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Sapakoff: Ranking the 40 bowl games

December 10, 2016

There aren’t too many bowl games, just not enough good ones.

Though one person’s Dollar General Bowl is another person’s Fiesta Bowl, it’s the projected college football quality that counts for people with busy schedules and limited video storage capacity.

The 40 – count ’em, 40 – bowl games, rated from worst-to-best in snack value categories for arm-chair quarterbacks:

Beet juice

40. Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26) – Boston College (6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6): Nothing says bowl fun like a mid-afternoon ESPN2 game from Detroit.

39. Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24) – Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Hawaii (6-7): Win or lose, former Clemson and South Carolina assistant coach Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders will have a blast.

38. St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 26) – Mississippi State (5-7) vs. Miami of Ohio (6-6): The Tampa Bay Rays think this is mediocre entertainment.

37. New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17) – New Mexico (8-4) vs. Texas-San Antonio (6-6): What’s more unfair? New Mexico on its home field or Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl vs. civilians?

36. Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 27) – Army (6-5 going into Navy game) vs. North Texas (5-7): Very cool that Army beat Temple and Wake Forest.

35. Cure Bowl (Dec. 17) – UCF (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5): Kudos to Arkansas State for making a bowl game after an 0-4 start.

34. New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 17) – Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6): USM opened with a victory at Kentucky.

33. Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 28) – Indiana (6-6) vs. Utah (8-4): The Hoosiers haven’t won a bowl game since 1991.

32. Miami Beach Bowl (Dec. 19) – Tulsa (9-3) vs. Central Michigan (6-6): The Chippewas own perhaps the biggest upset of the year, that shouldn’t-have-counted last-play win at Oklahoma State.

31. Liberty Bowl (Dec. 30) – Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6): Despite the records, it’s more important for Georgia.

Average popcorn

30. Arizona Bowl (Dec. 30) – Air Force (9-3) vs. South Alabama (6-6): The Falcons won the Commander in Chief’s Trophy. The Jaguars won at Mississippi State.

29. Dollar General Bowl (Dec. 23) – Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3): Troy gave Clemson a scare (30-24 loss) and cracked the top 25 for the first time ever.

28. Texas Bowl (Dec. 28) – Kansas State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (8-4): Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies, still reeling after a 6-0 start, need a Band-Aid win.

27. Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 20) – Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3): Look for the Hilltoppers to win in a shootout.

26. Military Bowl (Dec. 27) – Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Temple (10-3): Humbling spot for the Owls, No. 24 in the College Football Playoff ranking and American Athletic Conference champs. Deacons lost five of their last six.

25. Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28) – Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6): Yankee Stadium football. Pitt beat the ACC (Clemson) and Big Ten (Penn State) champs.

24. Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 23) – Old Dominion (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5): First bowl berth for an ODU program dormant from 1941-2009. Do you hear that College of Charleston?

23. Belk Bowl (Dec. 29) – Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5): Jerod Evans and the Hokies will probably roll, but the Razorbacks coming off a loss to Missouri should come from Northwest Arkansas madder than a Wal-Mart executive struck in Target traffic.

22. Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23) – Navy (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5): Navy goes for a school-record fourth straight bowl victory (9-10-1 overall).

21. Peach Bowl (Dec. 31) – Alabama (13-0) vs. Washington (12-1): What a nice season for the Huskies. What a historically great defense for Alabama. What a likely rout.

Effective nachos

20. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 22) – Idaho (8-4) vs. Colorado State (7-5): Because you never know when it might snow in Boise.

19. Camellia Bowl (Dec. 17) – Toledo (9-3) vs. Appalachian State (9-3): Jalin Moore and Marcus Cox of the Mountaineers have combined for 2,239 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

18. TaxSlaver Bowl (Dec. 31) – Kentucky (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (8-4): Not worthy of Gator Bowl tradition, but an SEC-ACC matchup of overachievers.

17. Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27) – Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4): The Gophers play good defense. The Cougars’ Luke Falk has thrown for 4,204 yards in 2016.

16. Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 29) – South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2): USF favored by 11 but there will be four-quarter focus on how the Gamecocks respond after a 56-7 loss at Clemson.

15. Cactus Bowl (Dec. 27) – Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2): Weird Glendale intrigue; the non-Power 5 team is the 10-point favorite over the disgraced former national title contender.

14. Music City Bowl (Dec. 30) – Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3): Butch Jones and Co. cannot lose in Nashville again after ending the regular season with a debacle at Vanderbilt that cost a Sugar Bowl trip.

13. Independence Bowl (Dec. 26) – Vanderbilt (6-6) vs. N.C. State (6-6): A pair of sweet comebacks from what looked like sour seasons.

12. Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2) – Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3): The non-Power 5 rep won a New Year’s Day 6 game last year (Houston over Florida State in the Peach Bowl).

11. Outback Bowl (Jan. 2) – Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4): Ideally, it rains on this clash of defense-minded teams.

Shrimp and grits

10. Sun Bowl (Dec. 30) – North Carolina (8-4) vs. Stanford (9-3): Good programs. Mediocre bowl game. Who loves El Paso more?

9. Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 20) – BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5): Former Western Athletic Conference rivals collide in San Diego.

8. Russell Athletic Bowl (Dec. 28) – Miami (8-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2): Mark Richt made Miami progress. West Virginia went 10-0 against non-Oklahoma teams.

7. Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 17) – San Diego State (10-3) vs. Houston (9-3): An underdog fun bowl contender pitting Aztecs running back and Las Vegas native Donnel Pumphrey (2,018 yards rushing) against a Houston defense that held Lamar Jackson to 10 points.

6. Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) – Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Auburn (8-4): The Sooners upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl three years ago before losing back-to-back bowl games to Clemson.

Catered barbecue

5. Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29) – Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Colorado (10-3): Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (Rock Hill) and high-scoring pals vs. a tough Buffaloes’ defense.

4. Citrus Bowl (Dec. 31) – LSU (7-4) vs. Louisville (9-3): What kind of Cardinal team shows up to face Leonard Fournette and loads of talent on defense?

3. Orange Bowl (Dec. 30) – Florida State (9-3) vs. Michigan (10-2): Star power, from Jimbo Fisher vs. Jim Harbaugh to Dalvin Cook vs. Jabrill Peppers.

2. Rose Bowl (Jan. 2) – Penn State (11-2) vs. Southern Cal (9-3): Both these teams last lost on Sept. 24.

1. Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 31) – Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1): Prime time is a relative thing on New Year’s Eve but Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett should see that this one lives up to its billing.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff