Enough joking around with all the other bowl games. THESE are the ones you have to watch no matter what.
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Ranking The 2017-2018 Bowls: The Top Ten
Enough of those other bowls. Here are the ten you have to watch, or else you’re a horrible person who doesn’t like … stuff.
In order from the ones because-you-have-to, to the ones because-you-HAVE-to, here we go …
Bowl Cool Scale: You arrived to take your new job like this …
Or when your lifelong dream comes true, like this …
Or …. Simply, This …
10. Las Vegas Bowl
Boise State vs. Oregon -7.5, o/u: 59.5
The last time we got to see Oregon deal with Boise State – Chip Kelly’s Oregon debut, by the way – it was a 19-8 loss to kick off the 2009 season, finishing with this …
There’s no more Willie Taggart – who’s off to Florida State after not winning anything at Oregon, or at USF, or at WKU – but Mario Cristobal is a veteran former head coach who’ll be just fine in the interim.
Boise State isn’t just the Mountain West champ, it’s in need of a bounce back bowl win after an embarrassing 31-12 loss to Baylor to end last season. No matter what, this is one of those games the Group of Fiver has to win.
9. Citrus Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU -3, o/u: 51.5
Really? Out of all the hot seat and coaching carousel issues going on, Brian Kelly and Ed Orgeron are … stable? They’re the ones in a good spot and closing out solid seasons?
However, the offseason narratives for each will be dictated based on what happens here. If Notre Dame loses, Kelly can’t get the program over the hump. Win, and it was a strong season with a nice step forward.
If Orgeron loses, the SEC was down, and LSU didn’t do enough with the talent. Win, and it was a strong season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding run.
This might be a top five bowl matchup except for one problem – this bowl has been a disaster. The last seven have been brutal blowouts with the winners taking down the sad by a combined score of 252 to 108 (36 to 15 average).
8. Valero Alamo Bowl
TCU -2.5 vs. Stanford, o/u: 49
As matchups of next-tier teams go, this one is special.
There aren’t many teams with better coaches than Stanford’s David Shaw and TCU’s Gary Patterson for two teams that lost their respective conference championship games and were really, really close to big things.
The stars – like Bryce Love – are all supposed to play, and best of all, these two programs under these two coaches always, always bring it in bowl time.
Since 2002, TCU has gone 9-4 in bowl games with all four of those losses by a touchdown or less – counting the 31-23 loss to Georgia in last year’s Liberty Bowl.
Stanford has won its last three going back to the 2014 24-20 Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State, going 5-3 since 2001 with all three losses by by a total of 11 points.
7. Fiesta Bowl
Washington vs. Penn State -2.5, o/u: 55
This time, it’s personal.
It’s not exactly the College Football Playoff matchup we would’ve had last season – Penn State would’ve played either Alabama or Clemson, and Washington would’ve lost to the other – but it’s not far off.
And now, with some due respect to your 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl between Miami and Wisconsin, this might be the best bowl between teams that didn’t win their conferences.
Both are tremendously well coached, and both are loaded with next-level talent on both sides of the ball. USC and Ohio State are coming up with the normal-year Rose Bowl matchup in the Cotton. Consider this the off-Broadway version.
6. Capital One Orange Bowl
Wisconsin -6.5 vs. Miami, o/u: 45
Technically, this is the best non-CFP matchup of the bowl season. The Badgers were one scoring drive away from probably being the College Football Playoff three-seed, and the Canes were one Clemson bus not showing up away from getting in, too.
And now, this should answer the question of which team and which season was for real.
The two defenses were for real, and the two seasons were absolutely no fluke despite the respective conference championship losses. The home dynamic will be there for the Canes, the Badger Nation dynamic should be there for the traveling base, and while the game might not be scintillating, it’ll define the regular season narrative for both.
5. Birmingham Bowl
USF -2.5 vs. Texas Tech, o/u: 67
Points points points … lots and lots of points.
Texas Tech’s defense has improved, Charlie Strong’s USF team led the American Athletic in scoring D, and none of that will matter.
Demand a score of somewhere around 21-17 after the first drive.
It’s been a while since the Red Raider passing game has been the Red Raider passing game – the O hasn’t scored more than 38 points in the last seven games – and USF’s running game can occasionally control games, but forget it. These two should blow up very, very huge.
4. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Auburn -9.5 vs. UCF, o/u: 67
You think UCF fans care about this?
The hope is for Auburn to be interested. With a month off to rest up and get ready again, the Tigers get to go back to Atlanta – where it looked absolutely gassed in the SEC Championship loss to Georgia – and needs to crank up the offense.
If this all works like it’s supposed to, this will be an epic firefight between the try-hard types with the loaded offense, and the SEC attack that can put up points in chunks.
Between the atmosphere, the offenses, and the interest level, it’ll be a story.
3. Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Ohio State -7 vs. USC, o/u: 64.5
Okay, Ohio State. You think you got hosed? Fine, then show the world what kind of a massive mistake the College Football Playoff committee made.
At the very least, it’s the Texas brand of Rose Bowl with the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs playing it out – as it should be – in the first bowl matchup of Power Five conference champions outside of the CFP in the CFP era.
Both are supremely talented, and both are painfully flawed by missing that extra juice that kept them out of the playoff.
Even so, it’s almost certainly Sam Darnold’s final college game, it’s Ohio State in desperate need of proving a point after the horrific performance in last years’ Fiesta Bowl vs. Clemson, and if you hooked up all 13 CFP committee members to a lie detector, it’s the matchup they wished they had in their playoff.
2. Rose Bowl
Georgia -1 vs. Oklahoma, o/u: 60
It’s not just that it’s the first ever meeting between these two college football powerhouses; and it’s not just that there’s some new blood in this with the Georgia fan base; and it’s not just that Kirby Smart and Lincoln Riley are shattering the idea that you need head coaching experience to be good at this head coaching thing; and it’s not just that the combined age of the two coaches is just nine years older than Nick Saban.
It’s the College Football Playoff in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. It might not be the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 champion, but this is how a New Year is supposed to kick in.
1. Sugar Bowl
Clemson vs. Alabama -2.5, o/u: 47
For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth of how Alabama somehow got into this thing, it’s Clemson vs. Alabama in the College Football Playoff.
There’s no Deshaun Watson, and this is nowhere near the Crimson Tide team of the last two years, but by the time the build-up for this thing kicks in, and we get to see these two go at it in January for a third straight season, the excitement will be off-the-charts.
It’s already going to be a crazed setting with the SEC team playing in its normal championship home base, and then the winner gets to go play in Atlanta where the fans will send the ticket prices through the roof – especially if it’s against Georgia.
The winner will be going for its second national title in three seasons and will make the second team (no, USC doesn’t count you AP poll fans) to play in three straight national titles in the BCS/CFP era – Florida State the first in 1998 through 2000.
It’s Clemson vs. Alabama.