This is a busy time of the year, what with starting to pay attention to college basketball, getting acclimated to the NFL now that the college football season is over and — oh, yeah — the holidays fast approaching.
In our quest to be helpful in your time of need, here’s our annual rundown of the attractiveness of the 34 bowls, listed in reverse order, to be used as a guide to help you plan your free time.
34. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4), Dec. 26: This used to be called the Motor City Bowl. By any name, this is a not-so-appetizing matchup.
33. Insight Bowl, Iowa State (6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6), Dec. 31: This would be a mildly interesting early season matchup between schools who sport (basically) the same colors. But this, a New Year’s Eve matchup on the NFL Network between two 6-6 teams? I’d rather watch Ryan Seacrest host “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on a continuous loop for a whole week.
32. International Bowl, Northern Illinois (7-5) vs. USF (7-5), Jan. 2: Why didn’t USF stay home and play in the St. Petersburg Bowl? It’s not because the Bulls are scared of UCF, is it? As for the weather, there’s a reason people up north (i.e., in Canada) head south (i.e., Florida) around the holidays; it’s called “the cold.” Yes, this game is in a dome. But, baby, it will be cold outside.
31. New Mexico Bowl, Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6), Dec. 19: Fresno State beat one FBS team with a winning record — which is one more than Wyoming. Fresno does have RB Ryan Mathews, who leads the nation in rushing. But this is on the Saturday before Christmas, and surely you have some shopping to do at the mall. Dealing with frenzied crowds looking for that one final gift would be more enjoyable than watching this.
30. Humanitarian Bowl, Bowling Green (7-5) vs. Idaho (7-5), Dec. 30: Idaho is a nice story, considering how bad the Vandals had been of late. And Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes (138 catches) is four catches away from setting the NCAA single-season receptions record. Given the state of Idaho’s defense, he could set the record in the first quarter. But come on: This is a 4:30 p.m. Eastern time kickoff on a Wednesday, and if you’re going to make time to watch this, you have issues.
29. EagleBank Bowl, Temple (9-3) vs. UCLA (6-6), Dec. 29: Temple is set, while UCLA needs Army to lose to Navy next week. An Army-Temple matchup would be a rematch of an Oct. 17 game that the Owls won 27-13. If that’s the matchup, this becomes No. 34 on our list. If it’s Temple-UCLA, it will be interesting to see if highly productive Temple true freshman RB Bernard Pierce — if he’s healthy — has success against a solid UCLA defense.
28. Alamo Bowl, Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4), Jan. 2: This shouldn’t be that close. Michigan State will be without at least 10 players who were suspended after a fight at a fraternity function. Still, it’s always entertaining to watch Texas Tech’s offense operate.
27. St. Petersburg Bowl, Rutgers (8-4) vs. UCF (8-4), Dec. 19: This is a short trip on Interstates 4 and 295 for UCF, which will be less than two hours from its campus. Both teams are inconsistent on offense, solid on defense.
26. Hawaii Bowl, Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5), Dec. 24: SMU is in a bowl for the first time since 1984. This will be a homecoming for Mustangs coach June Jones, who used to coach at Hawaii. SMU loves to throw the ball and Nevada can’t defend the pass. Nevada loves to run the ball and SMU has trouble stopping the run.
25. New Orleans Bowl, Middle Tennessee (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (7-5), Dec. 20: A nice regional matchup for the New Orleans Bowl. One rule of thumb about the bowls: If you don’t necessarily care about the teams, a game still is worth watching if the potential exists for a shootout. And this one could be a shootout.