Ranking all 39 college football bowl games: From Boca Raton to Sugar Bowl

There's nothing quite like bowl season. If you're a college football die-hard, it's the best time of the year. There's a college football game on nearly every day during a three-week span in December, meaning you always have something to do that isn't work, or errands, or interacting with other human beings outside your domicile.

It's wonderful.

Of course, this is still college football, and one of the foundations of the sport is that we must rank things, so as I do every year here at CBS Sports, I've ranked every single bowl game. I even have a method that isn't purely my own opinion. Here, I am ranking game quality -- not just how well the teams play but how evenly matched they are talent-wise. So even if the two teams in the game aren't top 50 teams, if they're of similar stature, it should provide an entertaining game, and that's what bowl season is about more than anything.

As for the rankings, to be clear, all bowls are wonderful, and even the bad ones are good. The gap between No. 13 and No. 39 isn't huge, and unlike the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, I mean it when I say that.

So, without further ado, here are the definitive 2017-18 Bowl Rankings.

All times Eastern

39. Independence Bowl -- Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State -- Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m.: I have a suspicion Florida State was far more interested in keeping its bowl streak alive than it will be in playing in the bowl game itself.

38. Military Bowl -- Virginia vs. Navy, Dec. 28 -- 1:30 p.m.: I don't expect many points or much excitement in general, but I do expect it to be a quick game. That's something of a blessing.

37. Boca Raton Bowl -- Akron vs. Florida Atlantic -- Dec. 19, 7 p.m.: I just don't like this matchup. I'd have preferred to see FAU play one of the top teams from the MAC or Sun Belt. Give me Toledo here, and I think we've got a top 15 game at worst.

36. Arizona Bowl -- Utah State vs. New Mexico State -- Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m.: Listen, I'm thrilled that New Mexico State is in its first bowl game since 1960, but this isn't exactly a must-see.

35. Cure Bowl -- Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State -- Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m.: Hey, at least it'll cure your desire to look for something to watch during commercials of other games going on at the same time.

34. Gasparilla Bowl -- Temple vs. FIU -- Dec. 21, 8 p.m.: The name Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl is awesome. The game is just kinda OK.

33. Quick Lane Bowl -- Duke vs. Northern Illinois -- Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m.: Admit it, you yawned a little just reading the matchup.

32. Cactus Bowl -- Kansas State vs. UCLA -- Dec. 26, 9 p.m.: This game is knocked down a few pegs due to my suspicion that UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen won't play in it. Even if he does, I'm not thrilled with the matchup.

31. Idaho Potato Bowl -- Central Michigan vs. Wyoming -- Dec. 22, 4 p.m.: Come for the game that could be interesting, stay for the nightmare-inducing mascot.

30. Frisco Bowl -- Louisiana Tech vs. SMU -- Dec. 20, 8 p.m.: This game could prove to be pretty good, but all I can think about now is the Frisco Melt from Steak 'n Shake.

29. Belk Bowl -- Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M -- Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: Docked a few points for having a team playing under an interim coach. Always a question of how badly a team wants to be there in such a situation. If the Aggies show up, this game could be a good time.

28. Camellia Bowl -- Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State --- Dec. 16, 8 p.m.: Not much headliner appeal here, but as is often the case in these games, there's potential for a thriller.

27. Texas Bowl -- Texas vs. Missouri -- Dec. 27, 9 p.m.: Do you know how many people would have watched a Texas Bowl between Texas and Texas A&M? This game could be good, but it could have been great.

26. Foster Farms Bowl -- Arizona vs. Purdue -- Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m.: This game features one of my favorite players (Khalil Tate) going against one of my favorite coaches (Jeff Brohm).

25. New Mexico Bowl -- Marshall vs. Colorado State -- Dec. 16, 4:30 p.m.: Two teams you didn't spend much time watching this season offering you the potential of a close -- if low-scoring -- game.

24. Bahamas Bowl -- UAB vs. Ohio -- Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m.: The Bahamas Bowl gets crazy. Never leave a Bahamas Bowl unattended.

23. Heart of Dallas Bowl -- Utah vs. West Virginia -- Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m.: This matchup would have been more appealing in September than it is at the moment.

22. Hawaii Bowl -- Fresno State vs. Houston -- Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m.: I'm a little annoyed because the Hawaii Bowl usually features two teams I don't care about and can easily ignore while with my family on Christmas Eve. Now I want to watch, but it will be played while my family wants to watch NFL games instead.

21. Music City Bowl -- Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern -- Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m.: It's a battle of Wildcats in Nashville. Honestly, this game might be good, but I don't think you could have found a more boring Big Ten-SEC matchup if you tried.

20. Outback Bowl -- Michigan vs. South Carolina -- Jan. 1, noon: Oh wait, maybe you could. Still, I'm going to watch this game for the replays of Jadeveon Clowney decapitating Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl. In fact, the game should have both players back for the coin toss before the game. Clowney must call heads, obviously.

19. Las Vegas Bowl -- No. 25 Boise State vs. Oregon -- Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m.: If Willie Taggart is still with the Ducks then this game should be bumped up a few spots. There's potential for a great one here.

18. Sun Bowl -- No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State -- Dec. 29, 3 p.m.: More than anything, I'm looking forward to Herm Edwards appearing in the booth trying to explain exactly what his job at Arizona State will entail.

17. Pinstripe Bowl -- Iowa vs. Boston College -- Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m.: In a way, I feel like Iowa and Boston College are two long-lost siblings finally finding one another, but neither realizes who the other is.

16. Armed Forces Bowl -- San Diego State vs. Army -- Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m.: This game should be close, fun, interesting, and over in less than three hours and 15 minutes.

15. New Orleans Bowl -- Troy vs. North Texas -- Dec. 16, 1 p.m.: Remember when Troy beat LSU earlier this season? Seems like a long time ago. Anyway, the Trojans and a surprising North Texas team should provide an entertaining game on the first day of bowl season.

14. Holiday Bowl -- No. 18 Washington State vs. No. 16 Michigan State -- Dec. 28, 9 p.m.: Somewhat conflicting styles of play here! These games have a wide range of possible results, and the ceiling is high enough that I'm putting it at No. 14. There is a bust factor here to be aware of, though.

13. Birmingham Bowl -- Texas Tech vs. South Florida -- Dec. 23, noon: Listen, if you're going to watch this game, make sure to clear your schedule. It's going to feature a lot of big plays, very little defense, and it will last nearly five hours.

12. TaxSlayer Bowl -- Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State -- Dec. 30, noon: This game would have been higher if Nick Fitzgerald were healthy because a Fitzgerald-Lamar Jackson showdown would have been great. Still, it's your last chance to watch Lamar Jackson do Lamar Jackson stuff in a college game.

11. Dollar General Bowl -- Appalachian State vs. Toledo -- Dec. 23, 7 p.m.: Dollar General Bowl? More like the $100 Special Bowl because this game features two of the Group of Five's better teams. It's a rematch of last season's Camellia Bowl, which Appalachian State won 31-28. I expect a similar game this year.

10. Liberty Bowl -- Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis -- Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m.: This game has all the potential in the world. I have it at No. 10, but by the time bowl season ends, this could be the one widely considered to have been the best game of bowl season.

9. Alamo Bowl -- No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 15 TCU -- Dec. 28, 9 p.m.: I'm hoping the time off is enough to heal Bryce Love's ankle because the idea of him going against a Gary Patterson defense is intriguing to say the least.

8. Citrus Bowl -- No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU -- Jan. 1, 1 p.m.: We saw this matchup in the Music City Bowl a few years ago, and it was a great game. I'd take a repeat performance in Orlando.

7. Camping World Bowl -- No. 22 Virginia Tech vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State -- Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m.: Two Orlando bowl games separated by four days in reality but only one spot in these rankings. I just love this matchup and its potential for ridiculousness.

6. Peach Bowl -- No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn -- Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m.: I love that UCF gets a shot to prove itself against a team with wins over two playoff teams. As always in these games, there's a bust factor, particularly with Scott Frost taking the Nebraska job. He's expected to coach in this game, but it'll be interesting to see how he handles having two jobs at once.

5. Orange Bowl -- No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami -- Dec. 30, 8 p.m.: I'm not sure what's going to happen here, but I would take the under. These are two evenly matched teams on both offense and defense, so I expect a close, lower-scoring affair. But not the boring kind. Also, Wisconsin needs to create a turnover cheese curd before this game starts.

4. Fiesta Bowl -- No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State -- Dec. 30, 4 p.m.: Neither team had a shot at a playoff berth for a while, causing them to be overlooked a bit in the final weeks. Don't overlook this game because I love this matchup. We could be in for a game similar to Penn State's loss to USC in last year's Rose Bowl.

3. Cotton Bowl -- No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State -- Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m.: I mean, it's USC and Ohio State. The two teams that just missed out on a playoff berth. It's a Rose Bowl played in Texas, and that one time the Texas Longhorns went to the Rose Bowl it was great, so let's see if the two things just go together.

2. Rose Bowl -- No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma -- Jan 1, 5 p.m.: Every year we hear about how Big 12 offenses wouldn't be as good against real defenses, and that SEC defenses never face real offenses. Well, here you go. And in a playoff semifinal no less. In the Rose Bowl, too. Oh my God, I cannot wait for this game.

1. Sugar Bowl -- No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson -- Jan 1, 8:45 p.m.: The rubber match! What would the College Football Playoff be without a game between Clemson and Alabama? Of course, this one isn't a title game, but it's for a title shot. 

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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