Bowl Rankings: The Good Bowls
You watched these, you had a good time, and you felt happy inside.
17. Camellia Bowl
Arkansas State 34, FIU 27
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 29
A delightful surprise, it wasn’t the cleanest of games, but FIU made a great comeback to pull within one in the fourth. The Red Wolves came up with an insurance score and held on. The dueling monster games from ASU WR Omar Bayless and FIU WR Austin Maloney was worth the watch.
– 5 Thoughts on the Camellia Bowl
16. VRBO Citrus Bowl
Alabama 35, Michigan 16
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 12
There was absolutely nothing shocking about this game, but it was certainly entertaining. The Alabama stars showed up from the start on through a business-like second half, and Michigan was actually winning at halftime to provide a little bit of intrigue. It was fine – no one’s ripping on Jim Harbaugh too hard for losing, and Alabama showed that it’s still Alabama by winning.
– 5 Thoughts on the Citrus Bowl
15. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Tennessee 23, Indiana 22
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 10
You can pretty much ignore the first 50 minutes of the game, but … that finish.
Out of the glut of 40 bowl games, it’s forever going to stand out because of 30 seconds as part of the final six minutes.
The Vols turned a 22-9 deficit into a 23-22 lead with their only two touchdowns of the game, Indiana missed a 52-yard field goal, and it turned into a season-defining win for one side and a gut-punch for the other.
– 5 Thoughts on the Gator Bowl
14. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Texas A&M 24, Oklahoma State 21
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 14
It wasn’t exactly thrilling, but it was close throughout and good enough to keep watching as the late heroics of Kellen Mond unfolded. The Oklahoma State offense never went off – getting up 14-0 early and not getting back on the board until the final minute – the defense didn’t get destroyed, and both teams battled well as it was dead even throughout.
– 5 Thoughts on the Texas Bowl
13. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
LSU 63, Oklahoma 28
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 3
It was 7-7. And then it really, really wasn’t.
Forget the blowout, forget the meltdown, forget the 56-14 lead … this was a THING. It was one of those games that you’ll need to have as a frame of reference for what true offensive greatness will be measured against.
This wasn’t just some Blah Blah Bowl sponsored by Blah Blah – this was the College F-ing Playoff, and Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson and LSU played the game for the first 40 minutes at a level as great as it’s ever been played.
– 5 Thoughts on the Peach Bowl
12. Capital One Orange Bowl
Florida 36, Virginia 28
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 18
Considering Florida was a double-touchdown favorite and was never in any real danger – even with the score 27-21 in the fourth – this was solid. Granted, the game is graded a bit on a curve considering the expectations were low, but Virginia QB Bryce Perkins put on a show, Florida had to battle, and it was a good, hard-fought New Year’s Six game with both teams coming away looking strong.
– 5 Thoughts on the Orange Bowl
11. GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic
Penn State 53, Memphis 39
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 8
This was EXACTLY what you wanted. Almost 1,100 yards of offense, 479 through the air from Memphis, almost 400 on the ground from Penn State, huge plays, lots of speed, explosion, plot twists, and 92 combined points. That was just good bowling – especially compared to the Notre Dame-Iowa State thing in the Camping World going on at the same time.
– 5 Thoughts on the Cotton Bowl
10. College Football Playoff National Championship
LSU 42, Clemson 25
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: Not Ranked
It was certainly entertaining for almost three quarters. LSU was unstoppable as the game went on, the defense stepped up, Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson offense suddenly couldn’t move, and the game was in the bag for the SEC over the last 20 minutes.
It was entertaining – it was certainly a whole lot better than the disaster in Santa Clara – but it didn’t have a whole lot of drama in the end. The performance art aspect, though, was tremendous.
– 5 Thoughts on the CFP National Championship
9. Quick Lane Bowl
Pitt 34, Eastern Michigan 30
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 39
Well look at who came up with one of the most surprisingly great bowls of the season. Eastern Michigan took an early lead, survived a slew of Pitt haymakers, stayed in it throughout, and finished up with some literal punches of its own.
It was a great back-and-forth battle with a whole lot of drama, especially considering the ACC took it on the chin in the Independence Bowl – Miami losing to Louisiana Tech – right before this.
– 5 Thoughts on the Quick Lane Bowl
8. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl Bowl
Kent State 51, Utah State 41
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 32
What more do you want out of a minor bowl game? Lots and lots of offense, a well-played battle from both sides, great quarterback play, a history-making victory, and … lots and lots of offense.
The two teams combined for 1,056 yards with 39 fourth quarter points and with Utah State NFL prospect QB Jordan Love doing what everyone wanted to see – other than beat Kent State, of course.
– 5 Thoughts on the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Navy 20, Kansas State 17
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 6
There might not have been a whole lot of scoring, but the two offenses kept the clock moving in a fast-paced battle that came down to a 23-yard Navy field goal in the final seconds. Navy outgained 421 yards to 170, but couldn’t put the Power Fiver away until the end in a drama-filled thriller that was never boring.
– 5 Thoughts on the Liberty Bowl
6. Rose Bowl
Oregon 28, Wisconsin 27
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 2
Has anyone figured out how Oregon actually won this? Oh yeah … the four Wisconsin turnovers helped by a punter who dropped the ball. The Ducks were dominated, didn’t do anything offensively, and lived on a few big runs from their NFL franchise QB Justin Herbert – and they won in a really, really fun game to cap off a fantastic year. It’s the Rose Bowl – it’s always wonderful.
– 5 Thoughts on the Rose Bowl