Statesman annual bowl rankings: Which of the 35 games to watch (and which to skip)

We rank every bowl — from the BCS title game to the one banished to a higher cable tier.

December 18, 2013 

Kelvin Benjamin and No. 1 Florida State are in the premier bowl game — the final BCS National Championship Game against Auburn on Jan. 6.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

— There are 35 bowl games between Saturday and Jan. 6, and no one has time to watch them all. So here’s your guide to the 2013-14 bowl season — which games are worth dropping everything for, and which ones you can skip to spend more time with family over the holidays.

1. BCS National Championship Game: Florida State vs. Auburn (Jan. 6, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)

What’s not to like? A Heisman Trophy-leading No. 1 versus a miracle-waiting-to-happen No. 2 in the final game of the BCS era.

2. Orange: Ohio State vs. Clemson (Jan. 3, 6 p.m., ESPN)

This is my list, and I like offense better than defense, so the high-scoring Orange gets the nod over the defense-first Rose.

3. Rose: Stanford vs. Michigan State (Jan. 1, 3 p.m., ESPN)

If there were a four-team playoff this season, Stanford and Michigan State would have a good chance of being in it.

4. Cotton: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (Jan. 3, 5:30 p.m., FOX)

I warned you about my pro-offense bias. The Tigers and Cowboys from Jerry’s World in Dallas should put up plenty of points.

5. Alamo: Oregon vs. Texas(Dec. 30, 4:45 p.m., ESPN)

Mack Brown’s final game as Texas’ head coach is a must-watch. Oregon’s offense against the Longhorns’ defense might be close-your-eyes TV.

6. Sugar: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Jan. 2, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)

There will be a lot of red in the stands for this blueblood battle.

7. Fiesta: Baylor vs. Central Florida(Jan. 1, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)

The first BCS bowl appearances for either team. I like new blood. Congrats to UCF coach George O’Leary, who lost his dream job at Notre Dame due to an enhanced résumé.

8. Chick-fil-A: Texas A&M vs. Duke (Dec. 31, 6 p.m., ESPN)

Johnny Football’s final college game. There’s not a more entertaining player in the country.

9. Las Vegas: Fresno State vs. USC (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ABC)

Fifty touchdowns and 5,000 yards are in sight for Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr (48 TDs coming into the game, 4,866 yards), who is climbing NFL Draft boards.

10. Capital One: Wisconsin vs. South Carolina (Jan. 1, 11 a.m., ABC)

Two really good teams that wanted to be in a higher-profile game.

11. Outback: Iowa vs. LSU(Jan. 1, 11 a.m., ESPN)

One of three Big Ten-SEC showdowns.

12. Kraft Fight Hunger:BYU vs. Washington(Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)

Two teams that whipped Boise State this season. Should be a ton of regional interest.

13. Russell Athletic: Miami vs. Louisville (Dec. 28, 4:45 p.m., ESPN)

This could begin a good ACC rivalry. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater deserved better in Heisman voting.

14. Poinsettia:Northern Illinois vs. Utah State (Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)

I just like watching Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch play. He’ll face a tough test in the Aggies’ defense.

15. AdvoCare V100:Arizona vs. Boston College(Dec. 31, 10:30 a.m., ESPN)

Two of the best running backs in the country — Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Boston College’s Andre Williams.

16. Holiday:Arizona State vs. Texas Tech(Dec. 30, 8:15 p.m., ESPN)

Eagle High’s Taylor Kelly, the quarterback at Arizona State, has thrown for 3,510 yards and 28 touchdowns.

17. Sun: Virginia Tech vs. UCLA (Dec. 31, noon, CBS)

A stingy Virginia Tech defense meets UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in a cool bowl setting.

18. Hawaii: Boise State vs. Oregon State (Tuesday, 6 p.m., ESPN)

What do the Broncos look like post-Chris Petersen?

19. Pinstripe: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (Dec. 28, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Notre Dame playing football in Yankee Stadium? Cool.

20. Gator: Nebraska vs. Georgia (Jan. 1, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Would be higher if quarterback Aaron Murray were playing for Georgia. Great player took a beating this year.

21. BBVA Compass: Vanderbilt vs. Houston (Jan. 4, 11 a.m., ESPN)

Will it be the final game at Vanderbilt for coach James Franklin? Pay attention, Texas fans.

22: Belk: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina (Dec. 28, 1:20 p.m., ESPN)

Two hot teams: The Heels won five of their last six, Cincy won six of its last seven.

23. Texas: Minnesota vs. Syracuse (Dec. 27, 4 p.m., ESPN)

Minnesota probably deserved better, but lost its final two games.

24. Military: Marshall vs. Maryland (Dec. 27, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)

Did you know Marshall won Conference USA’s East Division? Me neither.

24. Little Caesars: Bowling Green vs. Pitt (Dec. 26, 4 p.m., ESPN)

Bowling Green is without its coach. Pitt is just happy not to be in Birmingham.

26. Liberty: Rice vs. Mississippi State (Dec. 31, 2 p.m., ESPN)

Mississippi State went 3-5 in SEC and 0-5 vs. Top 25 teams. Now Bulldogs are favored.

27. Buffalo Wild Wings: Kansas State vs. Michigan (Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m., ESPN)

Bad BCS-conference teams, Part I

28. Music City: Mississippi vs. Georgia Tech (Dec. 30, 1:15 p.m., ESPN)

Bad BCS-conference teams, Part II

29. Armed Forces: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy (Dec. 30, 9:45 a.m., ESPN)

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (NCAA-record 29 rushing touchdowns) is worth watching.

30. New Mexico: Washington State vs. Colorado State (Saturday, noon, ESPN)

Colorado State hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record. Even if Rams win, that won’t change.

31. Famous Idaho Potato: Buffalo vs. San Diego State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN)

Not the sexiest matchup, but the game at Bronco Stadium should be competitive.

32. GoDaddy: Arkansas State vs. Ball State (Jan. 5, 7 p.m., ESPN)

One reason to watch: It’s Bryan Harsin’s former team.

33. Beef O’Brady’s: Ohio vs. East Carolina (Monday, noon, ESPN)

Ohio lost by 49 to Bowling Green, 42 to Louisville, 31 to Kent State and 27 to Buffalo.

34. New Orleans: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)

Would be bigger game if I lived in Louisiana.

35. Heart of Dallas: UNLV vs. North Texas (Jan. 1, 10 a.m., ESPNU)

This is the only bowl game of the season on ESPNU. For a reason.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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