Ranking all 40 college football bowl games for 2016-17: From worst to best

Every year, fans and critics alike complain that there are too many bowl games these days in college football. It's a valid criticism, and while it's one I can at least sympathize with, it's not one I totally agree with.

For me, it all comes down to one simple question: If there are too many bowls, why do they come and go so quickly?

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the first bowl game of the season was played, and now all 40 are finished. There's only one game left in the 2016 college football season, and I wish there were still 40 more. When you wake up every day for three weeks knowing that you'll have at least one bowl game to watch, then all of a sudden they're gone, it's a difficult adjustment to make. You need to find ways to distract yourself from the withdrawal, and in the world of college football, there's one tried and true method to distracting yourself.

You rank things.

So, now that all 40 bowl games have been played, it's time to rank them all from the worst to the best. Plus I ranked them all before they were played, so it only makes sense to do it again now.

40. Miami Beach Bowl (Previously: 37) -- Tulsa 55, Central Michigan Chippewas 10: It was close for the first quarter at least.

39. Fiesta Bowl (2) -- No. 2 Clemson Tigers 31, No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes 0: You may not have realized it at the time, but Ohio State was actually doing you a favor. You were able to focus on New Year's Eve instead of this dud of a playoff game.

38. Outback Bowl (11) -- No. 17 Florida Gators 30, Iowa Hawkeyes 3: The best part of this game for Iowa was its crazy tipped interceptions. The worst part of this game for Iowa was its other interceptions.

37. Alamo Bowl (7) -- No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys 38, No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes 8: It's a shame because I had high hopes for this one, but it was awful.

36. Independence Bowl (25) -- NC State Wolfpack 41, Vanderbilt Commodores 17: At least Vandy had a 3-0 lead after the first quarter?

35. Las Vegas Bowl (9) -- San Diego State Aztecs 34, Houston Cougars 10: Donnell Pumphrey set the NCAA career rushing mark, and that was the only part of this game worth watching.

34. Cure Bowl (30) -- Arkansas State Red Wolves 31, UCF Knights 13: There was no Cure for UCF, apparently.

33. Arizona Bowl (36) -- Air Force Falcons 45, South Alabama Jaguars 21: This was the only bowl game that wasn't televised nationally. It's as if they knew.

32. Cactus Bowl (27) -- Baylor Bears 31, Boise State Broncos 12: I thought this game had a chance to be great if Baylor showed up to play. Well, Baylor did ... but Boise didn't.

31. Citrus Bowl (8) -- No. 20 LSU Tigers 29, No. 13 Louisville Cardinals 9: Lamar Jackson should be thankful for two things: that Heisman Trophy voting takes place before the bowl games, and that he doesn't have to play behind that offensive line for another nine months.

The Peach Bowl was a big win for Alabama, but not a great game. USATSI

30. Peach Bowl (1) -- No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide 24, No. 4 Washington Huskies 7: When Washington scored first, you thought this game had a chance. Then reality set in. It wasn't a blowout, which is nice, but there wasn't much doubt about the result, either.

29. Sugar Bowl (6) -- No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners 35, No. 14 Auburn Tigers 19: Congratulations to Auburn on that jump-pass touchdown as time expired to get within two scores. It made all the difference in the world!

28. TaxSlayer Bowl (24) -- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 33, Kentucky Wildcats 18: I barely remember anything about this game, which basically sums the entire thing up.

27. Russell Athletic Bowl (10) -- Miami 31, No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers 14: This game sets us all up for an entire offseason of The U Being BACK.

26. New Orleans Bowl (34) -- Southern Mississippi 28, UL-Lafayette 21: It was close, yes, but you spent the entire game wondering how the hell the Cajuns were managing to stick around.

25. Hawaii Bowl (39) -- Hawaii 52, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 35: This game's only purpose is to give you something to stare at while listening to some distant relative drone on about their recent vacation to Branson, Missouri.

24. Holiday Bowl (13) -- Minnesota Golden Gophers 17, Washington State Cougars 12: All the build-up to whether or not this game would actually be played proved to be more exciting than the game itself.

23. Liberty Bowl (19) -- Georgia Bulldogs 31, TCU Horned Frogs 23: Another instance of a game being close but not necessarily exciting.

22. Boca Raton Bowl (18) -- Western Kentucky 51, Memphis Tigers 31: It wasn't close, but it had its share of big plays and excitement, which was just enough to have it rank slightly below average.

21. Music City Bowl (16) -- No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers 38, Nebraska Cornhuskers 24: It was basically what you expected, which wasn't much.

20. St. Petersburg Bowl (35) -- Mississippi State Bulldogs 17, Miami (OH) 16: The ending was exciting, as Mississippi State needed to block a field goal to hold on for the win, but everything before it was pretty damn dull.

The Belk Bowl is always fun, and Virginia Tech pulled off a solid win. USATSI

19. Belk Bowl (22) -- No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies 35, Arkansas Razorbacks 24: Virginia Tech came back from a 24-0 deficit, yes, but even with the comeback there was no drama in the fourth quarter.

18. New Mexico Bowl (32) -- New Mexico 23, UTSA Roadrunners 20: The very first bowl game of the season was actually pretty decent. Of course, when you watched it, you were hoping it wouldn't be one of the 20 best games of the bowl season.

17. Bahamas Bowl (31) -- Old Dominion 24, Eastern Michigan Eagles 20: This game proved entertaining simply because of the location, as well as the fact both teams really wanted to be there. Not the cleanest football, but it was fun.

16. Heart of Dallas Bowl (40) -- Army West Point Black Knights 38, North Texas Mean Green 31 (OT): An instance where the two teams playing in the game may not have been very good, but their comparable mediocrity made for fun times. And for Army, it capped off a dream season.

15. Pinstripe Bowl (17) -- Northwestern 31, No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers 24: The Pinstripe Bowl has proven to be one of the better games on an annual basis. This year's wasn't its best, but it was still more entertaining than a lot of others.

14. Cotton Bowl (5) -- No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers 24, No. 15 Western Michigan 16: This game could have been ranked higher, but even though Western Michigan hung around, it was never truly a threat to win.

13. Quick Lane Bowl (28) -- Boston College Eagles 36, Maryland Terrapins 30: I mean, when you put 6-6 Boston College and 6-6 Maryland in Detroit for a bowl game the day after Christmas, you know you're going to have a good time. And you did!

12. Military Bowl (33) -- Wake Forest Demon Deacons 34, No. 24 Temple Owls 26: Temple mounted a comeback in the second half to cut this to a 31-26 lead in the fourth quarter, and that provided drama. Other than that, this was an entertaining game overall.

11. Poinsettia Bowl (29) -- Brigham Young Cougars 24, Wyoming Cowboys 21: There is a law in college football that BYU can only play in close games. I'm grateful it exists, and I was grateful for this game.

10. Dollar General Bowl (23) -- Troy Trojans 28, Ohio Bobcats 23: It wasn't a thriller, but it was fun. Plus, I learned that I have Dollar General stores near my house, and I never even knew. Any time you can learn something while watching football, that's a win in my book.

9. Foster Farms Bowl (21) -- No. 19 Utah Utes 26, Indiana Hoosiers 24: I didn't have high hopes for this one before the games started, and that was a result of my own stupidity. All Indiana games are crazy. It doesn't matter who it's playing, or where. Things are going to be hectic, and this game was in the right ways.

8. Texas Bowl (15) -- Kansas State Wildcats 33, Texas A&M 28: I didn't get to watch much Kansas State this season, and this bowl game let me know that this Kansas State team was just like every other Kansas State team you've ever seen under Bill Snyder. That's a good thing, and this was a fun game.

7. Potato Bowl (26) -- Idaho Vandals 61, Colorado State Rams 50: This game was tied 0-0 at the end of the first quarter, and then these teams combined for 111 points over the final 45 minutes. No, it wasn't exactly close, but it was crazy. I mean, they combined for 56 points in the fourth quarter! It was like watching a predictable action movie. You knew the outcome, but the fights and explosions were still fun.

6. Sun Bowl (12) -- No. 18 Stanford Cardinal 25, North Carolina Tar Heels 23: It turns out you don't need Christian McCaffery for an exciting game -- as long as you have Solomon Thomas . The Stanford defensive end dominated this game in a way you don't see defensive ends do so very often. He capped the game off by blowing up North Carolina's two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game in the final minute.

5. Camellia Bowl (14) -- Appalachian State 31, Toledo Rockets 28: The Camellia Bowl always has potential because it matches up two of the best teams from both the Sun Belt and MAC, and this year's game definitely lived up to that potential. You may not have been familiar with the teams or the players, but if you tuned in to watch, you were happy about it.

4. Birmingham Bowl (38) -- South Florida Bulls 46, South Carolina Gamecocks 39 (OT): Who would have thought one of the most exciting bowl games of the season would have involved South Carolina? It looked like this one could prove to be a blowout early, but South Carolina fought its way back and overcame a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime. It lost, but, hey, a good time was had by all.

Louisiana Tech helped put on one of the most exciting bowl games. USATSI

3. Armed Forces Bowl (20) -- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 48, No. 25 Navy Midshipmen 45: Had there been more on the line in this game, it could have finished at No. 1. It was just that good. It had a lot of points, was close throughout, didn't feature a lot of sloppy play, and finished with a field goal as time expired. It was everything you hope for in pre-New Year's bowl game.

Dalvin Cook ran wild in the Orange Bowl. USATSI

2. Orange Bowl (4) -- No. 11 Florida State Seminoles 33, No. 6 Michigan Wolverines 32: This game was just fantastic. It featured Michigan coming back from a deficit with all the excitement taking place in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines even took a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play, but Florida State immediately responded with a touchdown following a great -- and ill-advised -- kick return to set them up with great field position. It was like a perfect script for a football game. It hooked you in to the plot early, built up the tension as the story progressed, and then reeled you in for the ridiculously entertaining finish.

Was there really any doubt? USATSI

1. Rose Bowl (3) -- No. 9 Southern California Trojans 52, No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions 49: If you watched this game, you knew it was going to be here. I mean, how else to describe this game other than saying that Penn State scored touchdowns on its first three plays of the second half, and it lost. The Trojans and Nittany Lions traded punches for four quarters, throwing big play after big play. It was easily the second best Rose Bowl of my lifetime, trailing only Vince Young and Texas' win over USC for the national title in the 2006 game.

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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