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The Top 35: Your 2013-14 bowl rankings

By Tom Fornelli | Staff Writer

Some people would have you believe that 35 bowl games is about 25 bowl games too many. Well, I'll have you know that you shouldn't listen to those people. Bowl games are awesome. Sure, there are too many mediocre teams that go bowling these days because there are so many games, but you should cherish each and every one of the games between mediocre teams.

Because in a few months you won't have any football to watch at all and you'll be dying for a New Orleans Bowl matchup between Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette.

So our advice to you is to watch every single bowl game that you can this year, and to help you figure out which games are must-see, I've taken the liberty of ranking each bowl game this season. From one through 35.

We'll start with No. 35.

No. 35 New Mexico Bowl -- 12/21, 2 p.m. (All times Eastern)

Colorado State 7-6 vs. Washington State 6-6

This is the first bowl game that will be played this year, and for good reason, as it's not the most attractive matchup. I mean, while Washington State opened the season with a close loss against Auburn and a close win over USC, it's been basically downhill from there.

No. 34 New Orleans Bowl -- 12/21, 9 p.m.

Louisiana-Lafayette 8-4 vs. Tulane 7-5

Listen, I think it's great that Tulane is back in a bowl game after some long and lean years, but the fact is that unless you live in Louisiana this game probably doesn't have much significance for you.

No. 33 Pinstripe Bowl -- 12/28, 12 p.m.

Notre Dame 8-4 vs. Rutgers 6-6

This game started out well enough when Notre Dame accepted a bid, because seeing Notre Dame in Yankee Stadium is interesting. But then they added Rutgers, who just finished a very uninspiring 6-6.

No. 32 Armed Forces Bowl -- 12/30, 11:45 a.m.

Middle Tennessee 8-4 vs. Navy 7-4

I gave this game a slight edge over the Pinstripe Bowl just for the triple-option novelty of Navy. Also because this game is kind enough to start very early so that it might be over before the better games of the day begin.

No. 31 Heart of Dallas Bowl -- 1/1, 12 p.m.

UNLV 7-5 vs. North Texas 8-4

Listen, I don't run a bowl game of my own, but I can't help but feel like if you're going to hold your game on New Year's Day you probably want to find more attractive teams than UNLV and North Texas. And I'm not knocking UNLV and North Texas here. I would watch the hell out of this game if it were played on like Dec. 23, but on New Year's Day? There's just no chance.

No. 30 Hawaii Bowl -- 12/24, 8 p.m.

Boise State 8-4 vs. Oregon State 6-6

I love the Hawaii Bowl because it's always there for me on Christmas Eve when I want to ignore the family for a bit, and while I'll be keeping that tradition going this year, this isn't the greatest matchup. You've got an Oregon State team that turned out to be very mediocre against a Boise State team that just lost Chris Petersen to Washington.

No. 29 Texas Bowl -- 12/27, 6 p.m.

Minnesota 8-4 vs. Syracuse 6-6

Minnesota finished the regular season 8-4, and if bowl games were actually about rewarding teams instead of making money, the Gophers would be in a better game than this. However, the glass-half-full look says Minnesota should be happy to be in this game because it's got a much better chance of beating a mediocre Syracuse team than it does any SEC team playing in Florida on New Year's.

No. 28 Liberty Bowl -- 12/31, 4 p.m.

Rice 10-3 vs. Mississippi State 6-6

Mississippi State needed an overtime Egg Bowl victory to get to a bowl game, and its reward is Conference USA champion Rice. Will Mississippi State beat Rice? Probably, but it's worth tuning in just for the possibility of an SEC team losing to Conference USA. Because Rice is actually pretty decent.

No. 27 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl -- 12/21, 5:30 p.m.

Buffalo 8-4 vs. San Diego State 7-5

This game will be played on the first Saturday of bowl games, and it could prove to be the most interesting of the four games that day. San Diego State just has a habit of playing in close games, while Buffalo has one of the best players in the country in linebacker Khalil Mack.

No. 26 Music City Bowl -- 12/30, 3:15 p.m.

Ole Miss 7-5 vs. Georgia Tech 7-5

A matchup of two teams from major conferences with winning records. Sometimes you just have to accept what you can get. This could be one of those instances where whichever team is actually happy to be here ends up winning.

No. 25 GoDaddy.com Bowl -- 1/5, 9 p.m.

Ball State 10-2 vs. Arkansas State 7-5

There's a good chance that by the time this game is played both of these teams have interim coaches. That's not the case at the moment, though, and this will provide some entertainment value for you. However, the real reason it's ranked this high is that it's the penultimate game of the season. At this point you'll be looking to get your eyes on anything you can before it's all gone.

No. 24 AdvoCare V100 Bowl -- 12/31, 12:30 p.m.

Arizona 7-5 vs. Boston College 7-5

Two of the best running backs in the country will do battle in this game, as Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey does battle with Boston College's Andre Williams. Part of the fun of this game will be seeing if it's finished in less than three hours.

No. 23 Beef O'Brady's Bowl -- 12/23, 2 p.m.

East Carolina 9-3 vs. Ohio 7-5

Monday afternoon football? That's all right with me! Sure, it's played indoors in a baseball stadium that barely even passes as a baseball stadium, but aside from what is actually an interesting matchup, you'll get to see repeated Beef O'Brady's commercials. And if you live outside the BEEF'S footprint, well, they're quite interesting. SEE YOU AT BEEF'S!

No. 22 Belk Bowl -- 12/28, 3:20 p.m.

Cincinnati 9-3 vs. North Carolina 6-6

Hands down one of the funnest bowls to watch while following along on Twitter. You'll learn the millions of different ways you can use the word belk and still make complete sense to every single person you're talking to.

No. 21 Little Caesar's Bowl -- 12/26, 6 p.m

Bowling Green 10-3 vs. Pittsburgh 6-6

Know what pushed this game ahead of the Belk Bowl? On Saturday night I tweeted a joke about a photo of Urban Meyer eating a Papa John's pizza. I said it was the worst decision he'd made all night. Within five seconds that tweet was favorited by the Little Caesar's Bowl. Feel the rivalry, folks.

No. 20 Military Bowl -- 12/27, 2:30 p.m.

Marshall 9-4 vs. Maryland 7-5

There could be a good turnout for this game given the proximity of Annapolis to both schools. But the reason I've got it ranked this highly is the potential of Marshall's offense and Rakeem Cato in any given game.

No. 19 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl -- 12/28, 10:15 p.m.

Michigan 7-5 vs. Kansas State 7-5

Some late-night college football action for us all. We've seen the commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings, so there's no way to possibly know just what might happen in this game. No, wait, yeah there is. We know that no matter what happens Michigan fans will complain about it for four hours.

No. 18 BBVA Compass Bowl -- 1/4, 1 p.m.

Vanderbilt 8-4 vs. Houston 8-4

We've reached the part of the rankings where the matchups of the teams themselves start getting more intriguing. Odds are you haven't seen much of Houston this season, but it's an entertaining team. And then there's Vanderbilt which truly deserved a better bowl game this season given the way it played.

No. 17 Holiday Bowl -- 12/30, 10:15 p.m.

No. 14 Arizona State 10-3 vs. Texas Tech 7-5

We've finally reached the top half of our rankings, and surprise, surprise, we get our first ranked team in Arizona State. The Holiday Bowl has a history of high-scoring games, and these two teams can certainly provide those. However the disparity between these two teams as far as talent is concerned is why I don't have it ranked higher. Maybe Texas Tech can prove me wrong.

No. 16 Poinsettia Bowl -- 12/26, 9:30 p.m.

Utah State 8-5 vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois 12-1

This game is close to nirvana for the college football hipsters that have been following both of these teams the last few years. And even if you aren't one of those hipsters, it's still your last chance to watch Jordan Lynch run over people.

No. 15 Fight Hunger Bowl -- 12/27, 9:30 p.m.

BYU 8-4 vs. Washington 8-4

Washington may be under an interim coach while waiting for Chris Petersen to take over, but it still has a lot of talent and will be facing a BYU defense with its share of talent as well.

No. 14 Gator Bowl -- 1/1, 12 p.m.

Nebraska 8-4 vs. No. 22 Georgia 8-4

I realize I may have ranked this game a bit too high. On the surface it's "Georgia vs. Nebraska," sure, but we just saw this game last year and neither team will have its starting quarterback available.

No. 13 Sun Bowl -- 12/31, 2 p.m.

Virginia Tech 8-4 vs. No. 17 UCLA 9-3

Honestly, the reason I have this game ranked so highly is just the idea of watching UCLA's Myles Jack at running back go against Virginia Tech's front seven. That should be enough for you too.

No. 12 Outback Bowl -- 1/1, 1 p.m.

Iowa 8-4 vs. No. 16 LSU 9-3

Stylistically this is a matchup that could prove interesting seeing that both teams are pretty similar. And while your initial reaction may be to think LSU wins this one with ease, Iowa has a stout defense and the Tigers will be without Zach Mettenberger. So it may prove more interesting than you think.

No. 11 Las Vegas Bowl -- 12/21, 3:30 p.m.

No. 20 Fresno State 11-1 vs. No. 25 USC 9-4

Things worked out pretty well for the Las Vegas Bowl. It's the second bowl game that will be played this year, but it also features two ranked teams. And while USC may be on its second interim coach of the season, there's a lot of talent on both of these rosters.

No. 10 Chick-fil-A Bowl -- 12/31, 8 p.m.

No. 24 Duke 10-3 vs. No. 21 Texas A&M 8-4

I'm not sure how great of a matchup this actually is, but I wanted to give the ACC some props for fighting for Duke here and helping them get the bowl it deserves. As for Texas A&M, well, this could be the last time we see Johnny Football running around for the Aggies. That's worth tuning in for.

No. 9 Russell Athletic Bowl -- 12/28, 6:45 p.m.

Miami 9-3 at No. 18 Louisville 11-1

While this is actually a good matchup as far as the actual football, my favorite thing about this game is Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt facing the team he allegedly helped cause to miss some bowl games of its own the last few years.

No. 8 Alamo Bowl -- 12/30, 6:45 p.m.

No. 10 Oregon 10-2 vs. Texas 8-4

There's a serious question whether or not Oregon players even want to play in this game given preseason expectations, but if they do it's always fun to watch the Ducks work. And on the surface a game between Oregon and Texas is pretty damn good for the Alamo Bowl. There's also a chance that this will be Mack Brown's swan song with the Longhorns.

No. 7 Fiesta Bowl -- 1/1, 8:30 p.m.

No. 15 UCF 11-1 vs. No. 6 Baylor

I know this is the least appealing of the BCS bowls, but I don't think it's a bad matchup. UCF has shown a tendency to play to its opponent all season, as we shouldn't forget this team's only loss was a close one to South Carolina. And then there's Baylor, which always seems to be on the precipice of scoring 100 points at any moment.

No. 6 Capital One Bowl -- 1/1, 1 p.m.

No. 19 Wisconsin 9-3 vs. No. 9 South Carolina

Both of these teams finished second in their respective divisions, and truth be told, I think these two teams are a lot closer than their rankings suggest. In my mind the Badgers are a bit underrated -- strange loss to Penn State aside -- and South Carolina might just be coasting on some SEC cred. Which means I think we're going to get a fantastic game on New Year's.

No. 5 Sugar Bowl -- 1/2, 8:30 p.m.

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma 10-2

This will sound more insulting to Oklahoma than I mean it to, but has there ever been a less impressive 10-2 team from a major conference? I watch this team, and even when it wins I feel like it lost. Which just means that while I give it nearly no chance against Alabama in New Orleans this will probably be the game of the century. Though the only reason I have this game ranked so highly is the idea of "Alabama vs. Oklahoma" in a major bowl game.

No. 4 Cotton Bowl -- 1/3, 7:30 p.m.

No. 8 Missouri 11-2 vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State 10-2

Two teams that lost their chances at a conference title will meet in Jerry World, and we're all better off for it. It's an old Big 12 game, and it's a game that could feature a whole helluva lot of points as well.

No. 3 Orange Bowl -- 1/3, 8:30 p.m.

No. 12 Clemson 10-2 vs. No. 7 Ohio State 12-1

I've enjoyed the way people have been disparaging Ohio State the last few days. Apparently going 24-1 over a two year span with your only loss being to a top 10 team with the best defense in the country means you suck these days. Anyway, this game should be pretty great as it features two of the best quarterbacks and offenses in the country.

No. 2 Rose Bowl -- 1/1, 5 p.m.

No. 5 Stanford 11-2 vs. No. 4 Michigan State 12-1

I just absolutely love the stylistic matchup of these two teams. Two very good defenses going against offenses that try their best to pound you into submission. It's not going to be a high-scoring game, but it will be one of the most interesting games of the bowl season.

No. 1 BCS Championship -- 1/6, 8:30 p.m.

No. 1 Florida State 13-0 vs. No. 2 Auburn 12-1

Well what game did you expect to see here?

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