It’s the most wonderful time of the year. You know, the three weeks in December and early January when college football’s season goes out with a bang in the form of dozens of bowl games matching teams who otherwise might never face each other.
From Dec. 16 through the National Championship Game on Jan. 8, there will be 41 contests — including a pair of playoff semifinals on Jan. 1. Those last few games will be the biggest draws, no doubt, but there are plenty of other great matchups that are worth seeing while you wait for the main event.
And depending on the interest, the cost to get a seat varies greatly.
Using pricing figures provided by TicketCity, here’s a look at what you’ll need to spend to get an up-close view of some of the best bowl games outside of the New Year’s Six and playoff matchups:
(Note: Rankings used are those associated with the College Football Playoff standings)
College football’s top bowl game ticket options
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas
When: Saturday, Dec. 16; 3:30 p.m. ET
Median ticket price: $145
How much to get in the door: $39
Bowl season begins in earnest on Dec. 16 with six bowl games, but only one of which features a team from a power conference. Oregon (7-5) earns the distinction of being done with its season quicker than any other bowl-bound Pac-12 school, and it will be doing it with a new coach after Willie Taggart left for Florida State on Tuesday — after less than a year on the job in Eugene.
Mario Cristobal is the Ducks’ interim coach for the matchup with Boise State, which beat Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game. The Broncos (10-3) have a history of big wins against power-conference teams in the postseason, most notably a pair of Fiesta Bowl wins against Arizona (2014 season) and Oklahoma (2006 season).
These schools last met in 2009, a game Boise State won 19-8 but is best known for a cheap shot thrown by then-Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount.
— TheDuckZone (@TheDuckZoneIG) December 3, 2017
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Iowa
Where: Yankee Stadium; Bronx, New York
When: Wednesday, Dec. 27; 5:15 p.m. ET
Median ticket price: $167
How much to get in the door: $63
There are a handful of bowl games played in non-football stadiums, including one in the Bahamas that’s played on the infield of a track and field facility. Another is this battle of ACC and Big Ten teams in the outfield of where the most famous baseball team (the New York Yankees) plays from April through October.
The Pinstripe Bowl has been held at Yankee Stadium since 2010, its best crowd coming in 2014 when more than 49,000 watched Penn State beat Boston College in overtime. Whether this edition can come close to that attendance figure depends on how many people from Iowa will still want to take their annual bowl-game vacation in a wintry locale rather than one in a warmer climate.
The Hawkeyes (7-5) have played their last 20 bowl games in Arizona, California, Florida or Texas, and a large contingent of their fans have flocked to those states. Boston College (7-5) has a more diverse bowl history, playing in Detroit last year, Louisiana in 2013 and Tennessee in 2008.
Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU
Where: Alamodome; San Antonio, Texas
When: Thursday, Dec. 28; 9 p.m. ET
Median ticket price: $18
How much to get in the door: $143
Of the five power conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC), three saw both their conference champion and conference runner-up qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl game or the playoffs. The two exceptions — Stanford and TCU — will instead take out their frustrations on each other. And that should make for a heck of a matchup between the Pac-12 and Big 12 runners-up.
The Cardinal (9-4) are led by junior running back Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy finalist who has run for 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has 12 carries of 50 or more yards and at least 100 yards in 11 of 12 games played.
The Horned Frogs (10-3) return to the site where they pulled off the greatest comeback in bowl history. TCU trailed Oregon 31-0 at halftime of the Alamo Bowl in January 2016 only to rally for a 47-41 win in triple overtime.
Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina
Where: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
When: Monday, Jan. 1; noon ET
Median ticket price: $183
How much to get in the door: $67
A staple on New Year’s Day (or the day after, when the holiday falls on a Sunday) since 1988, the Outback Bowl is in its 23rd season of pitting a Big Ten and SEC team against each other. The SEC holds a 14-8 edge in the series, including a 33-28 win by South Carolina against Michigan in the 2013 edition.
But that’s not what that game was most remembered for. Instead it was a the vicious hit by Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney that knocked Michigan running back Vincent Smith’s helmet off.
This matchup features a pair of 8-4 teams with fiery head coaches. It will be as much fun to watch Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp stalk the sidelines as it will be to check out their players on the field.
Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame
Where: Camping World Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
When: Monday, Jan. 1; 1 p.m. ET
Median ticket price: $171
How much to get in the door: $38
As an independent program, Notre Dame doesn’t have any official tie-ins to bowl games. However, that doesn’t stop the Fighting Irish from being a much-coveted participant when it comes to bowl-selection time.
And when the Fighting Irish don’t get picked for a New Year’s Six bowl or playoff game, it’s basically open season to see which bowl can land college football’s most popular team.
This year it’s the Citrus Bowl that scored Notre Dame (9-3) and its massive traveling fan base, the first time it has ever played in that game. LSU (9-3) is playing there for the second year in a row, having beaten Louisville 29-9 on New Year’s Eve last year.
Notre Dame and LSU last met in the 2014 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., a game the Irish won 31-28.
Best Bowl Not Featuring Power-Conference Teams
Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State
Where: Arizona Stadium; Tucson, Ariz.
When: Friday, Dec. 29; 5:30 p.m. ET
Median ticket price: $84
How much to get in the door: $45
Most people who attend bowl games do so because they have either a rooting interest in one of the teams or, in the case of the lesser bowls, are from the local area and feel like checking out some college football while helping the local economy.
Then there is the rare occasion where neither of those criteria fit. And New Mexico State’s appearance in the Arizona Bowl against creates just that.
Yes, this a matchup between two teams nicknamed the Aggies. And yes both teams sport 6-6 records. But the big deal here is that New Mexico State is playing in its first bowl game since 1960, ending the longest bowl drought in FBS history. The Aggies got a bid via the Sun Belt Conference, which decided last year to boot New Mexico State and Idaho out of the league after this season.
Oh … the team New Mexico State beat in that 1960 Sun Bowl? You guessed it — Utah State.