The ultimate bowl viewing guide: Reasons to watch all 35 games
Well folks, we made it. After 15 grueling weeks, hundreds of games and thousands of made-up excuses to watch those games, the college football regular season has come to an end. Like me, I’m sure you’re both elated and exhausted.
Unfortunately, you’ve also awoken to a sad realization: For the first time since mid-August, you don’t have any college football to look forward to next weekend other than Army-Navy. When a more complete slate returns in a few weeks in bowl form, well, all the matchups aren’t that compelling.
Thankfully, that’s why I’m here.
While there are plenty of games to look forward to — the Orange Bowl comes to mind, the Cotton Bowl will be a lot of fun and of course the BCS title game — plenty of others will require a good pep-talk to get through them.
So without further ado, we give you our “Ultimate Bowl Viewing Guide,” a rundown of all 35 games with one reason (and sometimes two) to watch each one. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
(All times ET.)
Why You Should Watch: While there probably wouldn’t be a ton of fan bases excited to play a Dec. 21 bowl game in Albuquerque, you’ve got to imagine Washington State is one of them. After 10 long years, welcome back to bowl season Wazzu fans!
And because with Colorado State coach Jim McElwain being Nick Saban’s former offensive coordinator, there’s got to be a good “McElwain to Texas!” joke to make if the Rams win here.
Quick Pick: Colorado State 38, Washington State 31
Why You Should Watch: Just one week ago, USC fans had the post-Coach O blues, and frankly, I’m not sure if half of them even cared if their team went bowling or not. Then their ears perked up, they heard the words “Vegas and football” and all of a sudden are ready to roll!
Also, if you can’t get excited about watching Derek Carr one last time, then I’m not totally sure we can be friends.
Quick Pick: Fresno State 31, USC 28
Why You Should Watch: If you don’t yet know the name of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, get to know it right now. The dude is coming to an NFL stadium near you soon.
And when Buffalo’s players walk off the bus in Boise and scream “It’s a heat wave!!!” without a hint of sarcasm in their voices, well, that will be one of the best moments of the entire bowl season.
Quick Pick: Buffalo 20, San Diego State 14
Why You Should Watch: This will be a classic matchup of “a bunch of Louisiana kids not good enough to play at LSU” (Tulane) duking it out with, well, a bunch of Louisiana kids not good enough to play at LSU (Louisiana-Lafayette).
And whenever we can watch this video of Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth bench pressing, ultimately, aren’t we all winners?
Quick Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Tulane 18
Why You Should Watch: On a Monday afternoon, before Christmas, in a stadium that’s notorious for poor turnout (Tropicana Field), this might be the first ever sporting event — let alone bowl game — whose attendance ends up in negative numbers.
And if you’re into the whole “football” thing, this is a genuinely intriguing matchup between an underrated program (East Carolina, which beat both North Carolina and NC State this year) and a bounceback coach (Frank Solich), who is having a helluva rebirth at Ohio.
Also, go ahead and try to say “Beef O Brady’s” out loud without giggling. I bet you can’t do it.
Quick Pick: East Carolina 38, Ohio 24
Why You Should Watch: Somewhere, in an undisclosed Seattle high-rise condo, Chris Petersen is sitting in the dark, shaking his head and thinking to himself: “Crap, if I had only promised to coach this team in their bowl game, I could’ve gotten a free trip to Hawaii!”
It’s also Christmas Eve, and what else are you gonna do? Go to church?
Quick Pick: Oregon State 38, Boise State 31
Why You Should Watch: What better way to kick off your “It’s the day after Christmas, I took a bunch of time off of work and I’m already bored out of my mind” schedule than by watching two teams you know nothing about?
And after three straight years of going to the BBVA Compass Bowl, doesn’t Pitt have to be thrilled to be going anywhere but Birmingham this holiday season?
Quick Pick: Bowling Green 27, Pitt 14
Why You Should Watch: After watching Jordan Lynch rip off 150-yard rushing performances in the frozen tundra of DeKalb, Ill., I’m genuinely intrigued to see what he can do when the temperature is 78 degrees, and the game is played under bright blue skies.
Also: One final opportunity to watch Lynch play college football is something I think we can all be thankful for this holiday season.
Quick Pick: Northern Illinois 30, Utah State 20
Why You Should Watch: Maryland coach Randy Edsall will honor all the distinguished personnel in attendance at this game — by keeping the same haircut he’s had since the third grade.
Marshall has a wide receiver named Gator Hoskins, and really, what’s more awesome than a man named “Gator?”
Quick Pick: Maryland 24, Marshall 21
Why You Should Watch: Along with the Bermuda Triangle and The Loch Ness Monster, “How Minnesota Won Eight Games This Year” is one of the world’s single great mysteries.
And remember Doug Marrone? Is anyone else wondering whether he’d rather be here at this game than standing on the sidelines in sub-zero temperatures watching E.J. Manuel throw the ball to the other team?
As they say, “The grass isn’t always greener in Buffalo.”
Quick Pick: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 14
Why You Should Watch: When USC is playing in this bowl game next year and Washington is coming off a 10-win season, Huskies fans are going to realize that Steve Sarkisian leaving was the best thing that ever happened to this program.
I seriously can’t wait for the “Chris Petersen in a BCS conference” era to start. Along with the sequel to 21 Jump Street (yes, that’s happening) it’s the single thing I’m most looking forward to in 2014.
Quick Pick: Washington 34, BYU 14
Why You Should Watch: Who else is genuinely excited to see TV cameras catch Brian Kelly cursing Everett Golson’s name while pacing the sidelines in five-degree weather and wishing he was anywhere but New York in December?
This is also the final time you’ll be able to enjoy Rutgers as a middle-of-the-road American Athletic Conference team. It’s switching leagues next year and become a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team. Good times!
Quick Pick: Notre Dame 24, Rutgers 16
Why You Should Watch: Cincinnati got so much darn Belk out of last year’s game that it had to come back and do it again in 2013! (OK, that last sentence made no sense — and might not have been work appropriate. I apologize.)
Also, when Tommy Tuberville skips out at halftime of this game to accept the head coaching job of the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL, will anyone be surprised?
Quick Pick: North Carolina 34, Cincinnati 27
Why You Should Watch: Even after a three-year bowl absence, I can’t imagine a single Miami fan woke up this morning, looked at their draw and said, “We’re going bowling!”
I’m also 80 percent sure Louisville accepted this bowl bid only as a thinly-veiled excuse to give Charlie Strong an extra few days to recruit in Florida. I’m 100 percent sure Louisville fans are totally cool with that.
Quick Pick: Louisville 34, Miami 21
Why You Should Watch: With a temperature of 78-degrees at kickoff, at least it won’t be awkward seeing Brady Hoke pace the sidelines in a short-sleeved golf shirt.
Seeing who wins the battle of “Bill Snyder’s morals” versus “the morals found on Arizona State’s campus” (where this game will be played) may be the single most intriguing matchup this entire bowl season.
Quick Pick: Kansas State 24, Michigan 16
Why You Should Watch: An 11:45 a.m. Monday kickoff ensures that this will be the single sloppiest game of the entire bowl season.
Also: If you don’t watch, who will?
Quick Pick: Middle Tennessee State 19, Navy 16
Why You Should Watch: Georgia Tech has reached that sacred place where the fans pretty much hate Paul Johnson’s guts, but the dude wins just enough games to save his job. And I can’t lie: I’m enjoying every moment of it.
And if Ole Miss’ season-ending game in Nashville is half as compelling as its season-opener there, we’re in for a treat.
Quick Pick: Ole Miss 34, Georgia Tech 17
Why You Should Watch: It could be Mack Brown’s last game as coach at Texas. More importantly, with a couple of Texas kids (Josh Huff and Bralon Addison) running over, around and through the Longhorns defense for Oregon, it’ll give us a fresh batch of “Did you know Mack recruited X player at safety?” jokes to use too.
Quick Pick: Oregon 44, Texas 24
Why You Should Watch: The idea of Kliff Kingsbury casually strolling the streets of San Diego with the two top buttons of his dress shirt undone should have every married man within a 50-mile radius terrified.
Also, in another season where offenses ruled the sport, this might be the highest scoring game of the entire bowl season.
Quick Pick: Texas Tech 48, Arizona State 41
Why You Should Watch: The idea of a bunch of Tucson-area husbands telling their wives this morning, “Hey honey, guess what? We’re spending New Year’s in Shreveport!” is too good.
If you haven’t yet seen Boston College running back Andre Williams, well, you’ve wasted the last four months.
Quick Pick: Arizona 41, Boston College 24
Why You Should Watch: I can totally see Jim Mora threatening to drive his players across the border and leave them there as a motivational tactic at practice prior to this game.
And frankly, I also think Mora is sick enough to actually pull off that move, too.
Quick Pick: UCLA 38, Virginia Tech 21
Why You Should Watch: By now you’ve probably seen the AWESOME video Rice celebrating in the locker room after accepting a bid to this game. If not, here it is:
What you probably didn’t see was Mississippi State’s coaching staff have the exact same reaction after getting bowl eligible, knowing they’d keep their jobs for another year.
Quick Pick: Mississippi State 30, Rice 27
Why You Should Watch: The possibility of cameras catching Johnny Manziel stuffing some Duke nerd into a Georgia Dome locker prior to kickoff has me all sorts of excited.
Another reason: Texas A&M might end up getting investigated by the NCAA after Manziel decides to throw an impromptu New Year’s Eve party in the locker room after the game.
Quick Pick: Texas A&M 38, Duke 20
Why You Should Watch: It’s the exact same matchup as last year’s Capital One Bowl, only with fewer combined wins, two backup QBs and half the intrigue. Can you feel the excitement!
(Ducks for cover)
Coach Pelini, I’m sorry! I take everything back! Please stop swinging that chair at my head! I take it back! I TAKE IT BAAAACKKKKKKK …
Quick Pick: Georgia 24, Nebraska 14
Why You Should Watch: There aren’t many teams that would be excited about a noon kickoff on New Year’s Day, but I imagine UNLV is one of them. Congrats to the Rebels on making their first bowl game since 2000.
And if you made the prop bet “North Texas will play in a New Year’s Day bowl and Texas and Texas A&M won’t” before the season, you’re probably a rich man or woman right now.
Quick Pick: North Texas 28, UNLV 14
Why You Should Watch: Leave your Big Ten bias out of this and just appreciate the fact that Wisconsin is a really good program, and Gary Andersen a really, really good coach.
I’m also genuinely curious to know how many holes of golf Steve Spurrier plans on sneaking in the morning of the game. Think he can fit in 27?
Quick Pick: South Carolina 17, Wisconsin 13
Why You Should Watch: Well, Les Miles … duh!
And for anyone lauding Iowa for its bounceback season this year, let’s never forget that Kirk Ferentz is still one of the 10 highest paid coaches in college football, making a cool $3.9 million a year.
Sometimes life really isn’t fair, huh?
Quick Pick: LSU 27, Iowa 7
Why You Should Watch: The phrase “This ain’t your daddy’s brand of football” gets thrown around wayyyy too much these days.
Except this game really will be “your daddy’s brand of football.” And I, for one, am totally cool with that.
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor (11-1) vs. UCF (11-1)
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
Why You Should Watch: This game very well might be the last time you get to see Art Briles’ high-flying offense at Baylor, before he leaves for Texas, the Redskins or wherever the hell he’s projected to go next year.
(Baylor fans, relax. I’m totally kidding. Briles ain’t going anywhere.)
Also, why don’t we just enjoy how far these two programs have come in such a short amount of time? These really are two of the best stories in college football this year.
Quick Pick: Baylor 52, UCF 21
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (11-1) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)
Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
Why You Should Watch This Game: In an era of quick-fix coaching changes, Bob Stoops is an old-school dinosaur who just keeps churning out 10-win seasons as easily as you and I put on pants in the morning. Not to mention that despite the fact Stoops has coached in three BCS National Championship games, and a record-setting nine BCS bowl games, this year has been far and away his best coaching job yet.
And despite all the nice things above, I fully expect Alabama to crush the Sooners.
Quick Pick: Alabama 42, Oklahoma 14
Why You Should Watch: I don’t even need to make a joke here. This is a really good game, quite possibly the most compelling matchup outside of the BCS bowls.
This game is going to be awesome.
Quick Pick: Missouri 31, Oklahoma State 28
Why You Should Watch: After 24 straight wins, it took only one loss for everyone to completely call into question everything Urban Meyer has done at Ohio State, putting an entirely new set of pressure onto the Buckeyes to win this one.
Despite the fact that Ohio State’s biggest weakness (pass defense, ranked 104th nationally) will be going up against the most potent offense it’ll see all year, I still think they get the job done here.
Quick Pick: Ohio State 24, Clemson 21
Why You Should Watch: James Franklin really is a miracle-worker, and after leading Vanderbilt to its second straight nine-win season, I fully expect his next act to be turning water into wine.
And after three straight years of having Pitt at this game, the folks in Birmingham have to be thrilled to have, well, anyone but Pitt in this game.
Quick Pick: Vanderbilt 28, Houston 20
Why You Should Watch: Outside of the two young, up-and-coming coaches (Ball State’s Pete Lembo and Arkansas State’s Bryan Harsin, who may not even coach this game if they are hired away before then) I know nothing about these teams, and I doubt you do either.
But in the penultimate game of the season, just be thankful you’ve got college football to watch, OK?
Quick Pick: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 14
Why You Should Watch: It’s the freakin’ BCS National Championship, and if you can’t get pumped for this one, well, I really can’t help you at this point.
After 16 years of the BCS taking plenty of undue heat, isn’t it fitting that the same system gave us the two most deserving teams, playing in a controversy-free championship game?
I say so. Enjoy this one, folks.
Quick Pick: Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Aaron Torres is a show writer for Fox Sports Live and a contributor to FoxSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.