Ranking all 39 college football bowl games for 2017-18 from worst to best

It’s incredible how quickly bowl season comes and goes. There were 39 games played over a 16-day period. During that span, you lost track of what you were supposed to be doing and sometimes the days themselves. All you know was that when you turned the television on, there was going to be a bowl game there for you.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

And it was disappointing. This wasn’t one of the best bowl seasons in recent memory. There were a couple of great games and some good ones, but by and large, we were served dud after dud. Those disappointments made it a bit more difficult to rank the games this year, but I somehow managed to plow ahead and get it done anyway. What you should know going into these rankings is that the top 10 was easy to figure out, as was the bottom five or so. Everything between that is smashed together like too many people in an elevator. There isn’t much space between any of those games.

39. Boca Raton: Florida Atlantic 50, Akron 3 — This game went to script. It had the largest spread of any bowl game this season (23.5 points), and the Owls covered it with ease. (Pre-Bowl Ranking: 37)

38. Dollar General: Appalachian State 34, Toledo 0 — This game was the biggest disappointment of the season for me. I was expecting a great game between two of the Group of Five’s better teams, but instead, this thing was dead on arrival. (11)

37. Military Bowl: Navy 49, Virginia 7 — This game started with Virginia returning the opening kick for a touchdown, and that was the last thing the Cavaliers did all day. (38)

36. Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech 51, SMU 10 — If nothing else, we learned a valuable lesson about letting your brand new coach coaching your team in the bowl game. SMU looked like a team that had no idea what was happening. (30)

35. Bahamas Bowl: Ohio 41, UAB 6 — The game was awful, but the story of having UAB back in a bowl game, and it being in the Bahamas bumps it up a spot or two. (24)

34. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple 28, FIU 3 — Great name, bad game. (34)

33. Independence Bowl: Florida State 42, Southern Miss 13 — It looked like it was going to be interesting early, but then Florida State realized it was Florida State. (39)

32. New Orleans Bowl: Troy 50, North Texas 30 — The first half gave us the promise of an entertaining game, but Troy blew it open in the third quarter. (15)

31. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke 36, Northern Illinois 14 — It looked like a blowout early, then Northern Illinois suddenly threw 14 points on the board before going back to sleep for the entire second half. (33)

30. Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Ohio State 24, No. 8 USC 7 — I believe that the USC offensive line owes Sam Darnold and every single viewer an apology. (3)

29. Holiday Bowl: No. 16 Michigan State 42, No. 18 Washington State 17 — Let’s see, Mike Leach spent the weeks leading to the game reportedly angling to get the Tennessee job, while defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was going to take a job at Ohio State. The team played accordingly. (14)

28. Potato Bowl: Wyoming 37, Central Michigan 14 — Also known as the “Let’s Spend Nearly Four Hours Trying To Convince You Josh Allen Is The Greatest NFL QB Prospect Of All Time Bowl.” He did play well, though. (31)

27. Las Vegas Bowl: No. 25 Boise State 38, Oregon 28 — Oregon did some cosmetic work in the fourth quarter to make this game look closer than it was. (19)

26. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah 30, West Virginia 14 — The players looked miserable playing in this game, and the viewers at home didn’t look a lot different. (23)

25. Sun Bowl: No. 24 NC State 52, Arizona State 31 — It featured a lot of points and some remarkable plays, but it was never a close game. The Wolfpack had a 31-10 lead after three quarters. (18)

24. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State 35, UCLA 17 — The most interesting aspect of this game was the intrigue surrounding Josh Rosen’s status before the game. Then UCLA came out and had a 17-7 lead at halftime before being out-scored 28-0 in the second half. (32)

23. Cure Bowl: Georgia State 27, Western Kentucky — Honestly, I don’t remember much about this game, but it wasn’t a blowout so that props it up a few spots. (35)

22. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee 35, Arkansas State 30 — It certainly had its moments, but the final score is a bit misleading. Arkansas State cut it to a one-score game twice in the fourth quarter but was never in a position to take the lead. (28)

21. Sugar Bowl semifinal: No. 4 Alabama 24, No. 1 Clemson 6 — I enjoyed this game quite a bit, but it was more the broadcast then the game. I watched ESPN’s coaches room broadcast, which allowed me to watch both of these defenses fly all over the field on the all-22 while a room full of coaches who were worn out after watching eight hours of football just chatting. It was great. The game wasn’t. (1)

20. Texas Bowl: Texas 33, Missouri 16 — The way I figure if a punter is the MVP of a game, that game either had to be awful or spectacular. This bowl season it was enough to rank right in the middle. (27)

19. New Mexico Bowl: Marshall 31, Colorado State 28 — The first 45 minutes of this game were quite dull, but the fourth quarter brought plenty of intrigue. Well, some intrigue. (25)

18. Camping World Bowl: No. 19 Oklahoma State 30, No. 22 Virginia Tech 21 — It had some fun, but the only drama at the end was for anybody who had bet on the spread because you never felt the Hokies were going to win it late. (7)

17. Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Penn State 35, No. 11 Washington 28 — Washington did a fantastic job of doing just enough to make you have to watch the entire game, but never enough that you thought it would take the lead. It was masterful really. (4)

16. Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State 33, Houston 27 — Odds are you didn’t watch, but the game was pretty good for three quarters before Fresno State just took over in the fourth. (22)

15. Music City Bowl: No. 21 Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23 — The most memorable moment in this game was a referee getting his feelings hurt and throwing Benny Snell out of the game in the first quarter. And then it was the coach of the other team — Pat Fitzgerald — saying it was one of the worst officiated games he’d ever seen. You know you’ve done a good job when both coaches think you’re awful. (21)

14. Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin 34, No. 10 Miami 24 — It was an entertaining game full of momentum swings, but Miami was never able to make an interesting fourth quarter. (5)

13. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State 21, Memphis 20 — This game didn’t live up to the hype of what we expected — points, points, and then more points — but it was still good in the sense it was close, and there was plenty of intrigue about the result. There just weren’t many points. (10)

12. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa 27, Boston College 20 — The field was frozen solid, leading to some difficult conditions for all involved, but you know what? The game was still fun. In fact, the awful elements added a little spice to what may have been a boring game otherwise. (17)

11. Outback Bowl: South Carolina 26, Michigan 19 — The first half of this game was one of the worst halves of football I’ve ever seen between two Power Five teams. The second half was great because not only did South Carolina come back from being down 19-3, but it did so after convincing you that it struggled to ties its shoes, let alone play football. (20)

10. Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Notre Dame 21, No. 17 LSU — There are a lot of low-scoring affairs that suck, but then there are the ones where the defenses are just playing well. This was one of those games. Then, out of nowhere, Notre Dame pulls out the 55-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes to win the game. (8)

9. Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue 38, Arizona 35 — This was the closest we came to #Pac12AfterDark this bowl season, as these two teams traded touchdowns and leads in the closing minutes. There was also the relief of seeing Anthony Mahoungou make a terrific catch on the game-winning touchdown after dropping a few passes at critical moments throughout the game. (26)

8. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State 26, Utah State 20 (OT) — The game you had no intention of watching turned out to be one of the better affairs of the bowl season. While the game was good, the story of New Mexico State winning its first bowl game since 1960 added another level to it. (36)

7. TaxSlayer Bowl: No. 23 Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27 — I didn’t want to see Lamar Jackson’s college career (possibly) end with one of the worst games of his career, but it was still a terrific game. Three ties, four lead changes, and all the drama you could ask for in a game between teams below the top tier. (12)

6. Birmingham Bowl: South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34 — The first three quarters were good but not great. The fourth quarter was amazing as Quinton Flowers single-handedly decided his college career wasn’t going out with a loss. He ran for a touchdown and threw two in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left. (13)

5. Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF 34, No. 7 Auburn 27 — As far as drama is concerned, the Birmingham Bowl was better, but as far as the story of the game is concerned, the Peach Bowl trumps it. UCF finishes the season undefeated having beaten the team that beat two of the four playoff teams (and lost to a third). Of course, it’s all a little bittersweet seeing as Scott Frost is now Nebraska’s and Nebraska’s alone. (6)

4. Alamo Bowl: No. 15 TCU 39, No. 13 Stanford 37 — Don’t take the lead on TCU in the Alamo Bowl! A few years ago, Oregon blew a 31-point lead to the Frogs in the game, and this year the Frogs erased a 21-3 Stanford lead to win 39-37. This game featured everything you want in a mid-tier bowl game between good teams. (9)

3. Armed Forces Bowl: Army 42, San Diego State 35 — This was the first game of bowl season that made you feel like it was bowl season. Two teams that the general public doesn’t often watch in an absolute classic of a game. Army scored with 18 seconds left and then decided to go for two and the win. It got it, and then a fumble return on the final play of the game made the final score look a little different than the game played out. Oh, and did I mention that Army completed only one pass for a total of six yards in the game? (16)

2. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52 — This game had been destined to be No. 1 for a couple of days before the Rose Bowl kicked off. What’s there to say? There were 107 points scored and 1,260 yards of offense. This was the summer blockbuster movie of the bowl season. All that was missing was a fight scene between The Rock and Jason Statham and a few explosions. It was great. Can’t wait for the sequel. (29)

1. Rose Bowl semifinal: No. 3 Georgia 54, No. 2 Oklahoma 48 (2OT) — Another year, another classic Rose Bowl. The fact it was a College Football Playoff game only heightened the drama and factored into it taking the No. 1 spot overall, but even if these two teams had played in any other bowl game, this one was a classic. Big plays, big comebacks, momentum swings, great players, overtimes. It was the kind of game that could make somebody who had never watched the sport fall in love with college football. I’ll never forget it. (2)

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