Clear your calendar for the rest of December because college football bowl season is set to kick off Saturday, with 40 games taking place over roughly two weeks.
Naturally, the College Football Playoff and rest of the New Year's Six matchups are receiving the lion's share of attention. Much of the fun from bowl season, though, comes from watching the games that fall a little lower down the pecking order.
Below is the full schedule for this year's slate of bowl games and five clashes that should be highlighted on your calendar.
2017-18 Bowl Schedule (All times are ET)
Saturday, December 16
New Orleans Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN): Troy vs. North Texas
Cure Bowl (2:30 p.m., CBSSN): Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
Prediction: Western Kentucky
Las Vegas Bowl (3:30 p.m., ABC): Boise State vs. Oregon
New Mexico Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN): Marshall vs. Colorado State
Prediction: Colorado State
Camellia Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
Prediction: Arkansas State
Tuesday, December 19
Boca Raton Bowl (7 p.m., ESPN): Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
Prediction: Florida Atlantic
Wednesday, December 20
Frisco Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
Prediction: Louisiana Tech
Thursday, December 21
Gasparilla Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Temple vs. Florida International
Prediction: Florida International
Friday, December 22
Bahamas Bowl (12:30 p.m., ESPN): UAB vs. Ohio
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (4 p.m., ESPN): Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
Prediction: Central Michigan
Saturday, December 23
Birmingham Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN): Texas Tech vs. South Florida
Prediction: South Florida
Armed Forces Bowl (3:30 p.m., ESPN): San Diego State vs. Army
Prediction: San Diego State
Dollar General Bowl (7 p.m., ESPN): Appalachian State vs. Toledo
Sunday, December 24
Hawai'i Bowl (8:30 p.m., ESPN): Fresno State vs. Houston
Prediction: Fresno State
Tuesday, December 26
Heart of Dallas Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Utah vs. West Virginia
Quick Lane Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Duke vs. Northern Illinois
Cactus Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Kansas State vs. UCLA
Wednesday, December 27
Independence Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Southern Miss vs. Florida State
Prediction: Southern Miss
Pinstripe Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Iowa vs. Boston College
Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m., Fox): Arizona vs. Purdue
Texas Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Texas vs. Missouri
Thursday, December 28
Military Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Virginia vs. Navy
Camping World Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
Prediction: Oklahoma State
Alamo Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Stanford vs. TCU
Holiday Bowl (9 p.m., Fox): Washington State vs. Michigan State
Prediction: Michigan State
Friday, December 29
Belk Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN): Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
Prediction: Texas A&M
Sun Bowl (3 p.m., CBS): NC State vs. Arizona State
Prediction: NC State
Music City Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN): Kentucky vs. Northwestern
Arizona Bowl (5:30 p.m., CBSSN): Utah State vs. New Mexico State
Prediction: New Mexico State
Cotton Bowl Classic (8:30 p.m., ESPN): USC vs. Ohio State
Prediction: Ohio State
Saturday, December 30
TaxSlayer Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN): Louisville vs. Mississippi State
Liberty Bowl (12:30 p.m., ABC): Iowa State vs. Memphis
Fiesta Bowl (4 p.m., ESPN): Washington vs. Penn State
Orange Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Miami vs. Wisconsin
Monday, January 1
Outback Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN2): Michigan vs. South Carolina
Peach Bowl (12:30 p.m., ESPN): UCF vs. Auburn
Citrus Bowl (1 p.m., ABC): Notre Dame vs. LSU
Prediction: Notre Dame
Rose Bowl (5 p.m., ESPN): Georgia vs. Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m., ESPN): Alabama vs. Clemson
Monday, January 8
College Football Playoff National Championship (8 p.m., ESPN)
Games to Watch
While only around for three years, the Bahamas Bowl has already become a cult favorite for college football fans.
The inaugural edition included Central Michigan scoring 34 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Chippewas' final touchdown came on a Hail Mary that featured three laterals before Titus Davis scored. Central Michigan's two-point conversion failed, giving Western Kentucky a 49-48 win.
That was Jeff Brohm's first season as Hilltoppers head coach. He left the school after three years to coach Purdue and helped the Boilermakers overachieve and win six games in 2017.
The 2015 Bahamas Bowl was won by Western Michigan, which had P.J. Fleck at the helm. It was the first bowl win in school history, and the Broncos used the 2015 season as a springboard to their 13-win campaign in 2016.
Fleck moved on to Minnesota before this start of this year.
UAB head coach Bill Clark could be the next to parlay success at the Bahamas Bowl into a better job down the line.
The Blazers didn't even technically have a team in 2015 and 2016 after the school ceased operations for the football program in December 2014. Now, UAB is in a bowl game for the second time, while the Blazers' eight wins represent their most in a single season.
In terms of on-field excitement in this year's Bahamas Bowl, look no further than UAB true freshman running back Spencer Brown, who rushed for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season.
Leading passer A.J. Erdely and top two receivers Andre Wilson and Collin Lisa are juniors as well, so the Bahamas Bowl could showcase what will be a dangerous Blazers team in 2018.
For neutral observers, little about this game is all that attractive.
With a 5:15 p.m. ET kickoff, the Pinstripe Bowl will have the cold temperatures and limited daylight that come with night games without the perceived prestige that comes with playing an actual night game. And it's in a ballpark (Yankee Stadium), which always creates a weird viewing experience for fans in attendance and those watching on TV.
According to Football Outsiders, Boston College and Iowa respectively rank 95th and 102nd in offensive S&P+ rating, so scoring may come at a premium as well.
With that said, Iowa showed out against Ohio State, and Boston College averaged a little over 40 points in its final five wins of the regular season. The Eagles also have freshman running back AJ Dillon, whose 1,432 rushing yards were 12th-most in FBS.
The Pinstripe Bowl may be a tight-scoring affair, or both coaches could throw caution to the wind in the last game of the season. There's always a bowl game or two that looks dreadful on paper and proves to be a pleasant surprise. The Pinstripe Bowl could fall into that group.
Foster Farms Bowl
What's great about Dec. 27 is that fans could watch the Pinstripe Bowl, which is shaping up to be a defensive struggle, and then move right on to the Foster Farms Bowl, which promises to be the exact opposite.
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate alone is worth tuning into the game for. The Wildcats sophomore passed for 1,289 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez calmed fears a sprained left shoulder could leave Tate unavailable for the Foster Farms Bowl. According to the Arizona Daily Star's Michael Lev, Rodriguez said Tate will be "good to go."
On the other side, the aforementioned Brohm has Purdue bowling for the first time since 2012. Tennessee had Brohm on its radar to replace Butch Jones, per Mike Griffith of SEC Country, before he reaffirmed his commitment to the Boilermakers, per Mike Carmin of the Journal & Courier.
Purdue appears to be a program on the rise, and beating Arizona would be a great way for Brohm to cap off a promising first season in charge.
Almost all of the Boilermakers' key playmakers should return in 2018, and Brohm is assembling a recruiting class that is 49th in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. It may not be that fanciful to think the Foster Farms Bowl could be a prelude for Purdue to make a run at the Big Ten West next year.
Camping World Bowl
The Camping World Bowl should be an excellent clash of styles.
Oklahoma State ranks fourth in offensive S&P+ rating, per Football Outsiders. Mason Rudolph is the leading passer in FBS with 4,553 yards and 35 touchdowns, and James Washington is FBS' leading receiver with 69 catches for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. Justice Hill (1,347 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns) shouldn't be overlooked, either.
Virginia Tech is sixth in defensive S&P+ rating, according to Football Outsiders. Junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is the leading tackler (102 total tackles) and has a team-high 5.5 sacks. Senior cornerback Greg Stroman (three interceptions and 11 pass breakups) joined Edmunds on the All-ACC first-team defense.
In addition to Oklahoma and Virginia Tech's contrasting strengths, the two teams are also likely heading in diverging directions next year.
Rudolph and Washington are seniors, and their departures will hit the Cowboys offense in a big way.
The Hokies, on the other hand, have a redshirt freshman, Josh Jackson, at quarterback. Running backs Travon McMillian and Deshawn McClease and wide receiver Sean Savoy are juniors or younger too. Of Virginia Tech's top 10 tacklers, only linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka is a senior.
After winning 19 games in Justin Fuente's first two years, an ACC title should be the target for the Hokies in 2018.
You should watch Lamar Jackson in college for as long as you can.
The fact Jackson can be a Heisman Trophy finalist on an 8-4 Louisville team speaks to how good he has been after winning the award in 2016. The junior quarterback has 3,489 passing yards, 1,443 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Lamar Jackson can become the 2nd player ever to win multiple Heisman trophies. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won the award in 1974 & 1975. He has a higher Total QBR, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and more passing yards per game than last season https://t.co/Ni6lm4VGre
In his most recent 2018 mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projected Jackson going 22nd overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Should Jackson's draft stock hold or improve in the weeks to come, he should move on to the NFL; he would have nothing left to prove in college.
Watching Jackson take the step up will be somewhat bittersweet because he's likely to be assimilated into the NFL machine, thus losing something about what makes him so much fun. Even Marcus Mariota, who has been good the past two years after an underwhelming rookie season, is nowhere near as electrifying as he was when he starred at Oregon and won a Heisman in 2014.
If the TaxSlayer Bowl proves to be Jackson's last game at Louisville, you don't want to be disappointed with yourself that you missed it.