All 35 bowl games from best to worst

Originally Published: December 10, 2013
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

The bowl lineup for the final season of the BCS is set.

No. 1 Florida State will play No. 2 Auburn for the last BCS National Championship. Next season, we'll have a four-team playoff to decide college football's national champion.

Before the Seminoles or the Tigers raise the crystal football at Rose Bowl Stadium on Jan. 6, we'll get to see 34 other bowl games from coast to coast, starting on Dec. 21.

Here's the bowl lineup, ranked from best game to worst:

1. Vizio BCS National Championship, Jan. 6 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1)

The final BCS National Championship will feature FSU's menacing defense against Auburn's high-octane offense. The Tigers will try to extend the SEC's streak of consecutive BCS national championships to eight, and the Seminoles will be seeking their first national title since 1999.

2. Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 12 Clemson (10-2)

The Buckeyes fell to the Orange Bowl after losing to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten championship game. With FSU in the championship game, the Tigers snuck through the back door into the ACC's at-large BCS bid after losing to in-state rival South Carolina 31-17 in their regular-season finale. The Buckeyes and Tigers have played only once previously -- the infamous 1978 Gator Bowl in which OSU coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman after he intercepted a pass in the Tigers' 17-15 win. Hayes was fired the next morning.

3. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET): No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2)

Scoring figures to be at a premium in the 100th edition of the "Granddaddy of Them All." The Spartans lead FBS teams in total defense (248.2 yards per game) and rank fourth in scoring defense (12.7 points). The Cardinal are 14th in total defense (339 yards) and 10th in scoring defense (18.6 points). Stanford will try to win back-to-back Rose Bowl games for the first time since 1970-71.

4. Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 3 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2)

The Crimson Tide fell short of winning a third consecutive national championship by losing to Auburn 34-28. The Tigers returned a missed field goal more than 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the Iron Bowl. Will Alabama be motivated for its bowl game? The Tide will attempt to avoid the kind of letdown they had in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, when they were blasted 31-17 by Utah in New Orleans. OU coach Bob Stoops finally gets to see whether the SEC is as overrated as he says it is.

5. AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3 (Fox, 7:30 p.m. ET): No. 8 Missouri (11-2) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2)

The former Big 12 rivals are coming off deflating losses that knocked them out of BCS bowl games -- the Tigers might have played for a BCS national championship if they'd defeated Auburn in the SEC championship game. OSU won its last three games against Missouri before the Tigers bolted the Big 12 in 2012.

6. Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET): No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3)

Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney became a household name with a memorable hit in a 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl last season. What will he have in store against the Badgers in Orlando, Fla., for what figures to be his final college game?

7. Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET): No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)

The Longhorns couldn't keep up with Baylor's fast-paced spread attack in a 30-10 loss Saturday. Now, UT will have to prepare for the Ducks' high-octane offense, which plays just as fast. Will Texas coach Mack Brown still be around to see it? Does he really want to watch what happens?

8. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET): No. 6 Baylor (11-1) vs. No. 15 Central Florida (11-1)

Call it the "Overachiever Bowl." The Bears had never had a winning record in the Big 12 before coach Art Briles arrived in Waco, Texas. Now, they're the Big 12 champions and are playing in their first BCS bowl. The Knights also are playing in their first BCS bowl game after winning the American Athletic Conference in their first season in the league.

9. Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET): No. 16 LSU (9-3) vs. Iowa (8-4)

We can only hope this game is exciting as the only other time these teams played each other. In the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Iowa's Drew Tate threw a 56-yard touchdown to Warren Holloway on the final play, giving the Hawkeyes a 30-25 victory and spoiling Nick Saban's last game as LSU's coach.

10. TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1 (ESPN2, noon ET): No. 22 Georgia (8-4) vs. Nebraska (8-4)

Haven't we seen this one before? Oh yeah, UGA defeated the Cornhuskers 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl last season. At least the Cornhuskers won't have to deal with Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw for 427 yards with five touchdowns against them. Murray will miss the bowl game with a knee injury, and junior Hutson Mason is expected to make his second career start for UGA.

11. Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET): No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4) vs. No. 24 Duke (10-3)

It seems only fitting that college football will ring in the new year with what figures to be Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel's final college game. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was nearly as good as he was last season, throwing for 3,732 yards with 33 touchdowns and running for 686 yards with eight TDs in 2013. Texas A&M's defense is bad enough -- and Duke's offense is good enough -- to possibly turn this game into a shootout. The Blue Devils won the ACC's Coastal Division for the first time and are playing in bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.

12. Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET): No. 18 Louisville (11-1) vs. Miami (9-3)

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater probably will be playing his final college game against his hometown team. Bridgewater, a Miami native, probably didn't receive enough recognition this season because of Louisville's soft schedule. He passed for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Cardinals' 38-35 loss to Central Florida on Oct. 18 kept them out of a BCS bowl and out of contention for a national championship, and it knocked Bridgewater out of the Heisman Trophy race.

13. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET): No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. No. 25 USC (9-4)

This one might be a lot more fun if the schools would bring back former coaches Ed Orgeron and Pat Hill to fight in a cage match. Instead, USC heads into its bowl game under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton, its third coach (and second interim) this season. The Bulldogs were knocked out of BCS contention by a 62-52 loss at San Jose State two weeks ago, but they recovered to beat Utah State 24-17 in Saturday night's Mountain West championship game.

14. Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 (CBS, 2 p.m. ET): No. 17 UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)

UCLA's Brett Hundley looks like a future NFL quarterback; Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas used to look like an NFL quarterback. Thomas can really improve his plummeting NFL draft stock by outgunning Hundley near the Mexican border.

15. National University Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET): No. 14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

It might not be the Rose Bowl, but the Sun Devils are still headed to Southern California for the postseason. They'll face the Red Raiders for only the teams' second meeting. The game features two of the country's hottest coaches: Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and ASU's Todd Graham.

16. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET): Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)

Both teams limped through rebuilding years this season and head into the postseason going in opposite directions. The Wildcats won five of their last six games after a 2-4 start; the Wolverines lost four of their last five games after a 6-1 start. Michigan hasn't played in Arizona since appearing in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl.

17. Fight Hunger Bowl, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET): BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)

If only the Huskies could pull incoming coach Chris Petersen out of the stands to run a few trick plays in its bowl game. Petersen, the former Boise State coach, will only watch as interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo directs the Huskies in their bowl game. BYU has won its past three games against Washington, including a 23-17 win in 2010.

18. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET): No. 23 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Utah State (8-5)

The Huskies' stunning 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in Friday night's MAC championship game knocked them out of a BCS bowl game. They'll have to regroup emotionally to play the Aggies, who went 5-2 after losing star quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury in a 31-14 loss to BYU on Oct. 4. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will put the finishing touches on what has been a brilliant college career.

19. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET): Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)

The Broncos will begin life without Petersen, who left after eight seasons to take over at Washington. Linebackers coach Bob Gregory will serve as interim coach in the bowl game. The Broncos lost four games in a season for the first time since 2005. Oregon State dropped its final five games, but it's still worth watching quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks, one of the best passing tandems in the country.

20. AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET): Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)

Maybe we can call it the V2000 Bowl? Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Boston College's Andre Williams know all about 100-yard games. Williams led FBS players with 2,102 rushing yards this season, becoming only the 16th Division I player to run for 2,000 yards in a season. Carey ranked fifth among FBS players with 1,716 yards and needs 284 rushing yards to reach 2,000.

21. Belk Bowl, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 3:20 p.m. ET): Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6)

The Tar Heels will be playing what is essentially a home game, about 140 miles from their Chapel Hill location, but that's not necessarily a good thing. UNC has never won a bowl game in its home state, losing three times in the game played in Charlotte. UNC lost twice in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, 31-30 to West Virginia in 2008 and 19-17 to Pittsburgh in 2009. Cincinnati is playing in the game for the second season in a row, after beating Duke 48-34 last season.

22. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET): Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)

The Rebels are going back to the Music City Bowl for the first time since 2000, when a freshman named Eli Manning came off the bench to fire three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 49-38 loss to West Virginia. The Rebels haven't played the Yellow Jackets since beating them 41-18 in the 1971 Peach Bowl.

23. BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 4 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET): Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)

The Compass Bowl features two underrated coaches who have their programs headed in one direction -- up. The Cougars went 5-7 in coach Tony Levine's first season, then started 7-1 before dropping three of their last four games this year. Vanderbilt's James Franklin has guided the Commodores to 17 victories the past two seasons.

24. AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET): Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)

The Owls and Bulldogs reached Memphis off of big wins. Rice defeated Marshall 41-24 in the Conference USA championship game, claiming its first outright league title since 1957. The Bulldogs won their last two games in overtime, including a 17-10 win over rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to finish .500.

25. New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 28 (ESPN, noon ET): Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)

It always seems nostalgic when the Fighting Irish play in the Big Apple, but it would have been nice if they were playing Cincinnati or Houston, which might have put up a fight. The Scarlet Knights got the nod because of geography, but they were a major disappointment in their first and final season in the American. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood fired defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, quarterbacks coach Rob Spence and offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski on Sunday.

26. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET): Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)

The Falcons are heading back to Motown after upsetting Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. Coach Dave Clawson has been named the head coach at Wake Forest, and special teams/tight ends coach Adam Scheier will serve as the Falcons' interim head coach. The Panthers went 6-6 in their first season in the ACC. Hey, at least they aren't playing in Birmingham, Ala., again.

27. GoDaddy Bowl, Jan. 5 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): Arkansas State (7-5) vs. Ball State (10-2)

The Red Wolves might have to start paying taxes in Mobile, Ala. They're playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the third consecutive season, having lost to Northern Illinois 38-20 in 2011 and beaten Kent State 17-13 last season. They'll have to slow down Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning, who is closing in on 4,000 passing yards with 3,933 on the season, a school record.

28. Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET): Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)

It might not look sexy on paper, but these are two much-improved teams from a year ago. After going 3-9 in coach Mike Leach's first season, the Cougars are playing in their first bowl game since beating Texas 28-20 in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. The Rams went 4-8 in coach Jim McElwain's first season, but now they're playing in their first bowl game since defeating Fresno State 40-35 in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.

29. Texas Bowl, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET): Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)

The Gophers are back at the Texas Bowl for the second consecutive season, but this one probably feels a little more special. The Gophers were picked to finish last in the Big Ten's Legends Division but are enjoying their best season since 2003. Minnesota went 4-2 in the second half of the season after coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence because of epileptic seizures. He has returned to coach games from the press box.

30. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 11:45 a.m. ET): Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (7-4)

The Blue Raiders stayed home in the postseason last season despite winning eight games. They were red-hot at the end of this season, winning their last five games while averaging 523.4 yards and 42.6 points. They'll have to slow down Navy's triple-option attack, which averages 320.1 rushing yards per game.

31. Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET): Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)

The Terrapins will play their bowl game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, which is about 27 miles from the Maryland campus. The Terps haven't played there since losing to the Midshipmen 19-7 in 1965. Marshall nearly beat ACC foe Virginia Tech this season, losing 29-21 in three overtimes.

32. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): Tulane (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

New Orleans certainly knows how to throw a party, and this in-state contest figures to be quite festive. The Green Wave will play in their first bowl game since 2002 after laboring through 10 consecutive losing seasons until this year's turnaround. Tulane will play in the Superdome, its home stadium since 1975, before moving to a new, on-campus stadium next year. The Green Wave are 21-5 against the Ragin' Cajuns.

33. Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg, Dec. 23 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET): East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5)

The Bobcats, who have won their past two bowl games, might have a difficult time slowing down ECU's high-powered offense. The Pirates ranked second in Conference USA in total offense, averaging 459.8 yards and 40.4 points per game. It's a pretty good quarterback battle between ECU's Shane Carden, who led the league with 3,866 yards, and Ohio's Tyler Tettleton.

34. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET): Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)

If the game comes down to hot potatoes, the Bulls probably will win. Buffalo was tied with Alabama for fifth best nationally in turnovers lost, losing only 12 this season. Conversely, the Aztecs were tied for 111th, losing 28.

35. Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by PlainsCapital Bank, Jan. 1 (ESPNU, noon ET): UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4)

The Mean Green get to stay close to home while playing in their first bowl since 2004. The Rebels are playing in their first bowl game since defeating Arkansas 31-14 in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl. As Rebels coach Bobby Hauck told his team last month, "Hell may have just frozen over -- the Rebels are bowl eligible!" Well, an ice storm did hit Texas this week.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.