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Ranking the bowls: Almost everyone gets a shot


Bowls. Nobody said you had to like them all. There are 35 of the suckers now. That's 70 teams. They are so numerous that Kate Gosselin is interested in a new reality show. Some games deserve our interest. Some are so heinous they should be shot. Wait, maybe that's why there is a Military Bowl.

We kid because we love -- to watch 'round the clock football.

East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill (left) and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen face off in the Military Bowl. (AP)  
East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill (left) and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen face off in the Military Bowl. (AP)  
Thirty-five bowls means 58 percent of FBS teams get an extra game. The NHL (16 of 30 teams in the playoffs) thinks that's ridiculous. Lately, the postseason has been on fertility drugs. (Told you Kate Gosselin was interested.) Anyone with a line of credit, a sponsor and a browser can weasel their way in. (We're talking to you,

With that in mind, we owe you this service, ranking the bowls 1-35.

Five-star, can't-miss prospects

1. BCS title game: Auburn vs. Oregon. Come for the warm desert winds, stay for the latest shocking Oregon uniforms.

This game features includes not only the two most interesting offenses (that averaged a combined 92 points per game), but also two Heisman finalists. Which one (Cam Newton, LaMichael James) will get over the most on a suspect defense?

2. Sugar: Ohio State vs. Arkansas. The Buckeyes are 0-9 all-time against the SEC in bowls. Terrelle Pryor is upset that he wasn't considered the top Big Ten quarterback. Arkansas' Bobby Petrino can buy them all with his new extension.

3. Rose: TCU vs. Wisconsin. Wisconsin's pounding running game against the nation's No. 1 defense (TCU). It's enough to make Bo and Woody buy scalped tickets to get in.

4. Cotton: Texas A&M vs. LSU. A&M started 3-3 before winning its final six, including a win over Big 12 champ Oklahoma. LSU was a weekly roulette that mostly ended up on Les Miles' lucky number.

5. Capital One: Michigan State vs. Alabama. Michigan State missed out on a BCS bowl, but this might as well be one. The defending national champions against the Big Ten tri-champs. Mark Dantonio faces his old employer (Nick Saban). Too bad Auburn couldn't be here just for laughs, considering the sponsor. "What's in your wallet"?

6. Orange: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech. Two days before kickoff Rich Rodriguez' buyout goes from $4 million to $2.5 million. Is this Andrew Luck's last game as the Cardinal's quarterback and Jim Harbaugh's last game as Stanford's coach?

7. Sun: Miami vs. Notre Dame. The Irish and Hurricanes are back, at least as a ratings winner. This old-school rivalry sold out in 21 hours. It's worth it. We won't see the teams play again until 2012.

Solid verbals

8. Maaco: Boise State vs. Utah. Both these schools play their last games in their current conferences. Boise State is the most forgotten power in the country after Kyle Brotzman's missed kicks.

9. Gator: Michigan vs. Mississippi State. The Letdown Bowl. Watch Rich Rod twist in the wind. Watch Dan Mullen weep over missing out on Florida and Miami.

10. Liberty: Georgia vs. Central Florida. Embarrassment alert for Mark Richt. George O'Leary has quietly done a solid job of putting the nation's largest university (check the enrollment stats) on the football map in Conference USA.

11. Holiday: Nebraska vs. Washington. Huskers say goodbye to the Big 12 in California is a second straight Holiday Bowl. It's San Diego, it's a (future, maybe) Rose Bowl, it's Taylor Martinez playing close to home. What's not to like?

Bowl Season

12. Alamo: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona. Even in the broad bowl landscape, there's a place for a team that lost its last four in a row by an average of 12 points. That team is Arizona and that place is, fittingly, near the Alamo. The Wildcats could be overrun, too.

13. Outback: Florida vs. Penn State. Next season Joe Paterno will begin his 46th year as a head coach. That's as long as Urban Meyer has been alive. Urban is the one resigning. Go figure.

14. Insight: Missouri vs. Iowa. This game got some juice when it was discovered the Hawkeyes' all-time leading receiver wasn't concentrating 100 percent on football. Missouri has won 10 for the third time in four years.

15. Chick-fil-A: South Carolina vs. Florida State. Two championship game losers meet in the Runner Up Bowl. Steve Spurrier is 5-8-1 against Florida State. Seminoles hope that Christian Ponder's elbow is OK.

16. Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut. A living, breathing example of why BCS automatic bids should be year to year. Connecticut is here only because the slumping Big East has one of those bids. Oklahoma by 20.

17. TicketCity: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech. Plenty of seats available, just ask the sponsor of a bowl that won't be able to sell all its tickets. Northwestern is trying to win a bowl game for the first time since 1949. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville tries to enhance his resume for the next SEC opening.

18. Poinsettia: San Diego State vs. Navy. San Diego State's first bowl since 1998 (at home, by the way). The Midshipmen are here for the third time in six years.

Soft verbals

19. Champs Sports: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State. Both of these teams had a chance to win their division/conference in the last two weeks of the season. West Virginia is the Big East's highest ranked team, which is like being the world's tallest midget.

20. Pinstripe: Syracuse vs. Kansas State. The house that Bill Snyder built? 'Cats and Orange meet for the third time in 13 years in a bowl. Bring a parka, this isn't exactly the Fall Classic.

21. Texas: Illinois vs. Baylor. It might be in Ron Zook's best interests to win this low-level bowl, if you know what I mean. Baylor gets its first bowl in 16 years.

22. Music City: Tennessee vs. North Carolina. If not for a famous last name (Tennessee's Derek Dooley) and the suspensions (North Carolina's Butch Davis), would anybody care? Two programs with uncertain futures.

23. Meineke Car Care: South Florida vs. Clemson. South Florida's Skip Holtz should be given credit for cobbling together a 7-5 record after the contentious departure of Jim Leavitt. Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers won national best defender awards with another disappointing Clemson team.

24. Armed Forces: Southern Methodist vs. Army. SMU gets a home game for the postseason. The bowl can't be played at TCU because of that school's stadium renovations. Army is just glad to get a bowl at all. It hasn't been to one since 1996.

25. Kraft Fight Hunger: Nevada vs. Boston College. Nevada upset Boise with the only quarterback to pass for 2,000 and run for 1,000 in three consecutive years (Colin Kaepernick). BC is in the postseason for the 12th consecutive year.

26. BBVA Compass: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky. Note to Pittsburgh AD Steve Pederson: When you fire a guy -- forget that stuff about Dave Wannstedt's "resignation" -- have someone ready who will, you know, take the job.

27. Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Tulsa. The nation's No. 1 passing offense (Hawaii) meets the nation's 107th defense (Tulsa). Hawaii's Bryant Moniz leads the country in passing yards per game.


28. Little Caesars: Florida International vs. Toledo. Rising coaching star Mario Cristobal takes the Panthers to their first postseason game. This is the third meeting in three years for these teams.

29. Independence: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech. Don't get up for popcorn. The nation's top two rushing teams could make this a 2-hour, 15-minute game.

30. New Mexico: BYU vs. Texas-El Paso. BYU, 6-6, won four of its last five. UTEP is in a bowl for the first time since 2005. Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps could be a budding star.

31. Humanitarian: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State. Looking for motivation here. Northern Illinois' Jerry Kill has jumped to Minnesota. Fresno State's Pat Hill has agreed to a $300,000 pay cut next season.

32. Military: East Carolina vs. Maryland. The word "shootout" applies in this military-themed Military Bowl. East Carolina averaged 39 points per game, but gave up an average of 56.2 points per game in its last four.

33. Miami (Ohio) vs. Middle Tennessee. Miami (Ohio) went from 1-11 to nine wins and a MAC title. Middle Tennessee went from Sun Belt contender to disappointment when quarterback Dwight Dasher was found to have taken cash from a booster.

34. Beef O'Brady's: Louisville vs. Southern Miss. Remember when this was a Conference USA showdown? No? Oh well. Louisville's Charlie Strong built a certain toughness back into the Cardinals. Bilal Powell ran for 1,330 yards.

35. New Orleans: Troy vs. Ohio. Troy has won at least a share of the last five Sun Belt titles. Ohio's Frank Solich has now spent half of his 12-year head-coaching career in Athens.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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