In a 17-day span from Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, 40 college football bowl games will take place across the country, and even in the Bahamas.
Excluding the Jan. 9 national championship game, which is sure to provide great drama, every bowl matchup is set, and teams are deep in preparation.
In the spirit of the season, we ranked the 40 bowls into five tiers by the level of gifts we would love to see.
CAR WITH A GIANT RIBBON PEACH: ALABAMA (13-0) VS. WASHINGTON (12-1)
Atlanta, Dec. 31 (1 p.m., ESPN)
Chris Petersen faces Nick Saban and the powerful Crimson Tide, but don’t doubt the coach with postseason bowl magic, especially with four weeks to prepare.
ROSE: USC (9-3) VS. PENN ST. (11-2)
Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 2 (3 p.m., ABC)
Outside of Alabama, these are the two hottest teams in the nation. Neither have lost since September, and both have two top-10 wins.
FIESTA: CLEMSON (12-1) VS. OHIO ST. (11-1)
Glendale, Ariz., Dec. 31 (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
In the other semifinal playoff matchup with the Peach, two evenly-matched teams meet, both in top 20 in scoring offense and defense.
COTTON: W. MICHIGAN (13-0) VS. WISCONSIN (10-3)
Dallas, Jan. 2 (11 a.m., ESPN)
The Broncos, the Group of Five’s best, will try to row the boat in tough waters against the excellent Justin Wilcox-led Badger defense.
ALAMO: COLORADO (10-3) VS. OKLAHOMA ST. (9-3)
San Antonio, Dec. 29 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Both teams, old conference rivals, are ranked in the top 12, pitting a stout Buffaloes defense against a high-scoring Cowboys offense.
ORANGE: FLORIDA ST. (9-3) VS. MICHIGAN (10-2)
Miami, Dec. 30 (6 p.m., ESPN)
College football blue bloods battle, including top stars in Florida State RB Dalvin Cook and Michigan’s Heisman finalist Jabril Peppers.
CITRUS: LSU (7-4) VS. LOUISVILLE (9-3)
Orlando, Dec. 31 (9 a.m., ABC)
One of the best defenses in LSU, which gave up 16 touchdowns all season, against Heisman winner Lamar Jackson (21 rushing TDs).
LAS VEGAS: SAN DIEGO ST. (10-3) VS. HOUSTON (9-3)
Dec. 17 (1:30 p.m., ABC)
Donnel Pumphrey could break the NCAA rushing record in his hometown, and even minus coach Tom Herman, the Cougars are dangerous.
OMG, A PUPPY! SUGAR: OKLAHOMA (10-2) VS. AUBURN (8-4)
New Orleans, Jan. 2 (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
Oklahoma has two Heisman finalists in Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook, Auburn has an excellent defense. Should be better than decent matchup.
POINSETTIA: WYOMING (8-5) VS. BYU (8-4)
San Diego, Dec. 21 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Old WAC rivals (they’ve met 77 times), both with great running backs. Eagle High graduate Tanner Mangum will start at QB for BYU.
BOCA RATON: MEMPHIS (8-4) VS. W. KENTUCKY (10-3)
Dec. 20 (5 p.m., ESPN)
Bowl games should be entertaining. How about two teams that combine to average 84.6 points per game? Not bad for a pre-Christmas treat.
CAMELLIA: APPALACHIAN ST. (9-3) VS. TOLEDO (9-3)
Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 17 (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Another fun Group of Five matchup between two 9-3 teams. Mountaineers have a strong running game and the Rockets are No. 8 in passing.
SUN: NORTH CAROLINA (8-4) VS. STANFORD (9-3)
El Paso, Dec. 30 (noon, CBS)
The last college game for Stanford’s magnificent Christian McCaffrey and maybe for UNC QB Mitch Trubisky, a possible first-round pick.
HOLIDAY: WASHINGTON ST. (8-4) VS. MINNESOTA (8-4)
San Diego, Dec. 27 (5 p.m., ESPN)
A clash of styles in the Cougars’ up-tempo pass attack and the Gophers’ slowdown run game. WSU’s 10th in plays per game, Minnesota 99th.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC: MIAMI (8-4) VS. WEST VIRGINIA (10-2)
Orlando, Dec. 28 (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Both teams have good defenses, and both have shown flashes of offensive prowess. Miami QB Brad Kaaya is a first-round talent to some.
DOLLAR GENERAL: OHIO (8-5) VS. TROY (9-3)
Mobile, Ala., Dec. 23 (6 p.m., ESPN)
Ohio put up a fight with Western Michigan in the MAC championship, and Troy’s offense is fun. Bonus: Trojans open the 2017 season at Boise State.
SWEET NEW BIKE CACTUS: BOISE ST. (10-2) VS. BAYLOR (6-6)
Phoenix, Dec. 27 (8:15 p.m., ESPN)
The Broncos feel they have something to prove against a Power Five opponent, but the question is if Baylor, losing six straight, will care.
MUSIC CITY: NEBRASKA (9-3) VS. TENNESSEE (8-4)
Nashville, Dec. 30 (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Two extremely, um, passionate fan bases converge to watch two inconsistent squads, a combined 5-5 in their last five games.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO: IDAHO (8-4) VS. COLORADO ST. (7-5)
Albertsons Stadium, Dec. 22 (5 p.m., ESPN)
A better matchup than some think, a combined 11-3 since Oct. 8, each scoring at least 36 ppg in that span. Home-state edge for Idaho?
BIRMINGHAM: SOUTH FLORIDA (10-2) VS. SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6)
Dec. 29 (noon, ESPN)
South Florida coach Willie Taggart leaves for Oregon, but the Bulls’ offense is really good, while South Carolina likes to keep it ugly.
ARMED FORCES: NAVY (9-4) VS. LOUISIANA TECH (8-5)
Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 23 (2:30 p.m., ESPN)
It loses some luster without injured Navy QB Will Worth (25 rushing TDs), but the triple option vs. La. Tech’s pass offense (360 ypg) is fun.
BELK: ARKANSAS (7-5) VS. VIRGINIA TECH (9-4)
Charlotte, Dec. 29, (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Two teams that have seen some real highs and late-season lows meet in a tough matchup for Arkansas against VT’s stout QB, Jarrod Evans.
TEXAS: TEXAS A&M (8-4) VS. KANSAS ST. (8-4)
Houston, Dec. 28 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Homefield advantage for the Aggies, QB Trevor Knight healthy should make it much better against K-State, good against this type of offense.
HAWAII: HAWAII (6-7) VS. MIDDLE TENN. (8-4)
Honolulu, Dec. 24 (6 p.m., ESPN)
Before Santa visits, watch two teams ranked in the bottom 25 in scoring defense try to stop one another, a little spike to your egg nog.
SOCKS FROM GRANDMA INDEPENDENCE: VANDERBILT (6-6) VS. NC STATE (6-6)
Shreveport, La., Dec. 26 (3 p.m., ESPN2)
Vandy beat four bowl teams but is 109th in scoring. But watch to see former Boise State QB Ryan Finley and the Wolfpack.
ARIZONA: SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6) VS. AIR FORCE (9-3)
Tucson, Dec. 30 (3:30 p.m., Campus Insiders/ASN)
South Alabama beat Mississippi State and San Diego State, yet was 2-6 vs. Sun Belt. Air Force deserves better: so goes the Mountain West.
MIAMI BEACH: C. MICHIGAN (6-6) VS. TULSA (9-3)
Dec. 19 (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
Central Michigan is an OK team from the MAC, so expect Tulsa’s very watchable offense (41.4 ppg) to put up a show. We can only hope.
PINSTRIPE: PITTSBURGH (8-4) VS. NORTHWESTERN (6-6)
New York, Dec. 28 (noon, ESPN)
Watch cancer survivor James Conner’s last game for Pitt, a team with wins over Penn State and Clemson, against a “meh” Big Ten team.
FOSTER FARMS: INDIANA (6-6) VS. UTAH (8-4)
Santa Clara, Calif., Dec. 28 (6:30 p.m., Fox)
Indiana’s coach got fired, and the Hoosiers didn’t beat any bowl teams. Yay. Top-heavy Big Ten hurts, as Utah should have better opponent.
BAHAMAS: E. MICHIGAN (7-5) VS. OLD DOMINION (9-3)
Nassau, Dec. 23 (11 a.m., ESPN)
More people show up for cricket, but still a cool setting. It’s Eastern’s first bowl since 1987 and Old Dominion’s first ever.
LIBERTY: TCU (6-6) VS. GEORGIA (7-5)
Memphis, Dec. 30 (10 a.m., ESPN)
These teams’ talents exceed their records. If they play to their potential, this could be a great game. Most likely, a bit of a snoozer.
TAXSLAYER: KENTUCKY (7-5) VS. GEORGIA TECH (8-4)
Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 31 (9 a.m., ESPN)
Kentucky played some decent football the past two months, but their 108th-ranked rush D will be tested mightily by the Tech triple option.
LUMP OF COAL CURE: C. FLORIDA (6-6) VS. ARKANSAS ST. (7-5)
Orlando, Dec. 17 (3:30 p.m., CBSSN)
UCF went 0-12 last season, so that’s cool. Former Bronco Nick Patti’s last game, too. Both teams can score, but this might be a little sloppy.
QUICK LANE: BOSTON COLLEGE (6-6) VS. MARYLAND (6-6)
Detroit, Dec. 26 (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
Show of hands: Did anyone even know they were bowl eligible? It might be close, but they’re 123rd and 92nd in scoring. Oh boy!
ST. PETERSBURG: MIAMI, OHIO (6-6) VS. MISSISSIPPI ST. (5-7)
Dec. 26 (9 a.m., ESPN)
Early morning matchup on an awful field between teams a combined 11-13. Miami’s at least interesting, losing first six, then winning six.
MILITARY: TEMPLE (10-3) VS. WAKE FOREST (6-6)
Annapolis, Md., Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Temple lost its coach to Baylor, but its defense is No. 3 against the run. Wake scores 19.3 ppg. This has all the makings of a forgettable one.
NEW MEXICO: NEW MEXICO (8-4) VS. UTSA (6-6)
Albuquerque, Dec. 17 (noon, ESPN)
UTSA has been bad against good offenses. New Mexico can run it better than anyone, and the Lobos are at home. See Bob Davie have fun.
OUTBACK: FLORIDA (8-4) VS. IOWA (8-4)
Tampa, Jan. 2 (11 a.m., ABC)
Do not want. Both teams are offensively inept, displaying the most boring sort of football you can ponder. But stay for punts and field goals.
NEW ORLEANS: SOUTHERN MISS (6-6) VS. LOUISIANA (6-6)
Dec. 17 (7 p.m., ESPN)
They each have two wins over bowl teams, and uh, are both close to home? Two perfectly mediocre teams meeting in a mediocre bowl.
HEART OF DALLAS: ARMY (7-5) VS. NORTH TEXAS (5-7)
Dec. 27 (10 a.m., ESPN)
Washington played in this bowl last year. Washington! What a stinker this is. Army beat two FCS teams, and UNT beat Army already, Oct. 22.