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CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

Bowl Rankings: Some games stink, but it sure beats watching bowling


Bowls are better than bowling.

That's essentially why we have 35 of them jammed into 23 days over parts of two months rewarding 70 teams (58 percent of FBS). Compared to the programming alternative, they are wildly successful. We're not talking about the big boys -- Rose, Sugar, etc. They are battleships in an ocean filled with water wings.

The main reason for the proliferation of postseason games hasn't changed. As moribund as the Famous Idaho Potato and Beef O'Brady's bowls might be, they are better than, well, bowling.

As in PBA. Or billiards. Or the World Series of Bad Hygiene -- make that, poker. That's what would be airing during the holidays in a world without bowls. That, or something like it.

The bowls represent unique stand-alone programming. They get ratings, at least better ratings than those poker freaks. I can already hear your tweets ringing in: "Tell me, genius, what is so unique about the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl or Belk bowls?"

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The answer is simple. Whether you're at a Christmas party, chilling in a sports bar or lounging at home, you're going to watch. At least you're going to watch enough to make Beef O'Brady's invest enough money to bring Florida International and Marshall to town.

From me to you, then, during this holiday season. Rankin' 'em as I see 'em from 1 to 35.

1. BCS title game, LSU vs. Alabama: If one Game of the Century is good, two have to be better, right? The debate continues. Meanwhile, we'd settle for someone breaking into double figures this time. This is all on 'Bama. It blew a chance at home in the first meeting, scoring the fewest points of the Saban era. "We didn't finish," said Trent Richardson who must have a monster game to even up the season series at 1-1. You never know, a win this time just might get Alabama a national championship. LSU is favored, barely, because it has played better since Nov. 5, including a convincing win over Georgia in the SEC title game. No matter what happens the SEC has this thing so wired it is guaranteed of a sixth straight title. Pregame: BCS title game

2. Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: Weeden vs. Luck. Taylor vs. Randle. Two top-five offenses. Two up-and-coming coaches. In a different season, this could pass for a championship game. We might be seeing the rise of two new powers. Okie State won its first conference title in forever. Stanford is trying to wrap up its second straight 12-1 season. Pregame: Fiesta Bowl

3. Rose Bowl, Oregon vs. Wisconsin: No pressure on Chip Kelly but it might be time he win one of these BCS bowls. All he's done in his first two seasons is win the Pac-10/12 and lose the Rose and national title game. Wisconsin should be able to push around Oregon's defense but that's what we thought last year against TCU. LaMichael James vs. Montee Ball will be one of the tastier individual battles of the bowl season. Pregame: Rose Bowl

4. Cotton Bowl, Arkansas vs. Kansas State: Call this the sixth BCS bowl this bowl season. It sure as heck beats the Sugar and Orange for entertainment value. Arkansas lost only to Alabama and LSU. Kansas State lost only to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. In his second go-around with the Wildcats, Bill Snyder tries to win 11 at K-State for the first time in eight years. Pregame: Cotton Bowl

5. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, UCLA vs. Illinois: This is here for the utter absurdity of the bowl system having no other choice but to stage this game. UCLA needed a hall pass to get in sub-.500 because USC wasn't bowl eligible. Illinois comes in riding a red-hot six-game losing streak. Both coaches have been fired. The only way to make this bowl worse -- or maybe better: A halftime human sacrifice. Pregame: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

6. TicketCity Bowl, Houston vs. Penn State: Another slow-down-to-see-the-wreck-on-the-side-of-the-road game. Nothing says bowl experience than having to answer questions about a massive sex abuse scandal. Houston's Case Keenum deserves better in his last game. You'll watch just to see how the broadcasters tiptoe around The Subject. Pregame: TicketCity Bowl

7. Alamo Bowl, Baylor vs. Washington: What's not to like about watching the Heisman winner play against the Huskies? RG3 and the Bears are 8-1 in the state of Texas this season. Pregame: Alamo Bowl

8. Capital One, South Carolina vs. Nebraska: Given a fifth chance, Stephen Garcia screwed up. Given a 12th chance to win its conference, Nebraska didn't. Huskers won at least nine for the fourth year in a row. One coach (Steve Spurrier) throws visors. The other (Bo Pelini) throws fits. Hello, sideline shots. Pregame: Capitol One Bowl

9. Outback Bowl, Michigan State vs. Georgia: The dark side of championship games -- someone has to lose. These teams come off conference title game losses by a combined 35 points. Interesting to see if the Spartans show up. They didn't last season against Alabama and Mark Dantonio is 0-4 in bowls as a head coach. Pregame: Outback Bowl

10. Orange Bowl, Clemson vs. West Virginia: We can only hope that Geno Smith and Tajh Boyd light up the sky. Clemson won the ACC for the firs time in 20 years. West Virginia won a watered down Big East. Pregame: Orange Bowl

11. Gator Bowl, Ohio State vs. Florida: This is a Beatles tribute band of a game. You saw the real thing. Anything less doesn't quite make it. The last time these schools met, they were playing for a national championship. Not so much this time. Urban Meyer is waiting in the wings while Florida is waiting for another recruiting class. Pregame: Gator Bowl

12. MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Boise State vs. Arizona State: Getting screwed has a face -- and an arm. If Boise's Kellen Moore wins he will be 50-3 in his career as a starter and will have played in exactly one BCS bowl. Shameful. Pregame: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

13. Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State vs. Notre Dame: Yeah, Moon Goodblood looks good now but what is she going to be like at 50? We're talking faded glory on the field and on the runway. This isn't 1993 either for the Irish and 'Noles. Pregame: Champs Sports Bowl

14. Sugar Bowl, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech: Tech is having trouble selling its tickets. Sugar is having trouble explaining why it invited the Hokies. This is the first Sugar without at least one team in the AP top 10 since 1945. Please, Shoelace, save us.

15. Insight Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Iowa. The great Bob Stoops faces his alma mater. The great Norm Parker faces his last game. You know the first guy. The second guy is Iowa's retiring defensive coordinator. Pregame: Insight Bowl

16. Poinsettia Bowl, TCU vs. Louisiana Tech: This game boasts something that three of the BCS games don't -- a game between two conference champions. Three teams this season finished undefeated in conference play. TCU is one of them. Frogs' quarterback Casey Pachall led the Mountain West and was in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency. Pregame: Pointsettia Bowl

17. Holiday Bowl, Cal vs. Texas: Mack is not retiring after the game. Mack is not retiring after the game. Mack is not retiring after the game. Mack is not ... right? Pregame: Holiday Bowl

18. Hawaii Bowl, Southern Miss vs. Nevada: Pretty sure the Conference USA champions' slogan before the season wasn't, "All the way to Honolulu." Pregame: Hawaii Bowl

19. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Ohio vs. Utah State: This one got a whole lot more interesting when Aggies coach Gary Anderson paid off on a bet. He promised to get a tattoo if his team made a bowl. Ink away, Gary. Is this the new definition of "tramp stamp?" Pregame: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

20. BBVA Compass Bowl, SMU vs. Pittsburgh: June Jones may really, really want to be at SMU (after all but leaving for Arizona State). But neither team wants to be at Birmingham's Legion Field. Pregame: BBVA Compass Bowl

21. Chick-fil-A Bowl, Virginia vs. Auburn: Auburn's two-time 1,000-yard rusher Michael Dyer is suspended for this game. A better chance for Virginia to win nine for the first time since 2002. Pregame: Chic-fil-A Bowl

22. Liberty Bowl, Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt: Celebrity watch: Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers is the brother of Aaron. Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux has the best name in college football. Pregame: Liberty Bowl

23. Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech vs. Utah: Given time to prepare for Georgia Tech's option, opponents tend to succeed. Paul Johnson has lost his past four bowl games, the past three with the Yellow Jackets. Pregame: Sun Bowl

24. Meineke Car Care Bowl, Texas A&M vs. Northwestern: The Kevin Sumlin effect can't be felt fast enough. Aggies need to learn how to finish. They blew four halftime leads that totaled 55 points. Pregame: Meineke Car Care Bowl

25. Independence Bowl, Missouri vs. North Carolina: The Tigers' last statement before going to the SEC. Carolina's last statement before the Larry Fedora era kicks off. Two teams with uncertain football futures. Missouri wondering about competitiveness in a new league. Heels waiting for a Big Haircut from NCAA. Pregame: Independence Bowl

26. Music City, Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State: Wake always seems to be an underdog. Dan Mullen's name always seems to be popping up for other jobs. Deacons are a touchdown 'dog. Mullen has to keep denying he is a candidate at Penn State. Pregame: Music City Bowl

27. Pinstripe Bowl, Rutgers vs. Iowa State: Paul Rhoads is ... so ... proud ... to ... get ... the ... Cyclones ... to ... New York. Iowa State arguably posted the biggest upset of the 2011 season. Beating Oklahoma State allowed Alabama back in the picture and for the legend of Rhoads to grow. Pregame: Pinstripe Bowl

28. Armed Forces Bowl, BYU vs. Tulsa: Tulsa's Bill Blankenship quietly won eight games in his rookie year as head coach. BYU quietly won eight of its last nine, while averaging 36 points per game. Pregame: Armed Forces Bowl

29. New Orleans Bowl, Louisiana-Lafayette vs. San Diego State: Expect some big-time Heisman buzz about Ronnie Hillman next year. San Diego State's star tailback is only a sophomore. Brady Hoke left a lot for Rocky Long. Aztecs should roll playing in consecutive bowls for the first time in 44 years. Pregame: New Orleans Bowl

30. Military Bowl, Air Force vs. Toledo: Toledo's Eric Page is the best receiver you've never heard of. The 1,000-yard receiver had two of his best games against Ohio State (145 yards) and Syracuse (168). Pregame: Military Bowl

31. Belk Bowl, Louisville vs. N.C. State: Apparently, Belk is a department store chain in the Southeast. Hope they sell sofa sleepers because, well, you should be able to figure out where this is headed. Actually Louisville's Charlie Strong deserves credit in his second season. He drove this program out of a ditch after a 2-4 start. Watch quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Pregame: Belk Bowl

32. Little Caesars Bowl, Western Michigan vs. Purdue: MAC-over-Big Ten upset alert, postseason version. Broncos feature a top-20 offense against the Big Ten's No. 9 defense. Western Michigan receiver Jordan White led the nation in receiving yards (1,646) and is second in touchdown catches (16). Pregame: Little Caesar's Bowl

33. GoDaddy.com Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State: If you haven't seen Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish, do yourself a favor. He's more accurate than Oregon's Darron Thomas and ran for more than 100 yards six times. Pregame: GoDaddy.com Bowl

34. Beef O'Brady's Bowl, Florida International vs. Marshall: Say you were watching when Marshall All-American Vinny Curry adds to his sack total (currently at 21) and FIU's Mario Cristobal leads the Panthers to their best season. Curry, a senior, is gone. Cristobal won't last much longer in South Florida. Pregame: Beef O'Brady's Bowl

35. New Mexico Bowl, Wyoming vs. Temple: Wyoming's only Mountain West losses were to Boise State and TCU. Among running backs only Wisconsin's Montee Ball had more rushing touchdowns than Temple's Bernard Pierce (25). Pregame: New Mexico Bowl

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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