The most wonderful time of the year is almost here. No, not Christmas, but bowl season – three weeks of football starting on Dec. 21, and ending the night of the national championship on January 13th.
Since college football is all about its rankings, I thought I’d rank the “10 Best Bowl Games” of the season. What goes into such a ranking? First off, the quality of the game and the games that feature good teams. Also, entertainment value – the ability to be a high scoring game also a factor. Enough of my introduction, here are my top 10 bowl games of the 2019 season:
10. Las Vegas Bowl — No. 19 Boise State vs. Washington (Dec. 21, 7:30 pm, ABC)
This bowl might as well be called the Chris Peterson Bowl, as he’s had a ton of success with both the Broncos and Huskies. As most probably know by now, Peterson will be stepping down as head coach of Washington at the conclusion of this game.
If not for Memphis, Boise State would be playing in the Cotton Bowl. Nevertheless, the Broncos should be motivated to end the 2019 season on a high note. For Washington, they will, of course, be looking to send Peterson off the right way with a win.
9. Holiday Bowl — No. 16 Iowa vs. No. 22 USC (Dec. 27, 8 pm, FS1)
The Hawkeyes had a very good season finishing at 9-3. Iowa will have a chance at 10 wins when they travel out to California to take on USC.
Many expected the Trojans to move on from Clay Helton once the season was done, but Athletic Director Mike Bohn announced last week that the head coach would be back for the 2020 season. Considering this game is in Southern California, Helton and USC almost certainly need a good showing for momentum heading into the offseason. A loss to Iowa would continue more speculation that Helton will be fired.
8. Liberty Bowl — No. 23 Navy vs. Kansas State (Dec. 31, 3:45 pm, ESPN)
Everyone knows Navy loves to run the ball – they’re 1st nationally in rushing yards per game (360.8). What some might not know is Kansas State also has a potent rushing offense, coming in at 38th in rushing yards per game (189). If you love smash-mouth, physical football, then the Liberty Bowl is for you.
7. Cotton Bowl — No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 17 Memphis (Dec. 28, 12 pm, ESPN)
There was some thought that Mike Norvell would stay to coach the Tigers, but he made the right decision by getting on the recruiting trail and starting his new job at Florida State. Despite Norvell’s absence, the Cotton Bowl could end up being a fun game.
Memphis is one of the better teams in the country, and underrated by many – they’re averaging 40.5 points, which is 8th in the FBS. Penn State is averaging 34.3 points per game, which is 22nd best in the nation. The Nittany Lions should win this game, but expect this to be a high-scoring affair.
6. Outback Bowl — No. 12 Auburn vs. No. 18 Minnesota (Jan. 1, 1 pm, ESPN)
Auburn could be the best three-loss team in college football history, coming against Florida, LSU, and Georgia. Those teams have combined for a 24-4 record this season. The Tigers will have an interesting matchup against the Golden Gophers on New Year’s Day.
Minnesota was close to playing in the Big 10 Championship against Ohio State, but a regular-season loss to rival Wisconsin ended those hopes. The Outback Bowl will come down to the matchup of Auburn’s outstanding defensive line versus Minnesota’s monster offensive line.
5. Citrus Bowl — No. 13 Alabama vs. No. 14 Michigan (Jan. 1, 1 pm, ABC)
This year’s Citrus Bowl will feature two storied programs, as the Crimson Tide and the Wolverines will square off in Orlando. This will be the first time the two teams have played each other since the opener of the 2012 season.
The last time we saw Alabama, their defense was getting shredded by Auburn, but we know what happens when you give Nick Saban time to prepare. Since losing Tua Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide offense has still been able to score points with Mac Jones under center.
Michigan posted a 9-3 record this year with losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State – three teams playing in either NY6 Bowls or the College Football Playoff.
4. Sugar Bowl — No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor (Jan. 1, 8:45 pm, ESPN)
The Bulldogs and the Bears will have an interesting matchup in New Orleans. Georgia has been offensively challenged throughout the year, as quarterback Jake Fromm isn’t playing nearly as well as he did a year ago.
Baylor lost its starting quarterback Charlie Brewer to a head injury during their loss in the Big 12 Championship. With three weeks before their next game, Brewer should be OK to start against Georgia.
Both teams entering the break with some injury concerns, so the time off will be a good thing for both squads.
3. Rose Bowl — No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (Jan. 1, 5 pm, ESPN)
The Rose Bowl is always the most prestigious bowl, and usually gives us a good game to boot. The “Granddaddy of them All” features two teams, Oregon and Wisconsin, that have very similar styles of play.
Oregon won the Pac-12 Championship after defeating the Utah Utes. After being up in the Big 10 Championship, Wisconsin ended up losing to Ohio State.
2. Fiesta Bowl — No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson (Dec. 28, 8 pm, ESPN)
Ohio State and Clemson have been two of the best teams in the country the entire year. The problem is, how good is Clemson?
The best team the Tigers have played all year is Texas A&M. Also, Clemson hasn’t been tested since their close victory over North Carolina on Sept. 28. Meanwhile, Ohio State has two wins over Wisconsin, and one each over Penn State and Michigan.
The last time these two teams met, Clemson defeated Ohio State in the 2016 College Football Playoff 31-0. This game will be a lot different this time – and possibly finish with a different outcome.
1. Peach Bowl — No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Dec. 28, 4 pm, ESPN)
If you like scoring, then the Peach Bowl in Atlanta is for you. If you remember the Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma in 2017, this game could be very similar.
LSU and Oklahoma are two of the top five highest-scoring teams in the nation. Also, the quarterback matchup between Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow should be must-see television. LSU is the favorite to win, but don’t be surprised if Oklahoma makes this interesting.