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Ranking the bowls: Counting down from No. 35 to the title game

Garry Jones / Associated Press
Teddy Bridgewater's possible final college game won't be the big stage that he enjoyed in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

Once the holiday season hits, time is of the essence. Thus, in the holiday spirit of selflessness, here is our rundown of the "attractiveness" of the 35 bowls, listed in reverse order, to help you fine-tune your calendar around the holidays.

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35. TEXAS BOWL

Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Minnesota (8-4) vs. Syracuse (6-6)
Note: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is an inspirational story, but this is not an inspiring game.

34. NEW MEXICO BOWL

Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 2 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Colorado State (7-6) vs. Washington State (6-6)
Note: This is the first bowl of the season -- and it will have Mike Leach on one of the sidelines! That gets it out of last place.

33. FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
Note: It figures to be pretty darn cold, which should give Buffalo a big advantage. But other than tuning in to find out how many are in attendance in nasty weather (and to see Buffalo stud OLB Khalil Mack), this one is eminently skippable. Hey, garner some good will in the family by saying, "You know, it's Saturday and there's a bowl game on. But I think I'll spend some quality time with you guys instead."

32. GODADDY.COM BOWL

Date: Jan. 5
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Ball State (10-2) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
Note: This will be the Red Wolves' third consecutive appearance in this bowl. Ball State senior QB Keith Wenning has a big arm and has thrown for 3,933 yards.

31. BEEF 'O' BRADY'S BOWL

Date: Dec. 23
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5)
Note: Points are deducted from this bowl for being played in a baseball stadium -- and a crummy baseball stadium at that (Tropicana Field). Plus, Ohio comes in having lost three of four; the Bobcats were outscored 123-16 in those losses. A positive: ECU QB Shane Carden has thrown for 3,866 yards and leads the nation in completion percentage (71.0). Still, we will understand if you have some last-minute Christmas shopping to do.

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30. PINSTRIPE BOWL

Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Matchup: Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Rutgers (6-6)
Note: One year after playing for the national title, Notre Dame is playing in a bowl game at Yankee Stadium. Other than that, this is a dog. One good thing for Irish fans: This is the final game for try-hard-but-doesn't-always-succeed QB Tommy Rees.

29. BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL

Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Note: A mediocre team from the Big Ten meets a mediocre team from the Big 12. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why there is a crying need for 35 bowls.

28. NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) at Tulane (7-5)
Note: It'll be an all-Louisiana affair, so break out the gumbo, boudin and Abita beer. Tulane hasn't been bowling since 2002 and has been to just two bowls in the past 25 seasons. ULL will be playing in this bowl for the third consecutive season. The game is at the Superdome, which is Tulane's home field.

27. BELK BOWL

Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 3:20 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
Note: Cincy was in this bowl last season, against a different team from the state of North Carolina (NC State). This could be a high-scoring affair.

26. HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPNU
Matchup: North Texas (8-4) vs. UNLV (7-5)
Note: Hey, it's the holiday season, so this gets some extra points for being a feel-good story (plus, the teams look evenly matched). This is UNLV's first bowl since 2000 and only the fourth in its history. North Texas, which is located in the Dallas suburb of Denton, hasn't been bowling since 2004 and is in a bowl for just the seventh time in its history.

25. LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL

Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
Note: Bowling Green won the MAC, and Pitt has some studs in senior DT Aaron Donald, senior WR Devin Street and true freshman WR Tyler Boyd.

College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins kicker Brad Craddock (15) is congratulated by holder Michael Tart (29) after kicking an extra point that provided the game winning margin against the Virginia Cavaliers at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
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24. MILITARY BOWL

Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)
Note: Marshall lost in the Conference USA title game, to Rice. This game is in Annapolis, Md., this season, meaning the Herd are playing somewhat close to home. But Maryland is even closer. Is it really a bowl "trip" if your campus is about 25 miles from the site of the game?

23. ARMED FORCES BOWL

Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 11:45 a.m., ESPN
Matchup: Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (7-4)
Note: Navy has one regular-season game left, this Saturday against Army. The potential exists for a lot of points, as each defense is going to have trouble stopping the other team's offense. A negative for all involved: This game will kick off at 10:45 a.m. local time in Fort Worth.

22. HOLIDAY BOWL

Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Note: Remember when the Holiday Bowl was a much bigger deal? Arizona State lost in the Pac-12 championship game, finished 14th in the final BCS standings -- and gets a Texas Tech team that has lost five in a row. Does either team want to be here?

21. MUSIC CITY BOWL

Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 3:15 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Georgia Tech (7-5) vs. Ole Miss (7-5)
Note: This is one of three ACC-SEC bowl matchups. Both teams had mildly disappointing seasons. And both campuses are roughly the same distance from Nashville.

20. LIBERTY BOWL

Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 4 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Rice (10-3)
Note: Rice won the Conference USA title game and will be going against a Bulldogs team that became bowl-eligible by beating archrival Ole Miss in their regular-season finale. This should be a close contest.

19. POINSETTIA BOWL

Date: Dec. 26
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Utah State (8-5)
Note: Hmm, let's talk motivation issues. NIU was one win away from a second consecutive BCS appearance. Instead, the Huskies end up in San Diego in a third-tier bowl against a five-loss team missing its quarterback. Yes, San Diego is a beautiful city, but ... this will be the final game for NIU QB Jordan Lynch, and he will be attempting to become the first player at any level of the NCAA to have 2,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards in the same season; he is 119 rushing yards shy of 2,000. Utah State had the best defense int he Mountain West.

18. BBVA COMPASS BOWL

Date: Jan. 4
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)
Note: If James Franklin still is Vandy's coach when this game kicks off, a lot of ADs have a lot of explaining to do.

17. HAWAII BOWL

Date: Dec. 24
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)
Note: Oregon State might throw the ball on every down with QB Sean Mannion. That means if you live in the Eastern time zone, Santa could be on your roof around the time this one ends. This will be Boise's first game without Chris Petersen on the coaching staff since 2000.

16. GATOR BOWL

Site: Jacksonville

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN2
Matchup: Georgia (8-4) vs. Nebraska (8-4)
Note: These teams met last season in another bowl in Florida, the Capital One. But both will have different quarterbacks this season because senior starters at both schools are injured (Georgia's Aaron Murray and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez). It should be quite the contrast in sideline demeanor between the coaches: Georgia's Mark Richt is cool, calm and collected, while Nebraska's Bo Pelini is ... well, he's not cool, calm and collected.

15. ADVOCARE V100 BOWL

Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Boston College (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)
Note: The nation's top two rushers will be on view -- BC's Andre Williams (175.2 yards per game) and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (156.0 ypg). All those running plays mean this might be the only bowl game that takes less than three hours to finish.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) celebrates after eluding Alabama defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan (8) to make a pass during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Johnny Manziel celebrates

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14. OUTBACK BOWL

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Iowa (8-4) vs. LSU (9-3)
Note: Iowa should be happy to be here. LSU? Not so much. LSU also will be playing with a backup quarterback because starter Zach Mettenberger is injured and will miss the game.

13. CHICK-FIL-A BOWL

Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Duke (10-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
Note: Johnny Manziel makes what almost certainly will be his final college appearance, and on New Year's Eve. That's appropriate, don't you think? It will be against Duke, and you can supply your own snark for that one.

12. SUN BOWL

Date: Dec. 31
Time/TV: 2 p.m., CBS
Matchup: UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)
Note: An interesting quarterback matchup. UCLA's Brett Hundley still needs some refinement. Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas does, too. One problem: Hundley is just a sophomore and can return to school, while Thomas is a senior who is going to break some NFL team's heart.

11. SUGAR BOWL

Date: Jan. 2
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Alabama (11-1) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)
Note: The last time Alabama was in the Sugar Bowl with nothing at stake, the Tide was stunned by Utah. The flipside: The last time Oklahoma won a BCS game, Abe Lincoln was president. (We kid, we kid. It was after the 2010 season -- but it was against UConn, which doesn't count, so it was when Lincoln was president.)

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty (14) celebrates a play as teammate Kelvin Palmer (77) stands by during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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10. FIESTA BOWL

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Baylor (11-1) vs. UCF (11-1)
Note: UCF has a tendency to play up or down to the level of its opponent, which means this could be close. Still, Baylor's passing attack against UCF's shaky secondary should give Knights coach George O'Leary nightmares. This game also features a big-time quarterback matchup with UCF's Blake Bortles vs. Baylor's Bryce Petty.

9. ALAMO BOWL

Date: Dec. 30
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
Note: Two programs that underachieved this season. Will this be Mack Brown's last game as Texas' coach?

8. KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL

Date: Dec. 27
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)
Note: This could have been Washington's Steve Sarkisian coaching vs. his alma mater. But Sark already has left for USC. That means the storyline shifts to Huskies TB Bishop Sankey, perhaps the nation's most underappreciated runner, vs. a tough BYU defense headed by stud OLB Kyle Van Noy.

7. ORANGE BOWL

Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Clemson (10-2) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
Note: Expect to hear the name "Charlie Bauman" numerous times in the next few weeks when this matchup is discussed. These teams have met once, in the 1978 Gator Bowl, and then-Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched Bauman, a Clemson nose tackle, in the waning moments of the game after Bauman intercepted a pass. Hayes was fired the next day. Both teams are coming into this meeting off a loss, with Ohio State's a particularly devastating one that kept it out of the national title game. Will the Buckeyes have any motivation? Clemson QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins should be salivating at the prospect of going against the Buckeyes' mediocre secondary.

Southern California cheerleaders perform during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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6. LAS VEGAS BOWL

Date: Dec. 21
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ABC
Matchup: Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4)
Note: Fresno State QB Derek Carr has 48 TD passes and is trying to become just the fifth FBS quarterback in history with 50. He'll be throwing against a USC unit that led the Pac-12 in pass defense. The last time these teams met was in 2005, when USC won an epic 50-42 thriller that is one of the best games of this century.

5. RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL

Date: Dec. 28
Time/TV: 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Louisville (11-1) vs. Miami (9-3)
Note: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater could be playing his final college game, and it would be against his hometown team. Bridgewater is from Miami and actually committed to the Hurricanes out of high school before reneging and signing with Louisville. There's a feeling that neither of these teams is quite as good as its record. And for another storyline: These teams will meet next season as conference foes after Louisville joins the ACC.

4. COTTON BOWL

Date: Jan. 3
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., Fox
Matchup: Missouri (11-2) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)
Note: A meeting between former Big 12 rivals coming off heartbreaking losses. Mizzou fell to Auburn in the SEC championship game, while Oklahoma State was upset at home by archrival Oklahoma in the regular-season finale. The Cowboys would've been in the Fiesta Bowl had they won. Motivation could be an issue, but given their recent history in the Big 12, that seems unlikely.

3. CAPITAL ONE BOWL

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ABC
Matchup: South Carolina (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Note: As South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday night, "We have to get our run-defense pants on." This is one of three Big Ten-SEC matchups on New Year's Day.

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2. ROSE BOWL

Date: Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)
Note: Physical Michigan State meets physical Stanford. Watch some wide receiver will make the key play.

1. BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Date: Jan. 6
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Auburn (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0)
Note: Auburn will be trying to win the SEC's eighth consecutive national title in the final BCS title game. FSU will be trying to win the ACC's first since the 1999 season, when the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech for the crown.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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