Great football games are the single greatest reason that fans come back year after year to watch college football. Bowl games give the selection committees a perfect opportunity to set up games that should provide exceptional entertainment for viewers through the months of December and January.
Sometimes that happens, and other times fans get to see 50-0 blowouts that are over before the first quarter ends. Those are certainly fun for the winning team's fans to watch, but they are not great football games.
To determine the 10 best non-BCS bowl games of the BCS era, only a few criteria were used:
Margin of Victory
Only games decided by seven or fewer points were considered. There were a total of 160 non-BCS bowls that fit this bill between the 1998 and 2012 seasons.
Games that went into overtime were taken up first, and that put 17 games into consideration.
Turnovers: Round I
Emphasis was on clean football, so any game of the other 143 that had three or fewer turnovers was pulled into consideration. The field stood at 86 games.
Using the AP Poll from immediately before the bowls started, all 86 games were ranked by size of upset. (The higher-ranked team's position was subtracted from the lower-ranked team's. Any unranked team was automatically considered to be ranked 26th.)
This cut the field to 16 matches, and the top three from this edition of the list were guaranteed spots (but not necessarily the top three positions).
Turnovers: Round II
If the winning team had more turnovers than the losing team, the game was eliminated from consideration. This left nine games on the list, with one to fill.
The 10th Team
At this point, there were nine games on the list and 151 that had been eliminated. For the 10th game, the biggest upset left in the field of 151 was selected, regardless of number of turnovers or margin of victory.
All 10 games were ranked in order of the quality of play by the winner. The fewer turnovers by the winning team, the higher the rank. All ties were settled by margin of victory (the smaller the better), turnovers (the fewer the better), size of upset and/or whether the game went into overtime.
Here are the 10 best non-BCS bowl games of the BCS era.