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Ranking every college bowl game from NFL talent to uniforms and entertainment

College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

There are people on this planet who openly complain about having too many college bowl games on the schedule. 

Those people are twisted and need help. I am NOT one of those people.

Give me ALL the bowls. I want a bowl game at 9 a.m. PST on Tuesday. Two teams I barely saw all season? All the better. Goofy bowl name? Sign me up. Players who jump out as NFL prospects? Let’s go. 

For one thing, it’s the holiday season and having football to watch (and bet on) is a great distraction from Aunt Mable’s carrot cake, NBA “load management,” and well, bad Christmas movies.

For another, these will be the last football games most of these young men get to play before moving on to real lives. 

Unlike basketball and hockey, there are no European football leagues, and every attempt at creating an alternative to the NFL fails like a Nick Saban field goal kicker.  

Tell them these games don’t matter.

So, there are many great things about the 41 college bowl games that drop into our lives when the Bahamas Bowl — who complains about a sporting event taking place in the Bahamas? — featuring Buffalo and Charlotte kicks off at 11 a.m. PST.

Here are one man’s bowl rankings based on three key factors: entertainment potential, future NFL talent, and the awesomeness of uniforms. The last component can’t be emphasized enough. 

As my St. Olaf College football coach, the late, great Don Canfield, said: “Look sharp, play sharp.” 

Great games/great uniform division: Must-watch games 

National Championship game (hypothetical): No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Jan. 13: The two best teams meet on the biggest stage, as it should be. 

Entertainment potential: Off the charts. Two offenses with great QBs play, plus LSU QB Joe Burrow going up against the school that let him get away. This is the rare matchup that could be high-scoring or a defensive grind. Either way, it should be fun. We’ll call it 27-24 LSU.

Future NFL talent: All over the field. An NFL general manager’s dream. Burrow could be the No. 1 overall pick in the spring. If he isn’t, OSU DE Chase Young very well could be. OSU RB J.K. Dobbins will be the next great Buckeye back in the NFL. 

The two will meet up a few times and those encounters could decide the game. OSU CB Jeff Okudah will also likely be a top-five pick. LSU CB Derek Stingley is only a freshman but has game-changing skills and will be a star going forward. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Epic. LSU’s home whites with the yellow pants, yellow helmets, and purple striping are classics. OSU’s scarlet and silver are similarly classic. Neither school will ever mess with these looks, nor should they. 

National semifinal (Fiesta Bowl): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson, Dec. 28: 

Entertainment potential: High. Clemson hasn’t lost in forever and is favored by two in this matchup. That makes sense because this should be a tight one. OSU has the corners to match up with Clemson’s dangerous wideouts, so the question becomes: Can Chase Young and the OSU pass rush get to Trevor Lawrence? 

OSU QB Justin Fields and Dobbins plus a nice set of Buckeye receivers have enough juice to score with the mighty Tigers. 

Future NFL talent: Everywhere. Lawrence is destined to be the top pick when he comes out next year. In the Lamar Jackson era, a player like Fields suddenly looks more intriguing than ever and he could win the Heisman next season. 

Dobbins has Emmitt Smith potential. Clemson RB Travis Etienne is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Clemson has former defensive players all over the NFL and junior LB/S Isaiah Simmons will soon be another. He wrecks games from multiple spots on the field.

#greatuniformgame potential: High. Again, two programs smart enough to leave well enough alone. The Clemson orange should really pop as a contrast to the OSU silver, red, and white. 

National semifinal (Peach Bowl): No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, Dec. 28:

Entertainment potential: Depends on whether or not OU defense can hold up against Burrow and the LSU offense. The Tigers are favored by two touchdowns and that feels about right. 

Future NFL talent: Another scout’s dream. LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase is a future star. Sooners WR CeeDee Lamb is a touchdown waiting to happen. He’ll go top 10. Sooners QB Jalen Hurts is intriguing and has tons of big-game experience. Sooner LB Kenneth Murray is a plug-and-play day-one guy. 

#greatuniformgame potential:  An eye-pleaser. Again, LSU whites are incredible and we love “Boomer Sooner” in the crimson and whites with the interlocking O/U. The color contrast will make for great TV. 

Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. USC, Dec. 27:

Entertainment potential: High. Fans of these two traditionally strong programs would prefer to be up the road at the Rose Bowl but the stadium in San Diego has produced some incredible games over the years. USC QB Kedon Slovis (28 touchdown passes) came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the fun stories of the season.  

Iowa keeps it simple on offense as usual and is favored by two, but that is just a guess. Don’t be shocked if it comes down to Iowa’s All-American kicker Keith Duncan booting home a game-winner as time expires before somehow angering Nebraska fans all over again.

Future NFL talent: Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa is stout against the run and a game-wrecker as a pass rusher, and OL Tristan Wirfs will be yet another Hawkeye to be taken in the first round and play forever in the NFL. We love USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., a scrappy Golden Tate type. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Incredible. Two more programs smart enough to stick with what works. USC gets the details down with gray face masks and white laces/black cleats to complement their awesome maroon and gold. Iowa’s black-and-gold Pittsburgh Steeler-esque look has been one of college football’s best dating back to the early ’80s when legendary coach Hayden Fry took over the program, created the Tigerhawk logo, and started winning. Fry passed away on Dec. 17 and Iowa’s presence in a bowl like this one against an opponent like USC is a credit to his legacy. RIP Coach Fry.

AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during play against the Michigan Wolverines

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama, Jan. 1:

Entertainment potential: Very high. Two traditional powers on Jan. 1 in a cool Florida setting just like the old days when the first day of the new year meant a slate of such matchups. 

Jim Harbaugh could use a win like this to get critics off his back. Bama is favored by 7 and we’d take that action. 

Future NFL talent: Plenty. The Crimson Tide could have three receivers taken in the upcoming draft led by the super explosive Jerry Jeudy. It’s a shame we won’t see Tua Tagovailoa but he’s being drafted anyway. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Easily the best of any bowl matchup. The winged helmets and maize and blue of the Wolverines is almost as old-school awesome as the Crimson Tide’s simple crimson and whites, with uniform numbers on the sides of the helmet. This game would have looked exactly the same in 1979 with Bo and Bear coaching. 

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin, Jan. 1: 

Entertainment potential: It’s the Rose Bowl in beautiful Pasadena. Nothing screams “college football” like this game, and the teams don’t really matter. Still, it should be a good game. Either of these two teams could have been in the playoff. 

We like the Badgers by 3. 

Future NFL talent: Badgers RB Jonathan Taylor is one of the best to ever play college ball. He’ll be a stud on Sunday. On the fence about Oregon QB Justin Herbert, but a good performance here certainly would not hurt his already high draft stock. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Tough to say because Oregon gets goofy with their ever-changing selection. We like some of the Ducks’ looks more than others. Wisconsin keeps it old-school with the red and white and big block “W.” The field at the Rose Bowl pops like no other, so it will be a great-looking TV game. 

Outback Bowl: Minnesota vs. Auburn, Jan. 1:

Entertainment potential: Could be fun. The Gophers have two special receivers in Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, a quality QB in Tanner Morgan, and a HUGE offensive line. 

Auburn played one of the best games of the season in taking down Alabama. War Eagle faced six bowl teams this season and is a big favorite but the Gophers can move the ball and will put up a fight, er, row the boat. 

The stadium is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has a big pirate ship in one end zone, so we will be sadly disappointed if Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck doesn’t hop on and try to row it. 

Future NFL talent: Johnson will be drafted this season as well as Minnesota DB Antoine Winfield Jr. Auburn DT Derrick Brown is a FORCE. He’ll go somewhere in the top 15. 

#greatuniformgame potential: High. We love Auburn’s classic look. Hasn’t changed much since Bo Jackson was running the rock and it never should. The Gophers have some looks that work — we like the chrome gold helmets — and others that need to row on somewhere else. Game-time decision. 

Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Baylor, Jan. 2:

Entertainment potential: Very high. A fun matchup of two teams who had a shot of getting into the playoff. Georgia allowed one rushing touchdown all season. 

Future NFL talent: Georgia is likely to have two players selected in the first round of the draft: OT Andrew Thomas and RB D’Andre Swift. Thomas is not playing in the bowl game and Swift has not decided. 

Bulldogs safety J.R. Reed — the son of former Minnesota Vikings WR Jake Reed — was named first-team All-American and will be selected day one of the draft. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Excellent. Georgia keeps it classic and that gray, red, and black look with the block “G” is one of the best and most recognizable in the nation. Baylor’s green and gold provides a nice contrast. 

Gator Bowl: Indiana vs. Tennessee, Jan. 2:

Entertainment potential: Sneaky fun matchup between two programs who have not been bowling for a couple of seasons. It’s a sellout so fans of both teams are hyped, but the stadium will be at least 80% orange. Indiana averaged 32.6 points per game. The Vols were up and down all season but got hot late. Indiana has not won nine games since 1967.

Future NFL talent: Hoosiers junior WR Whop Philyor is a playmaker (and great football name!). Vols LB Daniel Bituli is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine and will force his way onto some NFL roster. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Super high. Tennessee’s orange and whites with the block “T” on the helmets are simply among the best looks in all of college sports. You know you are seeing the Vols when that orange pops off the TV.

Indiana has smartly gone to a clean, classic red-and-white look à la Oklahoma or Alabama. Really nice contrast in this one, plus the Vols always bring an awesome doggy to the sidelines in Smokey. 

Cotton Bowl: Penn State vs. Memphis, Dec. 28:

Entertainment potential: High. One of those fun games that seem to only happen come bowl season. We like seeing a Big 10 power take on a really good program from a smaller conference. WR Damonte Coxie and the Tigers can score. 

Future NFL talent: We’re huge fans of Penn State WR K.J. Hamler. Absolute playmaker who is a threat to score any time he touches the rock. 

#greatuniformgame potential: High. This should be an eye-pleaser depending on what uniforms the Tigers roll with. Penn State has not changed the basic blue and whites with no helmet logo forever, nor should they. We’re a big fan of Memphis going with the tiger stripes on the helmets à la the Cincinnati Bengals. Either way, the blue and silver always pops nicely. 

Military Bowl: North Carolina vs. Temple, Dec. 27: 

Entertainment potential: High. College football is just a better place with Mack Brown in it coaching. The Heels gave Clemson a serious game earlier this season and have something special in frosh QB Sam Howell (35 TDs, 7 interceptions).  

Temple is in a bowl game for the 5th straight season despite three coaching changes in two years. Not bad for a basketball school playing games in a pro football stadium. Temple first-year coach Rod Carey went 0-6 in bowls leading Northern Illinois. 

Future NFL talent: Temple DE Quincy Roche (13 sacks) is one of the best players in the nation.

#greatuniformgame potential: Spectacular. We’re a big fan of UNC’s powder blues and they make for a terrific contrast to Temple’s deep-red-and-white look. Both teams keep it clean and simple but they pop. The awesome background in Annapolis is the perfect setting for this matchup. 

Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks on before the game

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State, Dec. 28:

Entertainment potential: Excellent. It is strange to see Notre Dame in a bowl like this but it’s fitting for a team that lost its two most important games (Georgia and Michigan) and is always overrated.

ISU lost five games but four were by a total of 11 points and they played some fun games all season. Cheering against the Domers is a bowl-season tradition like few others.

Future NFL talent: Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool and ISU TE Charlie Kolar are two players to watch in this one. 

#greatuniformgame potential: Could be great. We always know what we’re going to get from the Irish: those classic shiny gold helmets and simple-but-cool uniforms with gold, blue, and white. 

Some of Iowa State’s looks are better than others. We’re a fan of the old-school maroon and gold with the angry Cyclone logo. 

Liberty Bowl: Navy vs. Kansas State, Dec. 31:

Entertainment potential: High. Navy put it on Army in their annual matchup and is playing great on both sides of the ball going into a matchup with a K-State team that pulled off one of the biggest wins of the season, over Oklahoma, earlier in the season.

As usual, the Mids have a QB who can really leg it out of the triple option. Malcolm Perry ran for over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and Navy led the nation in rushing. Keep an eye on K-State return ace Joshua Youngblood, who ran back three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. 

Future NFL talent: Perry may get a look as an RB. 

#greatuniformgame potential: High. This game will be pleasing to the eyes. Navy always has a classically awesome look and K-State’s purple, silver, and white with the “Powercat” logo is one of the best. 

Worth a look but keep the remote handy

Sun Bowl: Florida State vs. Arizona State, Dec. 31: 

One of five games of the day, this matchup has potential to grab your attention. ASU frosh QB Jayden Daniels was one of the most exciting players in the nation. 

The dual-threat Daniels knocked Oregon out of a potential playoff spot with an epic 408-yard, three-touchdown performance and is the kind of talent who used to go to FSU. The Seminoles could see a handful of key players skip the game so they can get ready for the draft. 

This one has #greatuniformgame potential as well. FSU has always had one of the best looks around and the Sun Devils have great colors to work with.

Orange Bowl: Florida vs. Virginia, Dec. 30:

The Hoos have a legit star in QB Bryce Perkins and he will run into stud Gators LB Jonathan Greenard. This is a big game for Florida. A bowl victory and 11-win finish would show the college football world — and top recruits — that one of the prime programs is truly back.  

The Hoos need a better showing after getting blasted by Clemson in the ACC title game. Both teams have slick uniforms with plenty of orange in the mix so this is a very appropriate matchup for this bowl. 

Alamo Bowl: Utah vs. Texas, Dec. 31: 

One of five games on this day, it will be fascinating to see how a very good Utah team bounces back after laying an egg in a Pac-12 title game loss to Oregon. The Utes have a legit NFL prospect in RB Zack Moss, but he may or may not play.

Texas coach Tom Herman needs a win here as the pressure is being cranked by an anxious fan base sick of losing to Oklahoma (and Baylor) and playing in bowls like this one. 

The Texas orange and whites are among the best in all of college football, and who doesn’t like seeing Bevo on the sideline?

Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky, Dec. 31:

Fun matchup with two interesting QBs. The Hokies became a different team once Hendon Hooker got under center after a 2-2 start. Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. played all over the field before moving to QB and is one of the most exciting players you will see. 

Brown and orange is normally an ugly color combo but the Hokies have always pulled it off. We’re big fans of Kentucky’s chrome silver helmets. What is a Hokie anyway? Who knows? 

Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M, Dec. 27: 

OSU RB Chuba Hubbard is one of the best in the country and should he elect to play (he may stay out to get ready for the NFL draft), fans should check him out. The Aggies played Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU so that team is battle-tested. 

OSU changes uniforms every other week so no idea what to expect from the Pokes, but we’re a fan of the big-faced Cowboy logo. A&M always keeps it classic. 

Redbox Bowl: Illinois vs. California, Dec. 30:

Lovie Smith and Illinois knocked off Wisconsin in one of the season’s biggest upsets, but they need a win to avoid finishing below .500.

Cal LB Evan Weaver led the nation in tackles (173) and needs 20 in this game to eclipse the single-season record in a 14-game season set by Texas Tech’s Lawrence Flugence in 2002.  He is a sideline-to-sideline machine. 

Both teams keep it cool and classic with the uniforms so this one will get plenty of TV time. 

Frisco Bowl: Utah State vs. Kent State, Dec. 20:

Utah State has quietly become a consistently good program and has a potential NFL QB in Jordan Love, who has been projected to go somewhere in the middle rounds of the NFL draft. 

This will be Kent State’s third bowl ever and first-ever win should they get it. 

Cure Bowl: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern, Dec. 21:

Notable because Liberty went 7-5 and made a bowl in its first season playing FBS football. Coach Hugh Freeze, who started the season coaching from a bed in the press box, has one of the best QB-WR combos in the nation in Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden.

Lance Williams #51 of the Hawaii Warriors and teammates perform "haka"

(Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. BYU, Dec. 24: 

Fun matchup in a beautiful place. We’re big fans of Hawaii players performing the traditional “haka” dance

BYU recruits Hawaii heavily and this game will be special for several players on the roster. Both teams can sling it and let’s face it, ANY game with BYU has shootout potential. 

It’s ingrained in those awesome uniforms Jim McMahon, Steve Young, and Ty Detmer once wore. 

Music City Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Louisville, Dec. 30:

MSU averaged 27.8 ppg while Louisville put up 32.7 ppg behind exciting QB Micale Cunningham, and both teams gave up a ton of points as well, so this could be fun. The over/under is 63.5 so Vegas is expecting a shootout. 

Cards WR Tutu Atwell (61 receptions, 1,129 yards, 12 TDs) is one of the more fun “small” players in the country. Two solid sets of uniforms as well. We’re big fans of Louisville’s angry Cardinal logo. Miss State fans are banned from bringing cowbells into the stadium. Boo. 

Hey, it’s football

Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 27: The real draw here is Yankee Stadium as a backdrop and we’re big fans of Wake’s chrome gold helmets and black/gold/white uniforms. Sparty’s green and whites have always been among our favorite looks. 

Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs. Cincinnati, Jan. 2: The Bearcats were one of the most consistently entertaining teams all season and it will be interesting to see how the BC players perform after seeing their coach get fired. 

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami, Dec. 26: The Canes have some of the sweetest uniforms ever and have no business playing in a bowl like this. The “Turnover Chain” deserves better, Manny Diaz. Get it going. 

Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson (five interceptions) is one of the best in the country and one of those players who pops up down the line in the NFL. 

Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Washington, Dec. 21: Chris Petersen steps down as coach of the Huskies and is 1-4 in bowl games with Washington. His former program, Boise State, had an argument to be in a bigger bowl, and taking UW would mean a ton to those players. 

Boise State DE Curtis Weaver should be a first-round pick. Washington TE Hunter Bryant has serious NFL potential as well. UW’s purple, gold, and whites have consistently been among the best uniforms.

Celebration Bowl: Alcorn State vs. N. Carolina A&T, Dec. 21: NC A&T has sneakily grown into one of the most consistent programs in black college football. The bands in this one will be killer. 

Boca Raton Bowl: SMU vs. Fla. Atlantic, Dec. 21: For those of us who came of age in the 1980s, it’s nice seeing SMU relevant again. FAU lost coach Lane Kiffin to Ole Miss but gained Willie Taggert, and ANY bowl victory helps recruiting in Florida. This is the only matchup outside of the playoff with two top-20 offenses. 

FAU TE Harrison Bryant was named first-team All-American and will be an NFL player. 

Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan, Dec. 26: This all about Pitt going back to the awesome uniforms they wore when Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, and others were in the glory days of the late 1970s and early ’80s. 

EMU QB Mike Glass can sling it. Pitt DT Jaylen Twyman was named All-American and is only a sophomore. 

Camellia Bowl: Florida International vs. Arkansas State, Dec. 21: Every year a handful of bowl games turn into crazy scorefests and Twitter goes crazy. This could be one of them.

Arkansas State WR Omar Bayless (1,473 yards, 16 touchdowns) is one of the best players in the nation and will be itching to show it on the national stage. 

Gasparilla Bowl: Central Florida vs. Marshall, Dec. 23: Daunte Culpepper starred at UCF and Randy Moss was a monster at Marshall, so this has to be a cooker, right? This one has the largest point spread margin of any bowl, with UCF favored by 17.5, but Marshall is 6-0 in bowl games under coach Doc Holliday, so if you wager, do so carefully. 

Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force vs. Washington State, Dec. 27: Another game with serious fireworks potential. We love the contrast between Air Force running the triple option and Wazzu going full Air Raid.

The over/under is 67.5 and you’d have to think Mike Leach likes running the ball to take the under. Nice uniform matchup as well. The Air Force blue and silver mixes well with Wazzu’s scarlet and gray. 

New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan vs. San Diego State, Dec. 21: The Aztecs play great defense and the black-and-red look has been one of the best since the Marshall Faulk days. 

CMU was 1-11 last season, so those players should be especially fired up to be bowling. The player to watch is CMU WR Kalil Pimpleton (79 receptions, 823 yards, six touchdowns). The over/under for this game is a bowl-season low 41.5, so don’t expect a shootout.

Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo vs. Charlotte, Dec. 20: No better way to kick it all off than with two 7-5 teams who play solid football and will have players thrilled to be in the Bahamas. Who wouldn’t be this time of year? 

Charlotte may have the best player most people have not seen in DE Alex Highsmith (14 sacks). We’re fans of Buffalo’s basic blue-and-white look. Neither program has ever won a bowl game, so you will see history. 

Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane, Jan. 4: This baby kicks off at 8:30 West Coast time and will be a precursor to the day’s NFL playoff games, so put some strong coffee in your mug and watch some football. Tulane’s uniforms — with the wave logo on the helmets — are fantastic.

New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Alabama-Birmingham, Dec. 21: App State is NOT a team you want to tangle with, and that has been the case for a while (ask Michigan fans). The fact App State is favored by 17 says a lot about this one, but we do love UAB’s sweet gold helmets with the cool dragon logo. 

Arizona Bowl: Wyoming vs. Georgia State, Dec. 31: Wyoming beat Missouri while Georgia State beat Tennessee, so both schools have a win over an SEC team. 

First Responder Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky, Dec. 30: Last year’s game was canceled after just 10 minutes of play due to terrible weather, so just getting this one in will be a victory. WKU has wins over bowl teams Charlotte and Southern Miss and Arkansas of the SEC. WMU RB LeVante Bellamy led the nation with 23 rushing touchdowns. 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio vs. Nevada, Jan. 3: Who can’t get excited over the idea of a famous potato? Ohio has scored 118 points in its last two games and Nevada beat Purdue earlier this season, so it could be a party. 

LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio), Jan. 6: These two get to play in the final bowl before the national championship game. Ragin’ Cajuns is the best nickname in college sports. The player to watch is UL RB Elijah Mitchell (1,092 yards, 15 touchdowns).