Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

The bowl games have come, and the bowl games have gone. There were 41 scheduled, and all 41 were played. That hasn't always been the case recently, and one could certainly argue this year's Orange Bowl wasn't played as much as it was partially attended by a team. Still, bowl season is over, and given we ranked the games before they were played, the time has come for us to rank them after they were played.

Look, this was hardly the best bowl season. While we did get some good games, there wasn't as much late drama as usual and some of the best moments had nothing to do with the games themselves but rather what happened after them. Whether that be mayonnaise or egg nog being dumped on a coach's head or the ritualistic sacrifice of a mascot who was then eaten by the players, the magic of bowl season isn't always confined to the field of play.

You just wish that the antics weren't the primary highlights and that there were more magical moments on the field. The average margin of victory in the 41 bowl games this season was 16.1 points. There were only 14 one-score games among them compared to 15 of three scores or more. Only 23 games featured more than one tie or lead change after the first score.

While not every game was filled with drama and incredible finishes, there were enough that will hold a place in our memories. Most of the games on this list will be forgotten by all but who played in them. A few will live forever. 

Which ones are which? Let's get to ranking them all.

2023-24 College football bowl rankings

41. Orange Bowl

No. 6 Georgia 63, No. 5 Florida State 3: Listen, I hope you read and appreciate every single word I write in this column. However, the Orange Bowl was a game where nothing I have to say could match the screenshots. Everything you need to know about how this game played out is held within those images. Pregame ranking: 3

40. Boca Raton Bowl

South Florida 45, Syracuse 0: We probably should've seen this coming. South Florida was a team that exceeded expectations under first-year coach Alex Golesh. Syracuse, on the other hand, had fired its coach, was missing its starting QB due to injury and had a host of players in the portal. It was a wrap once the Bulls jumped out to an early lead. Aamaris Brown's 64-yard fumble return late in the first quarter was a perfect reflection of what it was like for Syracuse in this one. It was also only one of South Florida's two defensive touchdowns. Had the Bulls kept their foot on the gas in the second half this could've been a lot uglier. Pregame ranking: 37

39. 68 Ventures Bowl

South Alabama 59, Eastern Michigan 10: Have you ever watched a bully torture another kid, but instead of doing anything to stop it, you stood there and watched? That's what watching the 68 Ventures Bowl felt like. South Alabama was playing the game in its home stadium, facing an Eastern Michigan team that wasn't at full strength. It was 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 38-3 at halftime. At one point in the second half, South Alabama had 59 points while Eastern Michigan still only had 55 yards of offense. The Eagles put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to escape that embarrassment, but this was 210 minutes of atomic wedgie. Pregame ranking: 33

38. Citrus Bowl

No. 21 Tennessee 35, No. 17 Iowa 0: To get something, you have to give something. It's a rule of life. So the price we all had to pay to watch star freshman QB Nico Iamaleava make his first career start with the Volunteers was watching Deacon Hill make another start for Iowa. Was it worth the trade-off? It certainly was for Tennessee fans! Iamaleava wasn't incredible with his arm; he only threw for 151 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, rush for three touchdowns and validated why the Vols are excited about the future. As for Iowa ... well, yeah, it was Iowa. It looked like the Hawkeyes had a chance early, but Hill threw a horrific interception -- his first of three turnovers in the game -- in the end zone to end a scoring threat. It was the kind of game that needed an edible mascot to salvage it, but the giant Cheez-It was a coward. Pregame ranking: 11

37. Fiesta Bowl 

No. 8 Oregon 45, No. 23 Liberty 6: Liberty operates in an awkward position. It's too good for everybody in its conference, and while it could give plenty of Power Five teams problems, it's not near the same level as the upper-echelon teams. This was evident in the Fiesta Bowl. The Flames opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive and would prefer that we pretend the game ended there. It did not. The Ducks got off to a sluggish start in the desert, but a 28-point onslaught in the second quarter put this one to bed quickly. The Ducks took their webbed foot off the gas in the second half as Bo Nix left the game as college football's all-time leader in completion rate and Oregon's single-season record holder with 45 touchdown passes. He threw five against the Flames (all to different receivers) and finished with 363 yards in the air. Liberty had 294 yards as a team. Pregame ranking: 24

36. Sun Bowl 

No. 16 Notre Dame 40, No. 19 Oregon State 8: Both teams came into the game missing plenty of key starters on both sides of the ball, but one team was also missing nearly its entire coaching staff and the other had much more roster depth. It wasn't hard to differentiate these teams as Notre Dame dominated from start to finish. The Fighting Irish put together an 11-play, 96-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession of the game and led 33-0 before Oregon State finally hit pay dirt. Steve Angeli filled in admirably for Sam Hartman, throwing for 212 yards and three touchdowns while Jadarian Price enjoyed his time as the primary running back with 106 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Faison caught five passes for 115 yards and a score. Oregon State had 197 yards as a team and was held to only 2 yards rushing. The game wasn't competitive, but he setting was beautiful. Pregame ranking: 8

We now enter a barren wasteland filled with the discarded sponsors of bowl games past. If you look in the distance, you can see the logo of the Poulan Weedeater Bowl. And who could ever forget the Bowl? What's that sticking up from the dirt? Is that the decaying flower of a Bloomin' Onion mascot costume I see? 

We're traveling through this vast nothingness for a while before we get to our next games, because while the following games weren't great by any stretch, they were much better than the ones we've ranked so far.

35. New Mexico Bowl 

Fresno State 37, New Mexico State 10: The most memorable part of the New Mexico Bowl came amid the postgame fallout when New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill went off on New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nunez. Kill alleged that Nunez wouldn't allow the Aggies to use the indoor practice facility during bowl prep because NMSU QB Diego Pavia urinated on New Mexico's midfield logo during the regular season. Yes, you read all that correctly. Rivalries rule. As for the game itself, Fresno State took control early and never let go of the rope. This was a thorough beatdown with Bulldogs QB Mikey Keene throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Pregame ranking: 26

34. Music City Bowl

Maryland 31, Auburn 13: It turns out Maryland doesn't need the Big Ten's all-time leading passer after all. The Terrapins were without Taulia Tagovailoa, but backups Billy Edwards and Cameron Edge hit for big plays in Nashville to bury Auburn early. Edwards hit Roman Hemby for a 61-yard gain on the opening possession which led to an Edwards rushing touchdown. He'd connect with Preston Howard for a score on the next play to make it 14-0 in the blink of an eye. Then it was Edge's turn. He entered on the third possession of the game, completed a 57-yard bomb to Kam Prather before a 3-yard touchdown to Dylan Wade made it 21-0. That, for the most part, was the end of the game. Sure, they played the final three quarters, but only to fill contractual obligations. Auburn played so poorly that Hugh Freeze was apologizing during his in-game interview following the third quarter. Pregame ranking: 10

33. Duke's Mayo Bowl 

West Virginia 30, North Carolina 10: The Mountaineers didn't waste any time in Charlotte as Garrett Greene fired a 75-yard touchdown to Traylon Ray on the first play of the game. Before you could blink, West Virginia had gone up 7-0 and never let the Tar Heels feel like they had a chance to climb back in the game. The 'Eers won this game in all phases. Beanie Bishop Jr. returned a punt 78 yards for a score in the second quarter, while Leighton Bechdel picked up 17 yards on a fake punt to ice the game in the fourth quarter. The defense forced a Drake Maye-less North Carolina offense to commit three turnovers and did a tremendous job keeping Omarion Hampton in check. To cap this one, there was the moment we all came to see. West Virginia's Neal Brown, who began the season on the hot seat at the helm of a team picked to finish last in the Big 12, got his mayo bath as WVU finished its best season since 2016. Pregame ranking: 17

32. Birmingham Bowl 

Duke 17, Troy 10: Duke deserves a lot of credit for winning this game considering it was playing under an interim staff with a lot of reserves in key spots. The Blue Devils jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held on as best it could. Troy, which was playing under an interim staff itself, cut the lead to 17-10 with 5:54 left, but the Trojans never entered Duke territory again as their final possession ended with an interception. Close, but ultimately not very exciting. Pregame ranking: 20

31. Myrtle Beach Bowl

Ohio 41, Georgia Southern 21: The best thing I can say about this game is it gave me a new idea to consider when handicapping bowl games. Perhaps the team that's been reduced to playing third- and fourth-stringers is the one that can most reliably be counted on to care. Those backups are finally getting their chance to play! Ohio running back Rickey Hunt shined in his first start, finishing with 115 rushing yards and four touchdowns as the Bobcats were much more fired up for this one than Southern. Pregame ranking: 27

30. Cotton Bowl 

No. 9 Missouri 14, No. 7 Ohio State 3: A game that wasn't as exciting as the final score suggests. Missouri came in at full strength but was stymied by the Ohio State defense for the first three quarters. Fortunately for the Tigers, it wasn't a problem because Ohio State QB Devin Brown, starting in place of Kyle McCord, was injured in the first quarter and replaced by third-stringer Lincoln Kienholz, who played exactly like you'd expect a freshman third-stringer thrown into the fire against a top-10 team would perform. Eventually, Mizzou's offense broke the Ohio State defense. The Tigers scored both their touchdowns in the fourth quarter as star RB Cody Schrader finally got going. Schrader finished with 128 yards and a touchdown, while Ohio State finished with only 203 yards of offense as a team. Pregame ranking: 6

29. Hawaii Bowl 

Coastal Carolina 24, San Jose State 14: Coastal Carolina went to Hawaii as a heavy underdog; many didn't give it a chance against without starting QB Grayson McCall and a few others who had opted out. Those folks learned a lesson about doubting young Ethan Vasko Da Gamer (we're workshopping it). Vasko threw for three touchdowns and led the Chanticleers in rushing, too. The game lived up to every coaching cliche you've ever heard. San Jose State finished the game with more yards on offense (374-336) and averaged more yards per play (6.8-4.6), but it made too many mistakes. The Spartans turned the ball over twice and managed only seven points out of three trips to the red zone. Coastal Carolina scored touchdowns on all three of its red-zone possessions with the dagger coming via a spectacular one-handed catch from Sam Pinckney, who finished with 123 yards on eight receptions. Pregame ranking: 13

28. Las Vegas Bowl 

Northwestern 14, Utah 7: A game that was more entertaining than it had any right to be considering the lack of offense. It's a game that was closer than it should've been, and Northwestern played a significant role in keeping things close. The Wildcats came into the game as close to full strength as any team can be at this time of year as it faced a Utah squad missing plenty of key starters. The Wildcats simply refused to finish drives. They started three possessions inside Utah territory, including one at the Utah 7-yard line, but failed to cash them in for scores. They missed two field goals and couldn't convert a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Things got sticky for the 'Cats in the fourth quarter when Utah tied the game, but Ben Bryant returned from an apparent concussion to lead a game-winning touchdown drive and give Northwestern its first bowl win without Pat Fitzgerald (as either player or coach) since 1949. Pregame ranking: 34

27. Fenway Bowl 

Boston College 23, No. 24 SMU 14: A game in which everybody looked miserable. While the rain subsided a bit in the second half, it was a cold, wet day at Fenway Park. The game was essentially a battle of quarterbacks. Boston College's Thomas Castellanos threw for 102 yards and led the Eagles with 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns. SMU's Kevin Jennings threw for 191 and led the Mustangs in rushing as well, though he had only 51 yards on the ground. That was SMU's primary problem. The Mustangs averaged 40.6 points and 465.5 yards per game during the season but never found solid footing in this one. Part of that was the weather and turf, but the Boston College defense played a role, too. Close ... but pretty forgettable. Hey, at least next season it'll be a conference game! Pregame ranking: 38

26. Liberty Bowl

Memphis 36, Iowa State 26: While Iowa State deserves some credit for not giving up, falling behind 19-0 in the first quarter took the steam out of this game from the start. The Tigers came out throwing bombs as Seth Henigan connected with DeMeer Blankumsee for a 70-yard touchdown just a little more than a minute into the game. Henigan then connected with Joe Scates for a 51-yard touchdown later in the first. Henigan finished with 364 yards and four touchdowns. Rocco Becht finished with 446 yards and three touchdowns for the Cyclones, but after Memphis kicked a field goal to end the first half, Iowa State was never within one score again. Pregame ranking: 22

25. Armed Forces Bowl

Air Force 31, James Madison 21: You didn't think Air Force would lose the Armed Forces Bowl and unsuccessfully defend its title, did you? It was the program's third win in four trips to this game, while service academies have now won four straight when appearing in the game. It was the Emmanuel Michel show for Air Force as he grounded James Madison's defense into dust. Michel finished the day with 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 33 carries. As for the Dukes, they were in a tough spot for the first bowl appearance in program history. Most of the team's coaching staff left with Curt Cignetti for Indiana. Jordan McCloud started at quarterback and played well, though, finishing with 257 yards passing and three touchdowns. Pregame ranking: 7

24. Potato Bowl 

Georgia State 45, Utah State 22: It was a Potato Party for the Panthers in Boise, Idaho. Georgia State finished the regular season on a five-game losing streak but looked a lot more like the team that started the season 6-1 here. It looked like we were en route to a classic in the early going. The Panthers and Aggies exchanged touchdowns, while Georgia State finished the first quarter with a 21-14 lead. Utah State ran out of gas, however, while the Panthers kept their foot on the pedal. Everybody ate. Darren Grainger threw for 257 yards, rushed for 111 and had five total touchdowns. If that's not impressive enough, Freddie Brock rushed for 276 yards and a score while averaging 11.5 yards per carry, while wide receiver Cadarrius Thompson caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns as Georgia State finished with 643 yards of offense. It was a remarkable performance, though it sucked all the drama out of the game. Pregame ranking: 36

23. Texas Bowl 

No. 20 Oklahoma State 31, Texas A&M 23: This was an excellent example of how low expectations for a game can sometimes make it more enjoyable. The Aggies were working with a skeleton crew; they had only 55 players available thanks to the NFL Draft and transfer portal. Things got worse when starting QB Jaylen Henderson left in the first drive of the game with his arm in an air cast after a bad landing. Oklahoma State took a 24-6 lead into halftime behind Alan Bowman (402 yards passing, 2 TD) and Ollie Gordon (118 yards rushing, TD), but the Aggies fought their way back behind Marcel Reed (361 yards passing, 29 rushing, 1 TD) and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds with a Hail Mary that was picked off short of the end zone to end the game. While the outcome never felt in serious doubt, the game featured a bunch of big plays (there were nine pass completions of at least 30 yards) and had plenty of moments to keep you entertained. The win capped Mike Gundy's eighth 10-win season over 19 seasons. Pregame ranking: 32

22. Frisco Bowl

UTSA 35, Marshall 17: The Nepo Bowl! It was announced shortly before the game that longtime UTSA QB Frank Harris would be unavailable due to a shoulder injury. That gave us an interesting QB matchup between UTSA's Owen McCown (son of former NFL QB Josh McCown) and Marshall's Cole Pennington (son of former Marshall and NFL QB Chad Pennington). McCown got off to a terrible start with two interceptions to help stake Marshall to an early 14-0 lead, but the Roadrunners took over from there. McCown rebounded to finish with 251 yards and two touchdowns as UTSA captured its first bowl win in program history. Pregame ranking: 35

21. First Responder Bowl

Texas State 45, Rice 21: Odd game from start to finish. While close in the first half, it always felt like Texas State was on the verge of blowing it open -- which it did, but Rice played a huge hand in that. Texas State averaged only 4.2 yards per play and outscored the Owls 21-0 in the second half despite only gaining 82 yards on offense. How? Well, it's easy when your opponent turns the ball over six times. Bobcats linebacker Brian Holloway picked off two passes and took both to the house, while offensive lineman Nash Jones also scored off a lateral. It wasn't the most entertaining game, but those in attendance found a way to amuse themselves by drinking the place dry. Pregame ranking: 39

20. Cure Bowl

Appalachian State 13, Miami (Ohio) 9: This game was played under water. The deluge of rain in Orlando, Florida, from start to finish, handicapped both offenses severely, but it did also lead to plenty of stupid fun. There were 12 fumbles as nobody on either team was able to hold onto the ball for long. Personally, I see the rain and stupidity as more of a feature than a bug. For a bowl game with low stakes, adding a little chaos to the mix makes for a more entertaining game. It also made sure the game was close throughout, meaning any one of those 12 fumbles could've changed the outcome. Pregame ranking: 15

19. Independence Bowl 

Texas Tech 34, Cal 14: Entertaining game for a little bit before Texas Tech gained its independence. Cal scored 14 points and amassed 178 yards of offense on its first three possessions but never scored again. It picked up just 155 more yards on its final 12 possessions and turned the ball over four times. The Red Raiders outscored the Bears 27-0 over the final three quarters, taking any potential drama out of this one. Pregame ranking: 25

18. Pop-Tarts Bowl 

No. 25 Kansas State 28, No. 18 NC State 19: The only bowl played this season that featured a play-by-play announcer saying, "After the game, he will be devoured. He will die." ESPN's Anish Shroff was referencing the edible Pop-Tart mascot, which was to be eaten by the winning team after the game. While that drew most of the attention, the game itself was pretty good, too. Avery Johnson played well at QB in place of Will Howard, throwing for 178 yards, rushing for 71 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns. The star of the game for the Wildcats was D.J. Giddens, who rushed for 152 yards and a score. The game featured two fake punts with NC State's Trent Pennix taking a direct snap and going 60 yards to the house to cut Kansas State's lead to 21-19 late in the third. That was as close as the Wolfpack would get. The game was put to bed when Brennan Armstrong (164 yards passing, 121 yards rushing) threw an interception late in the fourth quarter. Pregame ranking: 23

17. Gasparilla Bowl

Georgia Tech 30, UCF 17: Georgia Tech overcame a bad start to beat UCF and earn its first bowl win since the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. The Yellow Jackets finished the season with a winning record for the first time since 2018. UCF opened the game with a four-play, 51-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds before taking a 14-0 lead later in the first. But that's when the Yellow Jackets went to work, outscoring the Knights 30-3 over the final three quarters. King threw for only 87 yards but rushed for 89 and a touchdown. The star was RB Jamal Haynes, who never found the end zone but averaged over 7 yards per carry en route to a 128-yard night. Pregame ranking: 28

16. Military Bowl

Virginia Tech 41, Tulane 20: Ball security was an issue in Annapolis, Maryland. The Hokies and Green Wave spent most of the afternoon playing in a heavy rain and it had an oversized impact on their ability to hold onto the football. There were nine fumbles in the game with five of them lost. The conditions, combined with some missing pieces for Tulane, made both one offenses one-dimensional, and it was Virginia Tech who proved stronger in that dimension. I suppose it should've been obvious that the team with a player named Drones would dominate the Military Bowl, and that's what Hokies QB Kyron Drones did. He rushed for 176 yards and a score while Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The 362 yards the Hokies gained on the ground for as a team was a new bowl record for the program, 110 more yards than Tulane finished with as a team. Pregame ranking: 31

15. Holiday Bowl

USC 42, No. 15 Louisville 28: There had been plenty of speculation about what USC would do with its QB position this offseason as it hosted a few high-profile transfers in the search of a Caleb Williams replacement. But perhaps the reason the Trojans haven't landed a commitment from anybody yet is they feel they have the best option in-house. Miller Moss got his first start at QB since his junior year of high school in 2019 and tore Louisville apart. Moss threw for 372 yards and a Holiday Bowl-record six touchdowns. Moss spread the ball around to nine difference receivers with only Tahj Washington (seven receptions, 99 yards, two TD) catching more than four passes. As for Louisville, the Cardinals were without their leading rusher and receiver in Jawhar Jordan and Jamari Thrash, but Isaac Guerendo rushed for 161 yards and three TDs. So perhaps its possible USC didn't solve all its problems with this win.

Oh, and as a cherry on top of our Holiday Bowl sundae, the game began a new tradition: dumping egg nog on the head of the winning coach. Pregame ranking: 9

14. LA Bowl

UCLA 34, Boise State 22: Ethan Garbers was the spark UCLA needed. The Bruins found themselves in an early battle with Boise State as the Broncos led the game 16-7 at halftime. Then Garbers came in for Collin Schlee, and the Bruins looked like an entirely different team. They outscored the Broncos 28-6 in the second half, and Garbers finished with 152 yards and two TDs. J. Michael Sturdivant was remarkably efficient, catching four passes for 142 yards and a score. Sadly, viewers were never able to get the nightmarish sound of Rob Gronkowski singing the national anthem out of their ears while watching the game. I sometimes still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about it. Pregame ranking: 19

13. Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers 31, Miami 24: It was not pretty, nor was it well-played, but the Pinstripe Bowl had its moments. More important than anything, it was a close game with plenty of intrigue, drama and Mario Cristobal clock mismanagement late. Trailing by 14 points in the final minutes, Miami marched down the field refusing to use its timeouts, so when it finally did score, it only had 27 seconds left to work with and needed a miracle -- a miracle it almost got when Rutgers failed to recover the onside kick. Then Miami, despite having timeouts, threw short passes to the sideline as if it didn't have timeouts and turned the ball over on downs. Still, for everything Miami messed up, Rutgers did plenty right. Kyle Monangai rushed for 163 yards to lead the Knights offense and the defense held Miami to only 4.9 yards per play. The play that changed the game came on special teams. After falling behind 14-0 to start the game, Miami stormed back to take a 17-14 lead, and it felt as if the Canes were about to establish control. That is until Rutgers blocked a punt and fell on the ball in the end zone to take the lead back. It was all Knights from there. Pregame ranking: 29

12. Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Kansas 49, UNLV 36: This was a bowl game made for anybody who loved tallying penalty yardage. I don't know if the refs were being paid by the flag thrown or the yard penalized, but whatever the case, they were some of the only people in history to leave Las Vegas with a lot more money than they came with. Kansas was called for 18 penalties worth 210 yards, while UNLV was hit with nine for 99. That's 27 total penalties worth 309 yards. Kansas had been called for only 55 penalties all season.

Anyway, between all those flags there was an entertaining football game, too. Kansas nearly managed to triple its penalty yardage on offense as Jason Bean threw for 449 yards and six scores. It looked as if the Jayhawks would blow the Rebels away in the first half, but Bean also threw three interceptions, which helped UNLV battle back in the third quarter. Kansas quickly regained control with two fourth-quarter TDs. Lawrence Arnold caught sx passes for 132 yards and three TDs while Luke Grimm, who came into the game with 395 yards receiving and three TDs, caught four passes for 160 yards and three more. Kansas' first bowl win in 15 years was a wild one. Pregame ranking: 14

11. Peach Bowl 

No. 11 Ole Miss 38, No. 10 Penn State 25: Ole Miss capped the first 11-win season in program history with an impressive victory over Penn State in Atlanta. While the Nittany Lions were missing quite a few key players on both sides of the ball (and lost one more, Abdul Carter, during the game), I'm not sure how much of a difference it would've made in the end. Jaxson Dart and the Rebels offense found a few plays that were working and hammered Penn State over the head with them repeatedly. Dart finished with 379 yards passing and four total touchdowns, while Caden Prieskorn caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two scores with Tre Harris hauling in seven passes for 134 yards. When those two didn't get the ball, it was Quinshon Judkins rushing for 106 yards on 34 carries. As for the Nittany Lions, while they finished with 510 yards of offense, most of it came in garbage time. A late touchdown and 2-point conversion made things look closer than they truly were. Honestly, the most entertaining thing to happen in this game during the second half was Dart bricking a dunk on the sideline after scoring a touchdown. Pregame ranking: 4

10. Alamo Bowl 

No. 14 Arizona 38, No. 12 Oklahoma 24: The Alamo Bowl never fails to deliver. In a time when bowl games are largely comprised of skeleton rosters, the Alamo Bowl still finds away to get a great matchup between teams at near full-strength. While Oklahoma didn't have Dillon Gabriel, this game served as a chance for fans to get their first glimpse at Jackson Arnold as a starter, and he played a key role in the game. Arnold started the game with two interceptions to help spot Arizona a 13-0 lead, but then led the Sooners on a 24-0 run to take a 24-13 lead only for the turnovers to return. Arnold finished the game with 361 yards passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions plus a lost fumble. As a team, Oklahoma turned the ball over six times, which led to 28 of Arizona's 38 points. 

Noah Fifita did what he'd done for Arizona all season: get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. Fifita finished the game with 354 yards passing and two touchdowns, and he routinely fed the ball to Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing. Those two were the target on 25 of his 38 pass attempts with McMillan finishing with 10 catches for 160 yards and Cowing reeling in seven receptions for 152 yards and two scores. Arizona finished a season with 10 wins for the first time since 2014. Pregame ranking: 5

9. Camellia Bowl 

Northern Illinois 21, Arkansas State 19: A solid bowl game that gave us a lot of what we can reasonably ask to see. The game finished with Arkansas State putting together a late comeback that concluded with an 86-yard TD drive in the final minutes to cut Northern Illinois' lead to 21-19. However, the Red Wolves 2-point conversion was no good, and after they recovered an onside kick, it was negated by an offside penalty. Antario Brown led Northern Illinois with 132 yards rushing, but the true star of the game was Huskies kicker Kanon Woodill, who took a pitch on a fake field goal attempt and went 32 yards to the house for a TD. Kickers scoring TDs on fakes is worth a minimum of three spots in these bowl rankings. Pregame ranking: 30

8. Quick Lane

Minnesota 30, Bowling Green 24: How do you win a game when your QB throws for only 26 yards? By handing the ball off to a guy nobody can tackle. Minnesota freshman RB Darius Taylor returned to the lineup after missing the Gophers' final five games of the regular season and put those fresh legs to work. Taylor rushed for 208 yards on 35 carries and also served as Minnesota's leading receiver, catching two passes for 11 yards. Cole Kramer, who had to be convinced to return from his post-school life in Arizona to start for the Gophers, completed 8 of 16 passes for 26 yards, but that included two touchdowns. Bowling Green's Odieu Hiliare caught 10 passes for 152 yards and a 46-yard TD to give the Falcons an early 7-0 lead, but he didn't get enough help from his teammates to pull off the upset. The win was Minnesota's seventh consecutive bowl win. Pregame ranking: 40

7. Arizona Bowl 

Wyoming 16, Toledo 15: Wyoming sent coach Craig Bohl out with a victory in a game that wasn't high-scoring, but unlike most of the bowls this season, managed to provide drama. The Cowboys came back from a 15-6 deficit in the fourth quarter to win the game on a 24-yard field goal as time expired. They did so after starting QB Andrew Peasley was knocked out with an apparent rib injury. It was a moment that may not have happened if the highlight of the game had counted. 

In the first quarter, Toledo offensive lineman Devan Rogers scored a TD off a deflected pass, but after initially ruling it a TD, the refs overturned the call due to it being "illegal touching." I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I want to live in a world where something as majestic and incredible as this moment is deemed to be against the rules. Pregame ranking: 18

6. Famous Toastery Bowl 

Western Kentucky 38, Old Dominion 35 (OT): The Famous Toastery Bowl was a shining example of how awesome and stupid bowl games can be. Western Kentucky came into the game missing several key players on both sides of the ball and looked exactly how you'd expect it to, falling behind 21-0 in the first 7 minutes and trailing 28-0 early in the second quarter. The Hilltoppers went to third-string QB Caden Veltkamp, who threw for 383 yards, ran for 53 yards and had five touchdowns to lead the fourth-largest comeback in bowl history. Western Kentucky fell behind 28-0, turned the ball over five times, and somehow won. It blocked a field goal down a touchdown in the fourth quarter, blocked another field goal in overtime, and then won with a field goal to kick off a celebration that included players doing snow angels in the toast. In short, it was the greatest Famous Toastery Bowl of all time. Pregame ranking: 41

5. Sugar Bowl 

No. 2 Washington 37, No. 3 Texas 31: It was such an odd game because, as I was watching, I felt Washington was in control the entire time and kept waiting for the Huskies to put the Longhorns away. Only they never did. For whatever cosmic reason, Washington, as good as it might be, is incapable of beating a team by more than one score. So, you sit there and wait for the Huskies to blow the other team out, but the next thing you know, the 'Horns is inside the red zone in the final seconds with a chance to win the game. And then you're wondering, "What the hell happened how did we get here?"

Texas did not win the game. Washington, as it's done seemingly 25 times this season, held on. Michael Penix Jr. was remarkable once again, throwing for 430 yards and two touchdowns, spreading the ball between his future NFL receivers Rome Odunze (six catches for 125 yards), Ja'Lynn Polk (five for 122 yards and a touchdown) and Jalen McMillan (five for 58 and a touchdown). Dillon Johnson didn't have the yards, but he scored two more TDs, and Washington racked up 532 yards of offense.

On the burnt orange side, Quinn Ewers finished with 318 yards passing and a TD, but it was a largely uneven performance. For whatever reason, Texas abandoned the run game despite averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The 'Horns made plays, but they didn't make them consistently enough. Washington was just better. In the end, thankfully, nobody ate Bevo. Pregame ranking: 2

4. Reliaquest Bowl 

No. 13 LSU 35, Wisconsin 31: The 2024 year began with one of the best bowls of the season as LSU came back from two 14-point deficits to beat Wisconsin. The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 3:08 left to play when Garret Nussmeier hit Brian Thomas Jr. for a 4-yard touchdown to cap off a 98-yard game-winning touchdown drive. Even without Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, the Tigers overcame their defense once again. Wisconsin managed 506 yards of offense in the game as Tanner Mordecai threw for 378 yards and three scores. All those numbers were season bests for the Badgers and Mordecai, respectively. Nussmeier threw for 395 yards and three TDs himself, but while Mordecai's touchdowns all came in the first half, Nussmeier's came in the second half. The Tigers held Wisconsin to only 10 points after halftime and shut them out in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs with three straight sacks to finish the game. The win gives Brian Kelly his second 10-win season in two years with the Tigers. Pregame ranking: 12

3. New Orleans Bowl 

Jacksonville State 34, Louisiana 31 (OT): Ever been on an acid trip through the streets of New Orleans? I hadn't until I watched this New Orleans Bowl. The game was nuts. Louisiana scored three (three!) defensive touchdowns in the game, including one on the opening possession. Meanwhile, Jacksonville State was forced to rotate between QBs when Zion Webb was banged up. His replacement, Logan Smothers, would get hurt, too, getting replaced by the injured Webb. So, one team had three touchdowns on defense, and the other had two injured QBs. And the team with the injured QBs won the game! 

I only wish that I had taken more time to appreciate this game as I watched it. It was one of the first games played this bowl season, and there were be far too few like it going forward. It's a lesson to us all not to take the great games for granted. We are not promised tomorrow's great bowl game. We only have today's. Pregame ranking: 26

2. Gator Bowl 

No. 22 Clemson 38, Kentucky 35: I don't know where to begin, so I'll just begin with the record. There were 42 points scored in the fourth quarter of this game, more than in any fourth quarter in bowl game history -- and that was just part of what went down in the Gator Bowl. There were eight lead changes, including five in the fourth quarter, as both teams kept trading haymakers. It was everything you could want from a bowl game played on a Friday morning in Jacksonville. Early on, the star of the show was Kentucky's Barion Brown. He scored UK's first touchdown of the day with a 22-yard run and then opened the second half with a 100-yard kick return TD that gave the Wildcats a 21-10 at the time. He had a setback with a fumble that led to a 29-yard TD run by Clemson's Phil Mafah to give the Tigers a 27-21 lead (Clemson's first lead since it was up 10-7), but Brown made up for it immediately, catching a 60-yard touchdown pass to take the lead back.

Clemson responded with a 52-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through to get the lead back, but Kentucky responded again. It went 75 yards in three plays to take the lead back, but it wasn't enough. Clemson went 68 yards in 12 plays before Mafah scored his fourth touchdown of the game to finish it off with 17 seconds remaining.

All bowl games in the future should study tape of the 2023 Gator Bowl for an idea of what they should want to be. There wasn't even an edible mascot, or a novelty Gatorade dump in this game, but it didn't need it. Everything that happened on the field was more than enough. Pregame ranking: 21

1. Rose Bowl

No. 1 Michigan 27, No. 4 Alabama 20 (OT): It was the No. 1 bowl in the pregame rankings, and it's the No. 1 bowl in the postgame rankings. Admittedly, if it weren't the Rose Bowl, and it weren't a College Football Playoff semifinal, it finishes third or maybe even fourth in our rankings. But it was those things, and it was an epic game that delivered all the drama you could want with the added bonuses of legacies and national title hopes being on the line.

Early, it looked as if Michigan would dominate as it was whooping Alabama along the lines of scrimmage, but despite a dominant performance from its defense, the Wolverines offense and special teams refused to let Michigan pull away. And what happens when you let Bama hang around? Exactly, Bama doesn't just hang around, it takes over, which the Crimson Tide did in the second half, erasing a 13-10 deficit to take a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter.

When it seemed as if Michigan was done, the Wolverines put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to tie the game. They converted a fourth down deep within their own territory, and Roman Wilson rose higher than thought possible to pull in an errant J.J. McCarthy throw that likely would've been picked off if he didn't get his hands on it. Wilson also scored the game-tying touchdown to force overtime.

In the extra period, the hero of so many games for Michigan, Blake Corum, scored a touchdown to give Blue the lead, and then the defense did the rest. A low snap on fourth-and-goal seemed to cause Jalen Milroe to panic, and his attempt to reach the goal line didn't even get close. Game over, Michigan won. It erased the pain of two prior CFP failures and beat the greatest dynasty of our era on the greatest stage in college football. The 2023 Rose Bowl was truly the Granddaddy of Them All this season. Pregame ranking: 1