B/R CFB Community: What Non-Playoff College Football Bowl Game Is the Best?

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterDecember 14, 2021

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin talks with defensive back Jake Springer following the team's NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi won 31-21. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

To those who constantly grumble about the sheer number of bowl games at the end of each college football season, there is only one thing to say:


Just, no.

Not only are bowl games still wonderful and necessary, but one could also make the argument there still aren't enough. College football in any form is always welcome—even when it features teams hovering around a .500 record going head-to-head.

The other critique of CFB's wind down is that the College Football Playoff has taken some shine off of the other bowls. The spotlight has indeed shifted, although the yearly lineup of bowl games is still a piece of the sport's charm. And the 2021 lineup is ripe with fascinating storylines and unique matchups.

But, which one is best?

We asked Bleacher Report readers to give us their favorite non-playoff bowl games of the year. 

Here are some of the submissions that stood out. 


Fried Shrimp or Bloomin' Onion? 

Al Goldis/Associated Press

User: @buckwild21 

Suggestion: Outback Bowl! Penn State and Arkansas. Two teams better than their respective records show.

Let's begin with a controversial take. The Bloomin' Onion is absolutely delicious, and I will hear zero slander about it. 

With that out of the way, I like this answer a great deal. The Outback Bowl, which will be played in the early slot on January 1, will likely sneak up on some people who celebrate a little too freely the night before. But the game itself is certainly full of potential, and we should not be surprised if it's one of the better bowl games this year.

The notion that these two teams are better than their records is correct. Penn State is 7-5. Arkansas is 8-4. Also, both teams started 5-0 before the schedule picked up. 

Sam Pittman vs. James Franklin is also rather intriguing. Franklin, fresh off a new contract with Penn State, will need to win more than seven games next season to keep the doubt away. Pittman, given the level of competition across the conference, has already proven a great deal in a short amount of time. 

There are a handful of high-profile games I might pick ahead of it, but I love everything about this. 

Team Bloomin' Onion, always and forever.


Pour Some Sugar on Us 

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 4: Head coach Dave Aranda of the Baylor Bears watches a play from the sidelines as Baylor takes on the Oklahoma State Cowboys  in the Big 12 Football Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 4, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. Baylor won
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

User: @daqbbarden08 

Suggestion: Definitely Baylor-Ole Miss 

One could argue the Sugar Bowl, which will be the final game played on January 1, will feature the two best surprises of the 2021 season. 

We knew Ole Miss had a chance to be good, and the Rebels were that and then some. 

Baylor, fresh off a dramatic win in the Big 12 Championship Game, wildly surpassed all reasonable expectations entering the year. 

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral has stated he intends to play in this game, which will be a massive boost for the Rebels. It could also be a huge lift for Corral considering how excellent Baylor's defense played down the stretch. A strong showing here, and he will probably do more for his NFL draft stock than any workout will.

Regardless, there's plenty more to love about a bowl game that feels so evenly matched between two teams that are so stylistically different. 

Head coaches Lane Kiffin and Dave Aranda are very different in just about every way possible, and I am here for it. I am also here for this game, which figures to deliver.

It's not my pick, but it's on the podium.


New Faces, Same Awesome Game

Roger Steinman/Associated Press

User: @rileysheppard 

Suggestion: Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame

No matchup highlights the evolving landscape when it comes to hiring coaches in CFB quite like this one, and by no means is that a bad thing. 

The Fiesta Bowl will kick off around lunchtime on January 1, and there will be plenty of curious eyes tuning in.

Notre Dame, of course, will get its first look at new head coach Marcus Freeman. The former defensive coordinator was named head coach when Brian Kelly bolted for LSU. The emotion and general vibe surrounding the Irish has been electric since. Now comes the matter of how it carries over into results. 

On the other sideline, Oklahoma State will be without Jim Knowles. The Pokes' former defensive coordinator left for Ohio State after the regular season, which is a major blow considering how good this unit was all year. 

Still, the theme of this game will likely still be defense. Points will likely be at a premium, although please don't let that take away from a really good thing. Embrace two of the nation's best defenses going toe-to-toe with some new faces on the sideline and enjoy this delightful game.


New Faces, Same Awesome Game (Part 2)

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

User: @wpolo23

Suggestion: Oregon-Oklahoma because of all the coaching drama

No game encapsulates the weirdness surrounding the sport quite like this one.

The Alamo Bowl will be the nightcap on December 29, and I can honestly say I have very little idea what will happen when Oregon and Oklahoma meet. 

And I cannot wait to find out. 

Both teams lost their head coach over the past month. Lincoln Riley's departure from Oklahoma was shocking and abrupt. Mario Cristobal's departure from Oregon, while predictable, was far longer and more drawn out.

As the programs undergo major renovations, a football game will be played.

The game should be plenty interesting, too. Injuries, departures and the transfer portal will make sorting through the roster a chore. Some might argue this is a bad thing for this game. I would argue the opposite.

We have two major programs meeting up in a game where seemingly anything can happen. While Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams might have something to say about that, Oregon still has plenty of talent in place. 

Well, that is assuming Williams stays in Norman and doesn't enter the transfer portal. And it's probably dangerous to assume anything these days. 


A Field Full of Red 

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

User: @maximum20313 

Suggestion: OSU vs. Utah

First, a list: Here are my favorite events to watch throughout the year. 

1. The Masters

2. The Rose Bowl

3. Everything else.

For those who are advocating for the College Football Playoff to expand, this feels like the kind of football game we would get in the first round of an 8- or 12-team playoff. 

Oh, and it's the Rose Bowl. That's important, too. 

It'll take place on January 1 in the heart of the afternoon, which is its normal home. I'll pour myself into any Rose Bowl because of the visuals, but this one is a doozy. 

Utah is coming off a tremendous close to its season, highlighted by two blowout wins over Oregon. 

Ohio State, meanwhile, is in the Rose Bowl because Michigan crashed the CFP. The Wolverines did so, of course, because they absolutely ran through the Buckeyes in the regular-season finale.

The Buckeyes will get a similar challenge in Utah, which likes to run the ball and did so remarkably well down the stretch. On the other side, Utah will have a wealth of future NFL talent on the opposing sideline to deal with. 

Fabulous game. Fabulous matchup. Fabulous everything. The Pick.


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