Syracuse fans were hoping for a bowl game this season, especially after the upset of Clemson. But
the Orange slide through the final six weeks left them out of the postseason yet again. But
because we are still unabashed college football fans, it’s worth noting the best games to watch.
What's better? Watching the snow pile up around CNY?
So with that in mind, even with a preponderance of bowl games, it still gives us excuses to avoid
the crowds, the lines, and the extended family this holiday season. Let’s take the playoff games
out of it, since there’s every obvious reason to watch those games. I’m making it easy for you.
Here’s the top 10 non-playoff bowls of the season:
10) Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon
Hopefully you caught this one over the weekend, it was one of the first bowl games of the year. The Broncos jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, winning 38-28. It’s rare when the Ducks are playing in one of the earliest bowl games, and even rarer when their head coach is one-and- done. But this is the new reality for Oregon. The Broncos are always good for a fun bowl game moment. It’s Vegas, let ‘er ride!
9) Boca Raton Bowl: FAU vs. Akron
There’s only one man that could’ve made Owls football interesting: Lane Kiffin. College football’s
Richie Rich/Dennis The Menace love child is easily hateable from the outside. But FAU loves what
he’s done, and you can’t argue it. Undefeated in C-USA and a league title. Would’ve been nice to
see the Lane Train pull up on a Power 5 opponent, but he’s always must-watch.
8) Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan
Before the season began Cowboys QB Josh Allen was a trendy pick as the best signal caller in the
nation. But terrible games against his Power 5 opponents and an underwhelming campaign slid
him to maybe the 5th or 6th best QB in this draft. It’s his last crack at wowing the scouts in game
action, let’s see what he’s got.
7) Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State
How can you take your eyes off Mike Leach’s Air Raid? The Holiday Bowl has a history of
shootouts, and Wazoo figures to throw it 60+ times. What a matchup since styles make a fight.
Michigan State would prefer not to throw it 60 times over three weeks. Both programs probably
deserved a better fate in the bowl selection, so let’s see how they do when paired against one
another in San Diego.
6) Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis
The Cyclones were one of the best stories all year. ISU became the giant killers of the Big 12, and
were rewarded with a matchup against one of the most potent offenses in the nation in a true
road game. The Tigers will be playing in Memphis, and has one of the best receivers in football,
Anthony Miller, and will be looking to finish the season undefeated at the Liberty Bowl. Could be a
5) Camping World Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech
What does Mason Rudolph do for a finale? He averages nearly 400 yards passing per game, and
the ‘Pokes had designs on winning the Big 12 this season and heading to the playoff. Instead OSU
and the Mullet has to deal with a bowl game named after a tent store. But here’s guessing Mike
Gundy wants to let his star quarterback shine on the big stage, so they’ll try to blitz Justin Fuente’s
Hokies through the air. Outside of Clemson and Miami, there wasn't much to crow about in the
ACC. But the Hokies are always solid, and Orange fans should check in with one of their conference
4) Cactus Bowl: UCLA vs. Kansas State
Probably didn’t even know there was a Cactus Bowl, huh? Well, it might feature the top pick in the
NFL draft. Josh Rosen will try to prove to skeptics why he should be the top quarterback chosen,
and concerns about his maturity can’t overshadow his talent. It’s the Bruins last game before Chip
Kelly takes over, which means everything changes after this. Although nothing changes for the
Wildcats, since Bill Snyder will coach until he’s 120.
3) Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF
The Tigers were beaten up by the time they took the field in the SEC title game. AU had pounded
both Georgia and Alabama in the regular season, but couldn’t find enough gas in Atlanta. Will they
rise up after a month of rest? Or will one of the most fun offenses in the nation pull the upset?
This is one of the rare moments we get Cinderella in college football, the lone non-Power 5
program in a big time bowl. Can the Knights without Scott Frost keep the good times rolling
against am SEC power and add another pelt to an incredible season?
2) Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State
A bounce of the ball, a stop on fourth down, and the Nittany Lions would be in the playoffs. All
Penn State had to do was hold onto the big lead they built against Ohio State and James Franklin’s
kids would be in the playoff (assuming they beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game). But instead,
it’s the Fiesta against a formidable foe.The Huskies blew a shot at the playoff with some bad losses
too. This could’ve been a playoff game, instead it’s a marriage of two teams that coughed away an
opportunity at history… which makes it fun for us on the couch!
1) Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC.
The two best teams not playing in the playoff. The Buckeyes were the first team left out when
Alabama jumped them. The Trojans had just as good an argument (two losses, a conference
championship). This feels like a Rose Bowl Light, and the history between these two goes back.
They faced off in 6 Rose Bowls between ’69 and ’85, the final three being decided by a field goal or
less. It was the days of Woody Hayes vs. Student Body Right. The ghosts of OJ, Marcus Allen and
Archie Griffin will roam the sidelines, replaced by Sam Darnold and JT Barrett. How can you not
love Ohio State vs. USC? If only it was played in the California sunshine.