Power Ranking 25 Best College Football Bowl Games
There are plenty of exciting matchups on tap for college football’s 2013 bowl season.
Rivalries are reborn, evenly matched opponents face off and a final BCS champion will be crowned. What more could fans ask for?
But as is always the case, some bowl games are a lot more watchable than others.
Luckily, B/R has got you covered.
Join us as we power rank the best 25 bowl games of 2013.
25. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
The Matchup: Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6), Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both of these teams will enter Memphis fresh off significant victories.
The Owls topped Marshall, 41-24, in the Conference USA title game. It marked the first outright conference title in school history since 1957.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs are coming off two thrilling overtime victories. One was an impressive victory over in-state rival Ole Miss, 17-10, in the Egg Bowl.
This should be a low-scoring affair, as both schools boast solid defenses. Rice ranks No. 24 in total defense, while Mississippi State comes in ranked No. 33.
Offensively, the teams are almost identical. The Bulldogs rank No. 48 in total offense (426.2 YPG) while the Owls rank No. 49 in total offense (425.6 YPG).
It’s very likely this one could be settled in overtime.
Who doesn’t like extra football?
24. Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl
The Matchup: Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6), Dec. 26, 6 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Falcons are coming in on a roll, winners of five consecutive games.
That includes topping then-No. 14 Northern Illinois in the MAC title game on Dec. 6.
All of that was made possible by a rushing attack that has taken off in recent weeks. More specifically, running back Travis Greene (261 CAR, 1,555 YDS, 11 TD) has made life miserable for opposing defenses.
On the other hand, the Panthers have stumbled a bit in their first year in the ACC.
The team isn’t going to blow you away with its offense, but Pittsburgh has been pretty solid on defense. Through 12 games, the team ranks No. 42 in total defense (374.1 YPG) and No. 23 in scoring defense (21.1 PPG).
Given the uncertainties of the Bowling Green coaching staff—after head coach Dave Clawson bolted to Wake Forest—this game could be a lot closer than most people think.
It’s certainly a good watch on the day after Christmas. If not for the game itself, it's a good opportunity to get a look at one of the nation's most underrated running backs in Greene.
Those returns can wait an extra day.
23. Belk Bowl
The Matchup: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6), Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both these teams were this close to upsetting a Top 25 opponent to cap off their respective 2013 campaigns.
The Bearcats fell short against then-No. 19 Louisville 31-24 in overtime on Dec. 5. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels were a late field goal away from topping then-No. 24 Duke.
Regardless, both teams come in riding impressive streaks.
Behind a surprisingly balanced passing attack, North Carolina has won five of its last six after starting 1-5. On the other hand, Cincinnati has rallied around backup quarterback Brendon Kay (68.6 CMP%, 3,121 YDS, 22 TD, 11 INT, 155.5 RAT) and has won six of its last seven.
However, defense is where the two teams differ, with the Bearcats boasting a stifling unit (No. 9) while the Tar Heels do not (No. 70).
Regardless, this is one of the few bowl games that features two teams that enter on a tear.
That alone makes it worth watching.
22. BBVA Compass Bowl
The Matchup: Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4), Jan. 4, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
This should be a good old battle of offense versus defense.
Entering the bowl season, Houston boasts the nation’s No. 11-ranked passing attack behind freshman quarterback John O’Korn (59.9 CMP%, 2,889 YDS, 26 TD, 8 INT, 138.2 RAT). Houston also ranks No. 38 in scoring, averaging 32.4 points per game.
The Commodores, on the other hand, enter ranked No. 25 in total defense (352.3 YPG). Furthermore, the team ranks No. 21 against the pass (204.3 YPG) and has allowed just 16 passing touchdowns all season.
With the Cougars not playing much defense and Vanderbilt being pretty ineffective on offense, this one could really come down to who can impose their strength better than the other.
Who will come out on top?
21. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
The Matchup: Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5), Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both these teams are coming off disappointing overtime losses during in-state rivalry games.
The Rebels fell to Mississippi State 17-10 in overtime during the latest edition of the Egg Bowl. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets just couldn’t put away Georgia, dropping a double-overtime thriller 41-34.
Not to mention, both have stumbled to the finish line with Ole Miss losing two straight games to wrap up the season and Georgia Tech dropping two of its last three.
Regardless, this is a better matchup than the records might say.
The Rebels have navigated through a tough SEC schedule, while the Yellow Jackets have withstood an ACC resurgence of sorts.
With the two conferences clashing in the BCS title—SEC’s Auburn versus ACC’s Florida State—come get an early glimpse of which conference will get bragging rights.
20. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
The Matchup: Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6), Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
This could easily be renamed the "What-If Bowl."
The Broncos enter the bowl season bearing four losses for the first time since 2005. The team got spanked by Washington in the opener and dropped close games to Fresno State and San Diego State.
It all leaves Boise State wondering whether more success would have kept the recently departed Chris Petersen in Boise.
The Beavers opened the season with an embarrassing loss to the FCS’ Eastern Washington, 49-46. The team followed that up by winning six straight games before losing each of its final five.
Oregon State has got to be kicking itself.
Regardless, with the Broncos entering a new era, it will be interesting to see how the team plays with its first new coach in nearly a decade.
Not to mention, this game will feature one of the best quarterback-to-wide receiver connections in the nation with the Beavers' Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks.
19. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
The Matchup: No. 23 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Utah State (8-5), Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
This is not the bowl game the Huskies had hoped for.
Instead, after dropping the MAC title game to Bowling Green 47-27 on Dec. 6, the team must settle for this bowl.
But don’t expect the Aggies to feel sorry for Northern Illinois. This is a team that is trying to make a name for itself.
After losing starter Chuckie Keeton, Utah State has rallied to win five of its last six under backup Darell Garretson. The team has relied on a pretty stout defense as well—No. 12 in total defense (322.2 YPG).
If Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch hopes to cap off a stellar collegiate career by helping the team set the single-season school record for victories, he’ll need to help the team see this game as anything but a consolation prize.
Otherwise, it could be a horrific ending to what began as a storybook season for Northern Illinois.
18. National University Holiday Bowl
The Matchup: No. 14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5), Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
This matchup pits one of the hottest teams in college football right now against one of the hottest teams during the first half of the season.
The Sun Devils enter as winners of seven of their last eight. The team has used an electrifying offense and a defense that forces turnovers to back up its run.
On the other hand, the Red Raiders wasted a 7-0 start under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and have lost five straight. The team has conceded 48.6 points per game during the losing streak.
That could be a problem against an Arizona State squad that has averaged a little more than 40 points per game over the last month.
However, with nearly a month to prepare, expect Texas Tech to come out refreshed and ready to play some of the football that had the team ranked as high as No. 10 earlier in the season.
All in all, this should be a good one.
17. Fight Hunger Bowl
The Matchup: BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4), Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Don’t be surprised if you see a lack of passing in this one.
The Huskies boast the nation’s third-leading rusher in running back Bishop Sankey. The junior has rushed for 1,775 yards and 18 touchdowns on 306 carries.
Furthermore, he has topped 140 yards or more in four of the last five games.
On the other hand, the Cougars have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in their backfield in quarterback Taysom Hill (215 CAR, 1,211 YDS, 9 TD) and running back Jamaal Williams (205 CAR, 1,202 YDS, 7 TD). Behind the duo, the school has rushed for 220 yards or more in five of its last six games.
Not to mention, who could forget how BYU gashed Texas for 550 yards back in Week 2?
If you like smashmouth football, this is the game for you.
16. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
The Matchup: Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5), Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Although these teams have gone in opposite directions, this matchup will be a lot closer than people think.
The Wolverines may have lost four of their last five and five of the last seven, but the team can still put up points. Michigan proved that by playing then-No. 3 Ohio State close to the final whistle in a 42-41 loss.
On the other hand, the Wildcats have rebounded from a 2-4 start to win five of their last six. The team is finally scoring points on offense and the defense is making life tough on opponents.
Believe it or not, this could end up being a very high-scoring affair. Look for big performances from two of the nation’s top wide receivers in Michigan's Jeremy Gallon (80 REC, 1,284 YDS, 9 TD) and Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett (71 REC, 1,146 YDS, 8 TD).
15. AdvoCare V100 Bowl
The Matchup: Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5), Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Two of the nation’s top running backs will go head to head in this one.
As a fan, what more could you possibly ask for?
For the Wildcats, Ka’Deem Carey leads the charge. The junior rushed for 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns on 322 carries. That includes topping the century mark in all 11 games he played along with a 206-yard, four-touchdown performance against then-No. 5 Oregon to lead Arizona to a 42-16 romp.
On the other sideline, the Eagles are led by Andre Williams. The senior has rushed for 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns on 329 carries.
During Boston College’s four-game win streak from Nov. 2 to Nov. 23, he racked up a ridiculous 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see which one can get the better of the other.
14. Hyundai Sun Bowl
The Matchup: No. 17 UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET on CBS
This game will provide fans of both college football and the NFL a good look at potential pro prospect Brett Hundley of the Bruins.
That’s because he’s going up against one of the best defenses in the nation.
Through 12 games, the Hokies rank No. 4 in total defense (269.6 YPG) and No. 3 against the pass (165.8 YPG). Furthermore, the team has given up just 10 passing touchdowns and recorded 19 interceptions on the season.
Hundley has already shown signs of struggles against good teams, throwing six interceptions in five contests against Top 25 opponents.
It’s a perfect opportunity for the redshirt sophomore to either improve his draft stock or watch it drop.
Other than that, UCLA should have no problem tossing aside Virginia Tech.
13. Valero Alamo Bowl
The Matchup: No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4), Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Ducks will be disappointed that they missed out on a date with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Especially given that the decision was solely based on business ties the bowl had with the Big 12.
The Longhorns will try to rally around Mack Brown in what will be his last game as the Texas head coach.
Although Oregon was a last-second touchdown away from dropping three of its last four games of the season, that doesn’t change the fact that the team has one of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation. The Ducks rank No. 3 in scoring (46.8 PPG) and No. 2 in total offense (573.0 YPG).
If the Longhorns struggled in slowing down Baylor in the team’s season finale, it’s unlikely the team can keep up with Oregon.
But given the disappointment the Ducks must be feeling and the added motivation Texas will be playing with, who knows what could happen?
12. Outback Bowl
The Matchup: No. 16 LSU (9-3) vs. Iowa (8-4), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
The hope here is that these two live up to the last time they played each other in a bowl game.
Back in 2005, the Hawkeyes topped the Tigers 30-25 in the Capital One Bowl thanks to a final-play, 56-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Drew Tate. It was a thrilling conclusion that spoiled departing head coach Nick Saban’s final game with LSU.
This time around, the defenses could do most of the talking.
Entering this matchup, the Tigers rank No. 20 in total defense (349.7 YPG) and No. 30 in scoring defense (22.7 PPG). Meanwhile, Iowa ranks No. 7 and No. 11 respectively, allowing 303.2 yards and 18.8 points per game.
If starter Zach Mettenberger were playing, LSU would have a considerable advantage. Instead, freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings is prepping to make his first career start.
It should be a close one.
11. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
The Matchup: No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. No. 25 USC (9-4), Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Because it's been overshadowed by all the coaching changes at the school, many have failed to notice that the Trojans actually have a very good defense.
Through 13 games, the unit ranks No. 21 in scoring (21.3 PPG), No. 16 in total defense (341.2 YPG) and No. 33 against the pass (214.5 YPG). Although USC has given up 18 passing touchdowns, the team has recorded 16 interceptions and held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 114.0.
The Bulldogs enter with the No. 1 passing attack in the nation (409.8 YPG), but they have struggled against solid defenses. Most recently, the team was held to just 24 points against Utah State in the MWC title game.
Against a Trojans secondary with far more talent than anything Fresno State has seen, expect this game to be closer than the spread suggests.
10. Russell Athletic Bowl
The Matchup: No. 18 Louisville (11-1) vs. Miami (9-3), Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
This could potentially be the last college game for Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Through 12 games, the junior has been excellent, throwing for 3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions on 70.2 percent passing. He has showcased why many believe he will be the top quarterback to go in next year’s NFL draft if he decides to declare.
A Miami, Fla., native, it’s only fitting that his last performance is against the Hurricanes.
After a 7-0 start, Miami stumbled, losing each of its next three games. The team could really use a win over a Top 25 opponent to prove that its early-season charge was no fluke.
9. TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
The Matchup: No. 22 Georgia (8-4) vs. Nebraska (8-4), Jan. 1, Noon ET on ESPN2
This could be a possible sleeper pick for most exciting bowl game of the season.
Although the Bulldogs will be without starting quarterback Aaron Murray, running back Todd Gurley has proven he can handle the load. The sophomore accounted for 158 total yards of offense and four touchdowns to help Georgia slip past in-state rival Georgia Tech 41-34 in the season finale.
The Cornhuskers will counter with a hot running back of their own: Ameer Abdullah.
Through 12 games, the junior has impressed, racking up 1,568 yards and eight touchdowns on 254 carries. Furthermore, he has topped the century mark in all but two games.
Expect this one to be a lot closer than last year’s Capital One Bowl matchup—a 45-31 Bulldogs win.
8. Chick-fil-A Bowl
The Matchup: No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4) vs. No. 24 Duke (10-3), Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel might be playing in his final college game in this one.
After two sloppy performances in losses to LSU and Missouri, the sophomore will look to close out his 2013 campaign on a solid note. Fortunately, the Blue Devils' No. 70-ranked secondary seems to be just the cure for Manziel.
Not to mention, the team was recently blasted for 45 points and more than 330 yards of passing in a 45-7 loss to Florida State in the ACC title game.
On the other hand, Duke’s offense should find more than enough holes to exploit in a poor Texas A&M defense, one that ranks No. 89 in scoring (30.9 PPG) and No. 106 in total defense (460.3 YPG).
Believe it or not, this one could easily turn into a shootout.
7. AT&T Cotton Bowl
The Matchup: No. 8 Missouri (11-2) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2), Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX
Just two years after leaving the Big 12, the Tigers are set to make a reunion of sorts.
Missouri will likely still be disappointed that it isn’t playing for the BCS title next month. However, playing for a 12-win season just a year after winning five games is certainly something to be proud about.
On the other hand, the Cowboys too will be a bit disappointed. The team let a Big 12 title slip through its hands by losing a shocker to Oklahoma in the season finale.
Instead, Oklahoma State will have to settle for trying to defeat a familiar foe.
The question for the Cowboys will be whether quarterback Clint Chelf will find some consistency. Can he be the quarterback who was nearly flawless in an upset win over Baylor, or will he be the mistake-prone quarterback who couldn’t put away the Sooners?
This could be a good old-fashioned Big 12 shootout.
6. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
The Matchup: No. 6 Baylor (11-1) vs. No. 15 UCF (11-1), Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
On paper, it looks like the Bears should be on their way to an easy victory to earn the school’s first BCS bowl victory ever.
However, the team struggled away from home. Baylor struggled to put away Kansas State and TCU while getting pounded by Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Not to mention, the Knights shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Entering the bowl season, UCF has had a fantastic defense, ranking No. 13 in scoring (19.6 PPG) and No. 19 in total defense (346.3 YPG). Furthermore, the team has given up just 11 passing touchdowns and concedes a meager 3.86 yards per carry.
The Knights also have a very underrated quarterback in Blake Bortles.
5. Capital One Bowl
The Matchup: No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET on ABC
Everyone remembers the Gamecocks' last bowl game because of the hit defensive end Jadeveon Clowney dished out during the team’s 33-28 victory over Michigan in last year’s Outback Bowl.
What will the junior have in store for a sequel?
Other than that, this matchup also features two solid rushing attacks going up against two very good defenses. South Carolina ranks No. 30 in rushing and No. 18 in total defense while the Badgers rank No. 8 in rushing and No. 6 in total defense.
In a game that should be relatively low-scoring, expect the outcome to be decided by which team holds onto the ball the longest.
4. Discover Orange Bowl
The Matchup: No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 12 Clemson (10-2), Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both of these teams entered 2013 as contenders for the BCS title.
The Buckeyes backed up that claim by registering a second consecutive 12-0 regular season. However, with just one win needed to secure a berth into the BCS title game, the team fell short to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
On the other hand, the Tigers’ credibility soared through the roof following their impressive Week 1 victory over then-No. 5 Georgia. The team raced out to a 6-0 record before ultimately falling to then-No. 5 Florida State.
Now, the two teams must settle for facing each other in the Orange Bowl.
Look for Ohio State to hand out a healthy dose of running back Carlos Hyde and Clemson to counter with quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Both are explosive players in open field and will be the key to leading their teams to victory.
Expect the Buckeyes and Tigers to show us why this could have been a solid BCS title matchup.
3. Allstate Sugar Bowl
The Matchup: No. 3 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Although the Crimson Tide opened as two-touchdown favorites, this matchup should be a bit more exciting than that.
Alabama is pretty much a poorly played second away from being in line for an appearance in the BCS title. An untimely miscue led to the team’s shocking 34-28 defeat to Auburn in the season finale.
The loss cost the Tide a shot at the SEC title as well.
On the other hand, the Sooners were never expected to be here.
Following the departure of quarterback Landry Jones last season, the team has struggled to find a replacement under center. In fact, Oklahoma is still juggling both Trevor Knight and Blake Bell at quarterback.
Regardless, the team has found a way to string together yet another 10-win season and another BCS bowl appearance.
Given the heavy underdog tag, head coach Bob Stoops should have his Sooners ready to surprise a lot of people.
Alabama will most likely win, but Oklahoma will give the team a run for its money.
2. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio
The Matchup: No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2), Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
You couldn’t have asked for a more evenly matched Rose Bowl.
The Spartans and the Cardinal are practically the same team.
For starters, both rely on one of the nation’s top running backs. Jeremy Langford leads the charge for Michigan State, rushing for 1,338 yards and 17 touchdowns on 269 carries. Meanwhile, Tyler Gaffney has been the man for Stanford, racking up 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns on 306 carries.
Ironically, both teams are also very good at stopping the run.
The Spartans rank No. 1 against the run (80.8 YPG) and have given up seven rushing touchdowns on just 2.7 yards per carry. On the other hand, the Cardinal rank No. 3 against the run (91.6 YPG), conceding seven rushing touchdowns on 2.98 yards per carry.
It could all come down to which team can get better play from the quarterback position.
1. Vizio BCS National Championship
The Matchup: No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1), Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
College football fans are in for one heck of a national championship match.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will go up against fellow finalist Tre Mason. Head Coach of the Year Gus Malzahn will match wits with a fellow contender for the honor, Jimbo Fisher. The No. 1 contender to the BCS title will square off against the team that toppled the back-to-back defending champions.
What more could you want?
The Seminoles will pit their high-octane offensive attack against the stellar ground game of the Tigers. No other team has scored as many points as Florida State (689), while no other school has racked up as many rushing yards as Auburn (4,364).
There’s a good chance we could end up with the highest-scoring title game in BCS history.
What’s a more fitting way to send the BCS out than that?
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.
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