(WTNH) – Love sitting on the couch watching football? Hate taking part in holiday festivities such as baking, shopping, and talking to relatives? Well, you’re in luck.
Here at SportzEdge, we’ve decided to give you a holiday gift just a little early. It’s OK–you don’t have to get us anything back. Like we said, we know you hate shopping. With 41 bowl games spread across the holiday season, you’re going to need plenty of excuses—er—reasons, to sit on the couch and not do anything productive.
So, we’ve provided this list, ranking every college football game in order of interesting-ness, and giving you something to say when your mom, wife, grandma, or other annoying person asks if you can help them wrap that cookbook for Aunt Alice.
Here is a reason to watch every college football bowl game this year:
1. Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State, 12/31
I mean, if you’re not watching this one, you might as well give away your jersey, sell your flatscreen TV, buy a candy-cane apron and go help Grandma with her cinnamon raisin muffins.
The other playoff game is great too, but there’s a reason this one’s at 8 p.m.
Alabama was the best team in America during the regular season, and Michigan State plays just like them. Head coach Mark Dantonio is a former Nick Saban assistant, when he was at Michigan State. If QB Connor Cook is healthy, the Spartans may have the advantage there. The Tide do have the best player in the country in running back Derrick Henry, though. Can Alabama avenge a semifinal loss to Big Ten champ Ohio State last year? There’s more layers to this one than Aunt Lisa’s fruitcake.
2. Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Oklahoma, 12/31
Plan accordingly. This game should be a high-scoring affair, as two of the nation’s best offenses and two Heisman-contending QB’s (Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield) face off for a spot in the national championship game. Mayfield is a fascinating story in his own right–he walked on as a freshman at Texas Tech and came to Oklahoma after the Red Raiders refused to offer him a scholarship.
More than the off-field storylines, we’ll find out everything we need to know about these two teams on New Year’s Eve. Clemson went undefeated during the regular season and emerged quickly as the College Football Playoff committee’s darling despite really not playing anyone. How good are they? How good is Oklahoma, which got lucky by playing backup QB’s in games against Baylor and TCU?
3. Rose Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford, 1/1
We think this is the best of the non-playoff games, (a.k.a. the NIT of college football). Iowa proved it deserved to be in position for a CFP spot when it took Michigan State to the wire in the Big Ten championship game, and nearly pulled off the program-shifting upset. These Hawkeyes will be hungry to show the rest of the country that they belong, and they’ll get a fantastic opponent in Pac-12 champion Stanford. This should be fun.
4. Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame, 1/1
Speaking of fun, how about starting New Year’s Day off with a matchup of two of the most storied programs in college football history? The Irish and Buckeyes were each eyeing bigger things this season, but Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer says the Fiesta Bowl isn’t a disappointment. You won’t be disappointed watching this one, either. Just don’t let anyone see that it’s the “BattleFrog” Fiesta Bowl. That just sounds stupid.
5. Valero Alamo Bowl: TCU vs. Oregon, 1/2
TCU’s Trevone Boykin is one of the most entertaining players in the nation to watch, and this should be a heck of a game as two of the highest-flying offenses in college football collide. Oregon is a different team when QB Vernon Adams is in the lineup, and he’ll play in this one–meaning it should be a back-and-forth battle where the first one to 50–or maybe 60 (?!) wins.
6. Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina vs. Baylor, 12/29
Carolina was underrated this year, and as they proved in the ACC championship game, the Heels can ball. Baylor can ball too–even though the Bears were on their fourth string quarterback on Saturday against Texas. Backup Jared Stidham could be back for this game, which will make it much more fun to watch, because that kid can air it out. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how these two match up.
7. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State, 1/1
Ole Miss fans have to be disappointed with the way their season turned out after the Alabama game, when the Rebs handed the Crimson Tide their only loss of the year. They looked like a team on a mission–and a bona-fide playoff contender then. Somehow, they couldn’t handle Florida or Memphis.
So, they end up with a letdown of a BCS game, against a high-flying Oklahoma State team that puts up points like an NBA Jam pinball machine. Oh well. This one will be an interesting contrast in styles–as Ole Miss’ defense doesn’t allow many points.
8. Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. LSU, 12/29
At first glance, this game looks like a blowout. LSU’s bruising Leonard Fournette against the Texas Tech defense—er, the Texas Tech not-the-offense. Not really sure the Red Raiders are really defending anything. They’re just running around out there, getting some exercise while they wait for the other team to kick the ball off back to them.
But that offense, though—man, it is entertaining. QB Patrick Mahomes is one of the most entertaining players in the nation, and the Raiders run up and down the field and score with ease. LSU could struggle to keep up–or they could shut Tech down. It’ll be fascinating to see how this one goes down.
9. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida, 1/1
This game might end 3-2, but it should be an awesome slugfest as two great defenses get after it. Florida’s D held Alabama in check for much of the SEC title game, and it could slow down Michigan, which was much-improved in year one under Jim Harbaugh.
10. Outback Bowl: Northwestern vs. Tennessee, 1/1
The Wildcats have quietly put together one of the best seasons in school history, racking up 10 wins and ascending to No. 12 in this week’s AP poll. That gives the Big Ten four teams in the top 12, and six in the Top 25. Tennessee has benefited from a light schedule, but the Vols (8-4) are on the way back towards relevance in what’s normally considered the nation’s toughest conference. It’ll be interesting to see how these teams match up.
11. Military Bowl presented by Northop Gruman: Navy vs. Pittsburgh, 12/28
Ummmm, I don’t know, a chance to watch college football’s all-time touchdowns leader (Keenan Reynolds)? And one of the most prolific offenses in the country? And the best Navy team since the ’60s? And an improved Pittsburgh team that won eight games and nearly knocked off Iowa? Is this even a real question? Come on.
12. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Houston vs. Florida State, 12/31
Is Houston for real? We’ll find out in this game, as they take on the Seminoles, who came on like gangbusters at the end of the season and might be one of the six or seven best teams in the country. FSU running back Dalvin Cook might be reason enough to watch this game, as the sophomore rushed for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. It’ll be fascinating to see how high-flying Houston, with AAC Player of the Year Greg Ward Jr. matches up.
13. Belk Bowl: NC State vs. Mississippi State, 12/30
This is Mississippi State legend Dak Prescott‘s final game as a Bulldog, so that’s reason enough to watch. Prescott was the Heisman frontrunner at one point last season, when he had the Bulldogs atop the national rankings.
Things didn’t come as easily this year, but the senior still carried this extremely young group to eight wins. He’ll likely go down as the greatest player in Mississippi State football history. You can’t miss his final game…come on.
14. St. Petersburg Bowl: Connecticut vs. Marshall, 12/26
Obviously, we’re homers here, but for Huskies fans, it’ll be very interesting to see whether or not the program can finish off a breakthrough season. This is a big game for UConn, which would love to finish with a winning record (7-6), and beat a team with a gaudy 9-3 record.
It would also show some symmetry between the Bob Diaco era and the Randy Edsall era, which really got going after the Huskies beat MAC opponent Toledo in the 2004 Motor City Bowl.
15. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis, 12/30
Auburn isn’t great (6-6), but the Tigers looked better in the regular season finale against Alabama, and Memphis (9-3) is an underrated team that beat Ole Miss and has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Paxton Lynch, who threw for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns against 3 interceptions this season. This should be an interesting clash of styles, as Memphis puts up 42.7 points per game. Can one of the AAC’s best teams take out an SEC also-ran? I’ll be tuning in to find out.
16. Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Alright, so we may be a little biased here (K-State, baby!), but this should be an interesting matchup between one of the legendary coaches in college football (Bill Snyder), and the up-and-coming Bret Bielema. Arkansas really turned things around after a rough start to the season (1-3), winning six of its last seven games and beating Mississippi and LSU in the process. Their only loss in that time? A 51-50 barnburner against Mississippi State.
17. Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Wisconsin, 12/30
Both of these teams had disappointing seasons (real surprising for USC), but they’re two big name programs playing in one of the most-fun bowl games of the year. Look up the history of the Holiday Bowl, (and how games are almost always high-scoring and awesome), and then tell me you’re going to help make Chex mix instead.
18. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force, 12/29
We’ll make this one quick. Cal boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the country inJared Goff, who could end up being one of the first players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. So…there’s no time to vacuum for the New Year’s Eve party. You’re scouting. How will you know whether or not to yell at the TV in April because your team didn’t trade up for Goff if you don’t watch this game?
19. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville, 12/30
A&M and Louisville are two good teams that played incredibly tough schedules this season. The Cardinals nearly knocked off Clemson, losing 20-17, and lost close calls to Houston and Auburn. Bobby Petrino has things rolling again, so you’ll want to catch this team before it takes off in the next few years.
20. Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: West Virginia vs. Arizona State, 1/2
West Virginia has a great offense, and enters this game with momentum, having won four of five to close the season. There probably won’t be a whole lot of three-and-outs in this one, and that always makes for good TV.
21. GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green, 12/23
This game is going to be fun simply because of the clash of styles. Georgia Southern is one of the country’s best rushing teams, employing a power-option attack that helped the Eagles beat Florida last year and take Georgia to the wire this season. Contrastly, Bowling Green (10-3) wins with its passing game, specifically QB Matt Johnson, who threw for 4,700 yards and 43 touchdowns this season.
Like Western Kentucky and Appalachian State, Georgia Southern used to be an FCS powerhouse before it moved up to FBS competition. Not sure if playing in the GoDaddy Bowl is better than winning national titles at the FCS level, but whatever.
22. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana vs. Duke, 12/26
A great basketball matchup, and could be a good football game, too, as Indiana’s up-tempo offense takes on a hard-nosed Duke team in the midst of its glory years under head coach David Cutcliffe. Eli Manning’s old college coach at Ole Miss has been a revelation in Durham, as he’s guided the Blue Devils to four straight bowl appearances (the school has made nine total).
Indiana nearly beat Michigan and Iowa this season, while posting 36.2 points per game, which ranks 22nd nationally. Beyond all that, it’s just fun to watch a football game played at Yankee Stadium.
23. TaxSlayer Bowl: Penn State vs. Georgia, 1/2
The name is dumb, but these two programs have a lot of history. It’ll be interesting to see how Georgia looks without Mark Richt.
24. Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo vs. Temple, 12/22
Temple was one of the best teams in the most-improved conference in the country, the American Athletic. How good are the Owls? Well, they boast theNational Defensive Player of the Year in linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who’s from Stratford. If you haven’t gotten a chance to watch Temple play, it’s worth it. The Owls gave Notre Dame a run for its money in Philly and will be hungry to finish off arguably the best season in school history with an 11th win.
25. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona vs. New Mexico, 12/19
Arizona took a step back this year after winning 10 games and reaching the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. But head coach Rich Rodriguez is one of the best in the game (hecreated the spread offense), and should have the Wildcats ready to play in this one.
‘Zona had a gauntlet of a schedule this year, with no bye weeks, so this game should serve as a barometer for how good they really were. New Mexico, on the other hand, will play in its first bowl game since 2007, under former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Bob Davie.
26. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. Utah, 12/19
The Holy War in Vegas? Sign us up. Just say you’re watching this one for religious reasons. BYU and Utah used to meet every year back when the Cougars didn’t big-time everyone and still played in the Mountain West. Gotta love when rivals are re-united unexpectedly in a bowl game. Really warms the spirit for the holidays.
27. Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA vs. Nebraska, 12/26
The names look great, but Nebraska shouldn’t even be here, given the fact that they’re 5-7, and the only reason they’re playing in a bowl game is because there are 42 of them. Still, even your Grandma knows about Nebraska’s football tradition, and UCLA is one of the more talented teams in the country. It should be a fun watch.
28. Raycom Media Cameilla Bowl: Ohio vs. Appalachian State, 12/19
Settle into the couch for this one–because you may be about to witness history.
OK, we laid it on pretty thick there, but Appalachian State does have a chance to win its first bowl game ever. The program already owns a pretty significant piece of college football history, having orchestrated an all-time upset in 2007, when its then-FCS squad beat No. 5 Michigan at the Big House. The Mountaineers won three national championships in the FCS.
Again, not sure why you’d want to give up chances at more titles to play in the Raycom Media Cameilla Bowl, but that’s beside the point. As for a reason to watch Ohio, the Bobcats have become a solid MAC program under fromer Nebraska coach Frank Solich.
29. Cure Bowl: San Jose State vs. Georgia State, 12/19
Again….this is a chance to witness history. Sorry, got carried away again. Georgia State, which didn’t even have a football team as recently as 2010, will take the field in their first-ever bowl game. The Panthers had been downright awful before this season, going a combined 2-33 since 2012. Almost as rare a sight in a bowl game? 5-7 San Jose State, which will play in its 10th postseason game in school history and third since 1990.
30. Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. South Florida, 12/21
The Hilltoppers have made life in the FBS look too easy, reaching a bowl game for the second straight year and capturing the Conference USA title with an 11-2 record in just their eighth season since moving up from the FCS. Of course, WKU was a national powerhouse at that level, winning 12 conference titles and a national championship in 2002. (Jim Harbaugh’s dad Jack retired the year before that title).
South Florida, meanwhile, is making its way back to national respectability after a disastrous end to the Jim Leavitt era, when the program was a consistent winner. The Bulls are back in a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
31. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois, 12/23
Well, first off…if you live in San Diego County, how can you not watch this one? Even if you don’t, you never want to miss Boise State in a bowl game, as they tend to do incredible things. But it’s not just the ’07 stunner over Oklahoma–the Broncos came from behind to win the Fiesta Bowl last year, too.
32. Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Washington State, 12/26
It’s always interesting when two teams that have absolutely nothing in common go up against each other, and this matchup certainly has that. Washington State has an excellent offense under head coach Mike Leach, while Miami is looking for stability after hiring new coach Mark Richt.
33. NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Nevada vs. Colorado State, 12/29
Not sure why/how it’s cool that two teams from the same conference (Mountain West) can meet in a bowl game, but at least these two teams didn’t play each other during the regular season. Of course, you have to see how they match up now.
34. Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T, 12/19
This is the first-ever Air Force Celebration Bowl, which is celebrating the two champions of the historically black college conferences (MEAC and SWAC). So that’s pretty cool. You’ll want to see how good these teams are, and pick out a favorite team so you can have a rooting interest in the second-annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
35. Camping World Independence Bowl: Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech, 12/26
Can the Hokies send off legendary head coach Frank Beamer with a win? Beamer won his first bowl game at Virginia Tech (the ’93 Independence Bowl, 45-20, over Indiana), and it’d be cool to see him go out as a winner, too. Either way, the man racked up 277 wins and seven conference titles in his time in Blacksburg.
36. Quick Lane Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Minnesota
Yes, Minnesota finished 5-7 (2-6/Big Ten), and therefore didn’t deserve to go bowling this year. But, the Gophers played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and their seven losses came at the hands of TCU, Northwestern, Nebraska Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare against Central Michigan, which finished 7-5 in the MAC and has won five of six games.
37. Hawai’i Bowl: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati, 12/24
San Diego State is bowling for the fourth time in five years after capturing just its second conference title since 1986, which was before Marshall Faulk got there. There’s that, plus getting the chance to watch Cincinnati, which beat Miami (FL) but lost to South Florida, 65-27, finish off its season. How good are the Bearcats? No one really knows.
38. Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington vs. Southern Miss, 12/26
Um, this is the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, OK? Zaxby’s. Do you know how good their chicken is? It’s underrated. Like almost as good as Chick-fil-A, which gets all of the love. Gotta support Zaxby’s. Plus, Southern Miss, a historically good football program which produced Brett Favre, is back in a bowl game for the first time since 2011. Like a distant relative, you should check in on them, make sure everything is going OK. Do that instead of talking to Uncle Al.
39. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech, 12/19
The New Orleans Bowl is kind of a holiday tradition for college football diehards, as it typically kicks off bowl season as one of the first games contested. And really, who gives up on a holiday tradition?!?! Might as well just not watch Muppet Family Christmas and not wake up at 5:30 a.m. for church.
40. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron vs. Utah State, 12/22
First of all, I could go for a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl right now. It’s a great dinner idea, and would go well with a nice steak or maybe some chicken. Maybe you can use that to get out of cooking. Be creative.
As for on-the-field reasons to watch, well…there’s the field itself, which will be blue, because they’re playing at Boise State. Pretend the TV is broken and sit up close so that you look like you’re trying to fix it any time someone comes into the living room.
41. Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs. Western Michigan, 12/24
I’m gonna be honest…it’s tough to get jacked up about this one, especially because it kicks off at noon on Christmas Eve. One reason to watch? Last year’s Bahamas Bowl was a 49-48 thriller in which Western Kentucky scored 34 unanswered fourth-quarter points to come back and top Central Michigan. The fan went wild after he saw that.