College football: 40 reasons you should watch all of the college bowl games
The matchups are set, the Belk Bowl Twitter account is trolling Texas, and fan bases across the country feel slighted. You know what that means? College football bowl season is officially here.
Here are 40 reasons why you need to watch every bowl game this season.
North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling State
There are only three undefeated teams in all of Division I college football. One of them is North Carolina A&T. The Aggies have outscored their opponents 400-135 this season. Can they complete their undefeated season? Tune in to find out.
New Orleans Bowl
Troy vs. North Texas
Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, USC, Auburn. No, that's not this year's College Football Playoff top five in an alternate universe. Those are the teams that rank immediately behind North Texas nationally in scoring offense. The Mean Green (you should tune in because of their nickname, honestly) average 35.9 points per game. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine is ninth nationally in passing yards (3,749) and he has a 1,000-yard back behind him in Jeffery Wilson. If you like offense, this game is for you.
Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky
There are few wide receivers in the country as productive as Georgia State's Penny Hart. He ranks in the top 25 nationally in receptions of at least 10 yards (38), 20 yards (17), 30 yards (nine), 40 yards (seven), 50 yards (four), 60 yards (two) and 70 yards (one). Keep in mind that he put up those numbers while Georgia State has played just 11 games this season, while most other schools have played 12, if not 13 games. He has 73 receptions for 1,094 yards (the Panthers have rushed for 1,260 yards this season as a team!) and eight touchdowns.
On the other sideline is Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, who has thrown for 3,826 yards this season, the fourth-most in the FBS.
Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon vs. No. 25 Boise State
Man, this matchup would've been awesome in 2010. But it should certainly be worth watching in 2017. Not only will this game be one of the highest-scoring bowl game matchups, at least on paper, with Oregon (36.7 ppg) and Boise State (32.1 ppg), but it'll also be the final college game for one of the best running backs the sport has ever seen at the college level. Oregon's Royce Freeman has rushed for 5,621 yards in his career, so he'll finish sixth all-time in career rushing yards (bowl stats weren't included in career totals until 2002).
Relive Boise State's 17-14 victory over Fresno State in Saturday's Mountain West Championship Game right here! #BleedBlue— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) December 4, 2017
And get your to the Las Vegas Bowl matchup against Oregon (Dec. 16) by visiting https://t.co/nYyay6oejZ pic.twitter.com/oN2KXVRJjF
New Mexico Bowl
Marshall vs. Colorado State
Colorado State has a sneaky fun offense with quarterback Nick Stevens (3,479 yards, 27 touchdowns), running back Dayln Dawkins (1,349 yards, eight touchdowns) and wide receiver Michael Gallup (94 receptions, 1,345 yards, seven touchdowns). Each ranks in the top 20 nationally in passing, rushing and receiving, respectively. This is an offense that scored 23 points against Alabama in September, which might as well be the equivalent of scoring 40 points against an average college defense.
Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
Middle Tennessee needed a win over Old Dominion in Week 13 to become bowl eligible, but the Blue Raiders picked up an early win over Syracuse (which means a transitive property win over Clemson!), with non-conference games against Vandy, Minnesota and Florida Atlantic. They're about as battle-tested as a 6-6 Conference USA team could be.
Arkansas State lost to Troy in the final seconds of their game over the weekend, so the Red Wolves finished a game back of earning a share of the Sun Belt title. If you're looking for a player to watch, keep an eye on Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen, who finished 12th nationally in passing yards with 3,630 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Boca Raton Bowl
Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
If anything, you should follow the Boca Raton Bowl festivities just for the Lane Kiffin Experience. Off the field, Kiffin and Florida Atlantic should produce no fewer than three-to-five funny memes, gifs or jabs at Alabama in the month of December. On the field, the Owls enter the bowl game with a nine-game winning streak, the ninth-highest scoring offense in the country (39.8 ppg) and Devin Singletary, the nation's fourth-highest rusher this season.
SMU vs. Louisiana Tech
The Frisco Bowl could feature the toughest 7-5 team in the country against the toughest 6-6 team in the country. Here's the rationale: SMU's five losses came against TCU (Big 12 runner-up), on the road against Houston, by a touchdown against undefeated UCF, by a field goal against Navy, and at AAC runner-up Memphis. Three of Louisiana Tech's six losses were by one point (South Carolina, UAB, North Texas) and two more were against Mississippi State and Florida Atlantic.
Sure, you don't get any points for moral victories. But these two teams are probably better than their records indicate.
Temple vs. Florida International
It's time we introduce Jose Borregales to the college football world. He was 54-of-56 on PATs and field goal attempts this year, finishing with more points on the season than one-time Heisman hopeful Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, Georgia running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and LSU's Derrius Guice.
UAB vs. Ohio
Not only is the UAB football program back but the Blazers are immediately successful upon their return with an 8-4 record. After a two-year absence from football, UAB is back and that is enough of a reason to tune in to the Bahamas Bowl.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Wyoming vs. Central Michigan
Many football talent evaluators and pundits believe Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has a promising future playing on Sundays, and this could be his last collegiate game. He suffered an injury in a win against Air Force on Nov. 11, but hopefully a few more weeks of rest and recovery will allow him to suit up.
Texas Tech vs. South Florida
Don't be surprised if this game ends with a final score of 49-42. South Florida (38.3 ppg) and Texas Tech (34.3 ppg) have two of the top-30 scoring offenses in college football as both teams have an exciting quarterback leading their high-powered offenses. South Florida's Quentin Flowers has thrown for 2,600 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns. Texas Tech's Nic Shimonek has thrown for 3,547 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. San Diego State
This is Army's best team in two decades. The Black Knights are 8-3, with two of their losses coming on the road by a combined seven points and the third coming against Ohio State. Army's triple option offense has accounted for more than 4,000 rushing yards this season, led by quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw's 1,472 yards on a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry.
Dollar General Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo
They don't call the Sun Belt Conference the Fun Belt for no reason. Appalachian State scored 63 points in its last game, a win over Louisiana that clinched a share of the conference title. Thomas Hennigan scored four touchdowns on five receptions in the game, which is about as efficient of a performance as you'll see from a wide receiver. The Mountaineers average 33.4 points per game, which is only to be one-upped by Toledo's 39.2 points per game, which ranks 11th-best in the country.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside has thrown for 3,758 yards and 28 touchdowns to just five interceptions this season.
Fresno State vs. Houston
Two of the better Group of Five programs will meet in the Hawai'i Bowl. Fresno State lost to Boise State by a field goal in the Mountain West Championship, one week after the Bulldogs beat the Broncos by 11. Fresno State played as tough of a non-conference schedule as there is in college football with road games at Alabama and Washington. Houston took a small step back after going 13-1 and 9-4 in the previous two seasons, but the Cougars will play in their fifth straight bowl game since making the jump to the AAC.
If you're looking for a game with good teams outside of the power structure, this is the game for you.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah vs. West Virginia
Imagine what it's like to have a go-to receiver, who can move the chains on 3rd-and-long and bust out big plays on the outside. Now multiple that by three. Three of the top 30 receivers nationally in receiving yards play for West Virginia. Gary Jennings, the Mountaineers' leading receiver, ironically only has one touchdown this season. David Sills V, however, has a ridiculous 18 touchdowns on 60 receptions this season.
Hopefully West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, who injured his finger and had to undergo surgey, will be able to return for the bowl game.
Almost time. pic.twitter.com/VDfA3kRxiw— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) November 25, 2017
Quick Lane Bowl
Duke vs. Northern Illinois
Duke and Northern Illinois are tied for 25th nationally in scoring defense at 20.8 points per game. Both offenses average more than that – Duke (25.8) and Northern Illinois (30.2) – so in a matchup when both defenses are on equal footing (at least on paper, using a 12-game scoring average), which offense can put the ball in the end zone more often and will one defense prove to be superior?
Kansas State vs. UCLA
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is 10th nationally in passing yards (3,717) and he has been a centerpiece in some of the most exciting games this season. Remember when the Bruins erased a 44-10 deficit against Texas A&M and won 45-44 in Week 1? What about when he out-dueled USC quarterback Sam Darnold in the Trojans' 28-23 win in November? Rosen was injured in UCLA's game against Cal, but assuming he is healthy and plays in the bowl game, it'll be must-watch television.
Florida State vs. Southern Miss
Florida State has had as strange of a season as any recent national championship-winning program. A preseason AP top-5 ranking, a early season-ending injury to a promising quarterback, a rescheduled 12th regular season game to keep a historic bowl game streak alive, a premier college football coach jumping ship, and a high-profile coaching search all in the span of three-plus months. Can the Seminoles put a bow on the season with a bowl win?
If you're looking for a statistical angle for this game, Florida State and Southern Miss both average just over 30 minutes of possession of the football per game. So the team that can get its defense off the field faster and capitalize on its time of possession should prevail.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Iowa
College football fans, especially those based out of Columbus and Tuscaloosa, held their collective breath Sunday as ESPN's Rece Davis unveiled the No. 4 team in this year's College Football Playoff. Alabama is the team that found itself next to the number "four," while Ohio State found itself on the outside. Want to know why? In large part, it was Ohio State's 55-24 loss to Iowa.
While the Hawkeyes have had a roller coaster of a season, they're pretty darn good when they're at their best. See their win over Iowa State and their demolishing of the Buckeyes. They also had Penn State on the ropes before the Nittany Lions won on the final play of the game.
If you like running backs, Boston College has one of the best in the nation. Freshman A.J. Dillon ran for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Foster Farms Bowl
Arizona vs. Purdue
Khalil Tate. If you aren't familiar with his name or his game, go to YouTube immediately and watch his highlights. The sophomore quarterback played in just 10 games this season but didn't take over the starting role until the Wildcats' fifth game of the season, when he led Arizona on a five-game winning streak and briefly entered the fringes of the Heisman conversation. In less than a full season of action, he threw for 1,289 yards, ran for 1,353 yards and accounted for 21 total touchdowns.
Texas vs. Missouri
It's fitting for Texas to play in the Texas Bowl, right? It's the Longhorns' first bowl game since the 2014 season, which is significant, and it's also cool matchup between former Big 12 foes. Missouri and Texas haven't played since 2011, when the Tigers won 17-5 but the Longhorns won the previous six meetings and 17 of 23 overall.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock will be able to cap off his impressive season – 3,695 passing yards, 43 touchdowns – against one of the biggest brands in college football, hopefully giving him the attention he deserves.
Virginia vs. Navy
Both teams have lost five of their last six games (Navy still has to play Army on Dec. 9), so which team will stop the bleeding and end the season on a high note? Navy leads the country in average time of possession per game at just over 36.5 minutes per game, so how will a Virginia team that struggles to score fare in a game with limited possessions?
Camping World Bowl
No. 19 Oklahoma State vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech
This is one of the better non-College Football Playoff bowl games. Oklahoma State has the most explosive quarterback-wide receiver connection in the country. Quarterback Mason Rudolph leads the FBS in passing yards (4,553) and wide receiver James Washington is first in receiving yards (1,423). The Cowboys have other dangerous offensive weapons in running back Justice Hill (1,347 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and wide receiver Marcell Ateman (1,049 yards, 8 TDs). That's a recipe that leads to OSU's third-highest scoring offense (46.3 ppg).
Virginia Tech's quarterback is no slouch, either. Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson has shown promise in his first season playing in Blacksburg, throwing for 2,743 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also being a running threat. This will be the swan song for Rudolph's college career, while marking the close of a successful season for Jackson and the Hokies.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Stanford vs. TCU
The Heisman Trophy is likely Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield's to lose, but Stanford running back Bryce Love might be the best player in the country at his position. Despite missing the Cardinal's game against Oregon State, he still ran for 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns this season on a ridiculous 8.3 yards per carry. He was clearly hobbled in the Pac-12 Championship against USC but he willed himself to stay on the field and find ways to contribute.
Hopefully Love can get healthy this month because any game with him on the field is must-watch television.
No. 16 Michigan State vs. No. 18 Washington State
Consider this the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 College Football Playoff elimination bowl. Both the Spartans and Cougars lingered on the fringes of the playoff picture this season but were good enough to knock off one their respective conference's best teams. Michigan State beat Penn State 27-24 on that stormy day in East Lansing, and Washington State beat USC on a Friday night in Pullman. Could Penn State have made the playoff as a one-loss non-conference champion a la Ohio State last season? How would USC have been viewed by the committee as a one-loss Pac-12 champion? We'll never know. What we do know is Michigan State vs. Washington State should be a great bowl matchup.
Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
Like Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic and the Boca Raton Bowl, the Belk Bowl is worth following solely for an entertaining time on Twitter. The name of the Belk Bowl (@belkbowl) is currently "Belk Bowl = Best Bowl," to give you a taste of what that account has to offer. It doesn't hurt that there's an enticing matchup, too. Wake Forest has had back-to-back seven-win seasons (with a chance for an eighth win this year) after finishing with a losing record in the previous seven seasons. And there's a new level of excitement surrouding Texas A&M after the Aggies hired Jimbo Fisher to be their new head coach.
No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State
NC State won eight games for the first time since 2014 and the Wolfpack were on the cusp of a really special season. They lost to South Carolina, Clemson and Wake Forest by seven points or less, and the program can continue building on its 2017 success after agreeing to a new contract with head coach Dave Doeren. NC State has a 3,000-yard passer (Ryan Finley) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Nyheim Hines) who are both juniors.
Arizona State enters the bowl game with wins in five of its final seven games, a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South, and a new head coach in Herm Edwards.
Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern
Call this the better-than-realized bowl. Northwestern quietly went 9-3 and finished second in the Big Ten West behind Wisconsin. The Wildcats enter the Music City Bowl on the heels of wins by 39 and 35 points. Quarterback Clayton Thorson led the conference in completions and running back Justin Jackson ran for 1,000-plus yards for the fourth consecutive season.
After winning 14 total games from 2012 to 2015, Kentucky went 7-5 in the regular season for the second year in a row, despite losing four of six down the stretch. Running back Benny Snell Jr. finished tied for fifth nationally in rushing touchdowns with 18 as he was one of the biggest workhorses in the country in terms of carries per game.
Utah State vs. New Mexico State
New Mexico State hasn't played in a bowl game since 1960, which was the longest active bowl-less streak among FBS teams. The second-longest active drought is UAB, which last played in a bowl game in 2004 (but the Blazers will also end their drought this season). For perspective on New Mexico State's drought, some of the parents of the Aggies' current players hadn't been born when the program last made a bowl game. For that reason alone, you should tune in, as New Mexico State ends its infamous drought.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State
This is probably the best non-College Football Playoff bowl matchup. Two Power 5 champions and traditional college football powers will meet at AT&T Stadium. While Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has had his ups and downs this season, this will be his last game in a Buckeye uniform, capping off a historic career. And this may very well be Sam Darnold's last time suiting up for the Trojans.
Ohio State and USC fans likely had their sights set higher than the Cotton Bowl but it's a respectable consolation prize and an appropriate sendoff for at least one, and maybe both, starting quarterbacks.
Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State
Even though Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy last season, he has actually been more efficient this season. He has completed a higher percentage of his pass attempts, he has a higher average yardage per pass attempt and he's averaging nearly a yard more per rush attempt. While Louisville had a rocky first half of the season, that shouldn't diminish what Jackson has accomplished this season and in his career, if this is his last game with the Cardinals.
Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis
The AAC produced the two highest-scoring offenses in the country this season. Undefeated UCF is first at nearly 50 points per game and Memphis is second at 47.7 points per contest. On the other sideline, Iowa State has one of the best pairs of wins of any team in the country this season – victories over Oklahoma and TCU.
This is a chance for Memphis to prove it can play with – and beat – a solid Power 5 team, and a bowl win for Iowa State would cap off one of the better seasons in the history of the Cyclones' football program.
No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State
If each of these teams had one less loss this season, they could have made compelling cases for a spot in the College Football Playoff (What if Washington had beaten Stanford and played USC for the Pac-12 championship or if Penn State had held on to beat Ohio State?). Now they'll meet in the Fiesta Bowl in a clash of top-20 scoring offenses and top-10 scoring defenses. Saquon Barkley. Trace McSorley. DaeSean Hamilton. Jake Browning. Myles Gaskin. Dante Pettis. There are electric offensive and special teams players on both sides of the ball, making this one of the more enticing bowl games.
No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami
Both the Badgers and Hurricanes played for a conference title and a win in either game likely would've sent the winner to the College Football Playoff. These were two of the last unbeaten teams in the country and now they'll square off in Miami Gardens. Keep an eye on Wisconsin freshman sensation running back Jonathan Taylor (1,847 rushing yards, 13 TDs) versus Miami's turnover-forcing defense.
Michigan vs. South Carolina
This is a rematch of the 2013 Outback Bowl, a.k.a. the game when then-South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney laid a monster hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith, forcing a fumble that Clowney also recovered. Michigan led 22-21 at the time of the tackle in the fourth quarter but South Carolina won 33-28. This is just the fourth meeting between the two programs. While Clowney won't be playing in this matchup, there's a 100 percent chance the replay of that hit will be shown multiple times during the broadcast, which is reason enough to watch.
No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 12 UCF
In an alternate reality where there's an eight-team playoff, maybe this would have been a first-round game. Auburn beat the No. 1 team in the country twice in the span of three weeks and UCF enters bowl season 12-0. A three-loss Tigers team wasn't going to make this year's playoff and UCF's conference affiliation and schedule was likely going to keep it out of the top four, but there's no doubt that these are two of the best teams in the country.
No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU
If you're a fan of high-powered rushing attacks and strong offensive lines, then this game is for you. Notre Dame is seventh nationally in rushing yards per game with 279 yards per contest (and four of the six schools ranked ahead of the Irish run the triple option) and LSU is 30th at 210 yards per game. Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush for Notre Dame, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams for LSU. This should be fun.
Rose Bowl Game
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia
College football fans couldn't ask for a better offense versus defense matchup. Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield going up against Georgia's stout front seven. Mayfield has had the best season of his career, completing 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns. Georgia is second in passing defense (158 yards/game), 12th in rushing defense (112 yards/game) and third in scoring defense (13.2 ppg). This is Oklahoma's second trip to the College Football Playoff and Georgia's first. Storylines abound. The winner will face the winner of Clemson vs. Alabama in the national championship.
Jean and Marie Michel immigrated to the U.S. looking for a better life and opportunities for their children.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 2, 2017
Their son, Sony Michel, is living out that dream with @FootballUGA. pic.twitter.com/6wIfkfPfxS
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama
We saved the best for last. This is the rematch (threematch?) of the last two national championship games, which both came down to the wire. These are arguably the two most accomplished programs in the College Football Playoff era and while they aren't meeting in the championship game this year, it could be another instant classic. You won't want to miss it.