0, put up 24 in the second, and that was it. The ASU O got creative and fun in the blowout.

- 5 Thoughts on the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

31. New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Wisconsin 35, Miami 3

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 25

Wisconsin showed up, Miami didn't, it was chilly, the Canes couldn't do more than manage a field goal, they turned it over five times, they generated just 169 yards of total offense, the defense got destroyed by Jonathan Taylor and the Badger running game, and Mark Richt quit coaching.

- 5 Thoughts on the New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Bowl Games. No More, No Less

You've memory dumped them already. They were played, and you might have watched. You probably don't remember, and that's okay.

30. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

BYU 49, Western Michigan 18

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 37

It was okay - for a half. Western Michigan was up 10-7, and then it stunk it up because the D couldn't come up with a decent stop. BYU QB Zach Wilson hit all 18 of his passes, Western Michigan's offense failed in the second half, and the Cougars put up 28 in the third to turn it into a laugher.

- 5 Thoughts on the Famous Idaho Bowl

29. Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl

UAB 37, Northern Illinois 13

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 38

It's Northern Illinois in a bowl game - it was supposed to be a dud, and it didn't disappoint. UAB looked great - Xavier Ubosi went off for three touchdown catches - but it was a 27-10 Blazer halftime lead and NIU was never in it after the first quarter.

- 5 Thoughts on the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

28. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Texas A&M 52, NC State 13

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 17

Just when it looked like it was going to be good - Texas A&M was up 21-13 at halftime - Trayveon Williams and the Aggie running game took over and dominated. A&M outscored the Wolfpack 31-0 in the second half.

27. Hawai'i Bowl

Hawaii 31, Louisiana Tech 14

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 12

You're Hawaii. Aren't you supposed to be kicking in the offense at home? It was just a 7-3 Rainbow Warrior lead at halftime, Louisiana Tech scored 21 points in the third, and that was it. Hawaii managed just 226 yards, and the two teams combined for 21 penalties and six turnovers.

- 5 Thoughts on the SoFi Hawaii Bowl

26. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Auburn 63, Purdue 14

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 22

It was the definition of a fun-bad game. It's the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - it didn't matter. However, the pressure was on Auburn to not be awful, and instead - kaboom. 56 first half points, and ton of big plays, and lots of fireworks. It was a bad game overall, but, again, it was … fun.

- 5 Thoughts on the Music City Bowl

25. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Florida 41, Michigan 15

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 4

It was as if Michigan ran out of steam. The Wolverines played well early on in a good first half, but missed their opportunities and Florida was more than happy to take over. The Gators were down 10-6, and ended up outscoring Michigan 35-5 the rest of the way.

- 5 Thoughts on the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

24. Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Marshall 38, USF 20

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 27

It was just sort of … weird. It was a home bowl game for USF, but that didn't seem to matter. Marshall got up 14-0 and never had to worry the rest of the way after a 21-7 first quarter. At least the Herd offense was interesting with over 500 yards, but the Bulls were just … weird.

- 5 Thoughts on the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

23. Walk-On's Independence Bowl


 56, Temple 27

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 34

The first half was among the best in the bowl season, with Temple rolling to a 27-21 lead. The second half? It was a breathtaking display of Duke offense, as QB Daniel Jones and company went off on a 35-0 run to win in a blowout. It was a fun watch, though.

- 5 Thoughts on the Walk-On's Independence Bowl

22. Sugar Bowl

Texas 28, Georgia 21

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 8

Totally disappointing, Georgia didn't show up - it didn't play like it did in the regular season. Or, if you're a bowl is half full type, Texas came in and ripped it up with a potential breakthrough game to relaunch a superpower. Give the Longhorns credit for dominating, but again, that wasn't Georgia.

- 5 Thoughts on the Sugar Bowl

21. AutoNation Cure Bowl

Tulane 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 24

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 35

It seemed like it was over after 20 minutes - but it got sort of fun. Tulane overcame an early 7-0 deficit with 24 straight points, but Louisiana-Lafayette roared back to pull within three in the fourth. The Green Wave pulled away with 14 unanswered points for a better game than the final score might indicate.

- 5 Thoughts on the AutoNation Cure Bowl

20. Camping World Bowl

Syracuse 34, West Virginia 18

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 3

Here's the problem. It's not that the game was all that bad - it was tight for three quarters - but it wasn't what it was supposed to be. These two offenses should've made it a shootout, but instead the game became 1) a grind and 2) about Will Grier not being there for the Mountaineers. Even so, it was an 18-14 WVU lead going into the fourth before the Orange took over.

- 5 Thoughts on the Camping World Bowl

The Decent Bowls

Some were fine, something funky happened, or there was something about these that made the bowl season a wee bit spicy.

19. Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State 31, Arizona State 20

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 15

It wasn't the best played game, but in this bowl season, it was a winner. Fresno State scored 14 unanswered points for the big win for the Mountain West, but it was as much about ASU struggling as it was FSU being great.

- 5 Thoughts on the Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl

18. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Army 70, Houston 14

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 26

This gets ranked relatively high because it was pure Army rushing porn. Army ran for 507 yards and eight touchdowns against a Houston defense that didn't have a prayer. It was so bad that the program canned Major Applewhite and threw a whole lot of money at West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen.

- 5 Thoughts on the Armed Forces Bowl

17. Orange Bowl

Alabama 45, Oklahoma 34

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 1

It would've even better if theme went in reverse, sort of like it was supposed to. It the Oklahoma offense was sharp early, and Alabama outscored the Sooners 21-0 in the fourth instead of the first, then it would've been a thing. Instead, Bama got up early, and everything else became an exhibition - even with OU getting closer late.

- 5 Thoughts on the Orange Bowl

16. Redbox Bowl

Oregon 7, Michigan State 6

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 33

It was brutally painful to watch. Michigan State's offense was totally inept, Oregon had two good throws for the one touchdown that turned out to be enough, and there way too many awful moments that made it look like neither team knew how long to play offense. But the final few minutes were gripping enough to salvage the game. It was unique.

- 5 Thoughts on the Redbox Bowl

15. Rose Bowl

Ohio State 28, Washington 23

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 16

Don't fall for this being so close late. Washington put up 20 points in the fourth quarter, but even if it was able to come up with a late two point conversion, it would've taken a miracle to pull it off. This was essentially over at halftime, and Ohio State took its foot off the gas.

- 5 Thoughts on the Rose Bowl

14. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Northwestern 31, Utah 20

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 32

It was a big shocker - Utah just doesn't lose bowl games under head coach Kyle Whittingham, especially after getting up 14-0. A 28-point third quarter for the Wildcats ended up taking over the game, and the defense did the rest by shutting out the Utes in the second half.

- 5 Thoughts on the Holiday Bowl

13. Hyundai Sun Bowl

Stanford 14, Pitt 13

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 20

There weren't enough bit plays and it wasn't a fun game, but at least it was close. Pitt was held in check, and Stanford couldn't get its offense going, finally taking the lead for good on a strange Cameron Scarlett touchdown when the ball popped into his hands on the goal line.

The Good Bowls

You watched these, you had a good time, and then you moved on.

12. VRBO Citrus Bowl

Kentucky 27, Penn State 24

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 10

Penn State made it interesting late with 17 fourth quarter points, but Kentucky was able to hang on. It wasn't pretty for three quarters - it was all UK and the running Benny Snell - but it turned into a fight in the final few minutes. The Wildcats were able to win with just 297 yards.

- 5 Thoughts on the Citrus Bowl

11. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

LSU 40, UCF 32

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 5

It was a decent game, but LSU was missing most of its defense, UCF was overmatched, and it was LSU's game from the middle of the second quarter on. The Knights kept on fighting and pushing, but neither team was at full strength. For all the things this game wasn't at least it was an eight-point game in the final few minutes.

- 5 Thoughts on the Fiesta Bowl

10. Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

FIU 35, Toledo 32

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 31

It was quietly really, really good. However, it was a BRUTAL loss for some in the investment community - Toledo scored on the final play. The Rockets got up early, FIU roared back, but Toledo made it a three point game with just over seven minutes to play. FIU put it away on a long, tough, nasty drive.

- 5 Thoughts on the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

9. Dollar General Bowl

Troy 42, Buffalo 32

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 9

Expected to be one of the better bowls, it more than delivered in the back-and-forth shootout that featured a 93-yard UB fumble return for a score - in a loss. The Bulls were up 24-21 going into the final frame, but Troy pulled away with 21 fourth quarter points. including a game-sealing scoring run with just over three minutes left.

- 5 Thoughts on the Dollar General Bowl

8. Outback Bowl

Iowa 27, Mississippi State 22

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 30

It was a tight game throughout, with Iowa putting up a big third quarter to overcome a tremendous day from the Mississippi State defensive front. The Bulldogs roared back in the third, Iowa took the lead back, and it turned into a defensive fight in the fourth. It was a strange, tough, entertaining game to kick off New Year's Day.

- 5 Thoughts on the Outback Bowl

7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Oklahoma State 38, Missouri 33

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 11

It turned to be what was expected with plenty of points, lots of big plays from the offensive stars, and a good late rally. Missouri bombed away with touchdown passes from 86 and 55 yards out in the fourth, but the Cowboys were able to hang on. The two teams combined for 1,139 yards of total offense.

- 5 Thoughts on the Liberty Bowl

6. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 21

We should've known this would be better than the original matchup ranking - it's Eastern Michigan. Almost all of its games are tight - at least, they seemed like it. Georgia Southern was down one with 3:33 to play, got a few miracle moments on the final drive, and finished with a walk-off win on a 40-yard Tyler Bass field goal.

- 5 Thoughts on the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

The Best Bowls of the Bunch

If you saw these five bowl games, you're a better, more enriched person whose life is now far, far better than it was before the bowl season.

5. Jared Birmingham Bowl

Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 6

It was exactly what it was supposed to be - for a half. It was expected to be all about the O with no D, and it was just that as Memphis got up 28-24 going into the locker room. It turned into a defensive fight after that, with Wake Forest getting a one-yard touchdown run with just 34 seconds to play for the win.

- 5 Thoughts on the Jared Birmingham Bowl

4. Valero Alamo Bowl

Washington State 28, Iowa State 26

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 18

Terrifically entertaining, Iowas State had a chance to tie it late on a two-point conversion attempt, but missed. The Cyclones got down big early, fought back, but couldn't take the lead as Wazzu held them off. It wasn't a shootout, but it was one of the stronger bowls.

- 5 Thoughts on the Alamo Bowl

3. NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Nevada 16, Arkansas State 13 OT

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 19

It got totally blown off with all the other bowls going on just before the College Football Playoff kicked in, but it turned into the best game of the day. ASU dominated, but it couldn't close on good drive after good drive, turned it over three times, and lost in OT.

It was 7-3 with just over one minute to play, Nevada took the lead on a touchdown run after the one good drive of the day, and Arkansas State rallied back to force overtime with a field goal. The Wolf Pack answered an ASU OT field goal to win it on a touchdown pass pull off the improbable win.

2. Military Bowl Presented By Northrup Grumman

Cincinnati 35, Virginia Tech 31

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 23

It was rainy and the conditions were lousy, but these two put on a show. Fantastic from start-to-finish, neither team ever led by more than seven points in a back-to-forth battle. Michael Warren ran for an eight-yard score with just over a minute to play to give Cincinnati the fun win in a huge moment for the American Athletic Conference.

- 5 Thoughts on the Military Bowl

1. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Baylor 45, Vanderbilt 38

Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 14

It turned into a thriller with the two teams combining for over 1,200 yards with a whole lot of mood swings, big plays, home runs and scoring. How much fun was this? Baylor took the lead in the fourth on a 75-yard touchdown pass, and ended up winning it on a 52-yard scoring play with under two minutes to go. It was exactly what you want a bowl game like this to be.

- 5 Thoughts on the Texas Bowl


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