You hear it every bowl season — why do we have so many of these so-called meaningless bowl games. Yes, unless you're a superfan or a gambler or bored over the holidays and looking for something to watch, the 40-game postseason featuring just two games that factor into deciding the national champion can seem tedious.
To the players and teams who get the reward after a long season, though, it's often anything but. We scoured the photo wires for the best images of unfettered joy — and the stories behind them — to prove it.
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New Mexico Bowl
Bob Davie's first bowl win was a long time coming. Lou Holtz's successor at Notre Dame, Davie went 0-3 in bowls in his five seasons in South Bend. He then spent over a decade out of coaching before being hired at New Mexico in 2012. After losing this bowl a year ago, he got the Lobos over the hump this time, then enjoyed a ride on his players' shoulders.
Ivan Pierre AguirreUSA TODAY Sports
Las Vegas Bowl
That's Donnel Pumphrey at center left with the outstretched hand on his shoulder. San Diego State's star running back broke Ron Dayne's career rushing record in this bowl game — though not without a big ole asterisk. Afterward, he was mobbed by teammates, fans and media trying to be a part of history.
Joshua DahlUSA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Bowl
There were many Gatorade-bath shots, but perhaps the best comes from the New Orleans Bowl, where Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson was captured right at the perfect moment. It's Hopson's first season with the Golden Eagles and his first bowl win as a head coach.
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Miami Beach Bowl
Once Baylor's offensive coordinator, Philip Montgomery got his first head-coaching gig with Tulsa before last season. He turned the Golden Hurricane around from 6-7 last year to 10-3 this season, won the Miami Beach Bowl, then gave us probably the best post-victory facial expression of the bowl year.
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Boca Raton Bowl
It was a big night for Nick Holt, coaching Western Kentucky on an interim basis in place of Jeff Brohm, who had left for the Purdue job. The Hilltoppers defeated Memphis, and the players reveled with their fill-in leader. But there will be no discussion of Holt getting the full-time job — two weeks after this game, Brohm hired him to be his defensive coordinator at Purdue.
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Idaho Potato Bowl
Perhaps no non-playoff bowl meant more to its players and fans than this one. Idaho officials controversially decided earlier this season to move the school down to FCS for 2018. After the Vandals' wild 61-50 win over Colorado State, quarterback Matt Linehan expressed his strong feelings on the matter both in an on-field interview and with this sign.
Brian LosnessUSA TODAY Sports
Armed Forces Bowl
It's your standard trophy celebration shot, but the aptly timed and framed fireworks blast in the background makes this one of the best of bowl season. And the game was great too: Louisiana Tech beat Navy 48-45 on a field goal as time expired.
Richard W. RodriguezFort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images
Fittingly, Hawaii played in the Hawaii Bowl — for the first time since 2010 — and treated the crowd and visiting Middle Tennessee to a performance of a haka war dance before the game. Much more intimidating than a stretching line.
Marco GarciaUSA TODAY Sports
Heart of Dallas Bowl
With a handful of the bowls either named in honor of the military and/or featuring service school teams — Army, Navy and Air Force all made one this year — there were plenty of good shots blending the two. At the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Lieutenant General Robert L. Carlson, Jr. gave us the best one, joining Army cheerleaders to root on the Black Knights.
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One of the more surprising wins of the bowl season came courtesy of Minnesota, which defeated Washington State in the Holiday Bowl just 10 days after its players threatened to boycott the game in response to the university's handling of suspensions of 10 teammates. The situation remains a total mess, but for that night, the shorthanded Gophers celebrated an especially remarkable and meaningful win.
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The best photo before the emotion sets in, here we get a great angle on Baylor players preparing to douse head coach Jim Grobe after their unexpected win over Boise State. Grobe stepped in to lead a program in complete disarray in the wake of the sexual assault scandals from departed coach Art Briles' tenure.
Matt KartozianUSA TODAY Sports
Foster Farms Bowl
Utah offensive linemen Johnny Capra and Garett Bolles shared a tender moment with the hardware after defeating Indiana. Head coach Kyle Whittingham improved to 10-1 in bowls all-time, the best record of anyone with at least 10 bowls coached.
Kelley L CoxUSA TODAY Sports
After all these years, Bill Snyder has still got it. The longtime Kansas State coach led the Wildcats to yet another bowl win in 2016, his 25th year in Manhattan across two separate stints. Rather than drench their 77-year-old coach in Gatorade, K-State players opted for a Gatorage jug filled with confetti.
Eric Christian SmithAP photo
You've seen people raising the trophy, you've seen people kissing it. A lick was the logical next step. Right? ... South Florida's Nigel Harris provided this memorable shot. The overtime win was a sweet capper on an 11-2 season for the Bulls, who lost stud head coach Willie Taggart to Oregon before the bowl win but are getting Charlie Strong next season.
Shanna LockwoodUSA TODAY Sports
What was supposed to be one of the best games of the bowl season turned into a rout as Oklahoma State breezed past Colorado, 38-8. Afterward, the Cowboys were captured with their inner children coming out to shine as balloons fell to the field.
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With uniforms straight out of the Oakland Raiders' wardrobe, Air Force pulled off its fourth bowl win of head coach Troy Calhoun's 10-year run with the Falcons in the only bowl game you wouldn't have been able to watch on TV.
Casey SapioUSA TODAY Sports
Music City Bowl
It was not a great season for Tennessee, which opened with high expectations only to hit a three-game skid and fall out of contention in the SEC. The always demonstrative Butch Jones, though, kept the message positive, at one point famously referring to his players as "champions of life." A bowl win over Nebraska provided a moment for them all to celebrate being champions of something else too.
Christopher HanewinckelUSA TODAY Sports
Ed Orgeron is a hard guy to root against. The affable, quotable LSU coach took over after Les Miles was fired in-season, then was unexpectedly given the full-time job despite many intriguing names being dangled about in Baton Rouge. Even without star running back Leonard Fournette, the Tigers handled Louisville and Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, winning 29-9 and giving the players another chance to fete their beloved Coach O.
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Wisconsin blew a Rose Bowl chance after letting Penn State rally in the Big Ten title game. The Badgers settled for the Cotton Bowl, and a tough 24-16 win over Group of 5 darling Western Michigan. Some Badgers players still took the opportunity to have a little fun in the confetti.
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The annual tradition in Pasadena was probably its best edition ever and the poster-child for this list. Over 100 points were scored in the back-and-forth thriller, ultimately won by USC on a last-second field goal. Kicker Matt Boermeester dropped a dab on us as Trojans teammates rushed to mob him after the team completed a rally from 14 points down in the final quarter.