A viewer’s guide to the most entertaining bowl games

There are 40 bowl games before the College Football Playoff National Championship, and with the average college football game lasting a little less than three-and-a-half hours, that means you have about 140 hours of football to plan for. That’s a tough job, we know. You’ll need to squeeze in some family time and holiday shopping, too. So we’re here to help. What are the can’t-miss games? Which ones can you have on in the background while you wrap gifts?

Ready, set, bowl! Picking 41 winners, including the national champion
From the Celebration Bowl to the College Football Playoff National Championship, Adam Rittenberg picks his winners for bowl season.
Which ones can you simply check in on with your cell phone (using the ESPN app!) while throwing elbows at Walmart? Let us help you decide with our handy-dandy ranking of each bowl game based strictly on entertainment value. No need to get us anything in return, though if you’re in the mood, we’re an XL and look good in earth tones.

3. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State

(Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

It’s the Rose Bowl … just being played in Texas. The Pac-12 champ and the Big Ten champ — the two teams that had viable arguments for the fourth playoff spot — get to face off in what should be easily the most intriguing game outside the playoff.

2. College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

(Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)

Georgia hasn’t faced a QB quite like Baker Mayfield all year. Mayfield hasn’t seen a defense as tough as Georgia’s. The Sooners’ defense has been questioned, while Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm needs to prove a true freshman is ready for the big stage. It’s a matchup of contrasts that should be a whole lot of fun to watch.

1. College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson

(Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Not every third installment of a trilogy lives up to the hype. For every “Return of the Jedi,” there’s a “Godfather III.” But we’re sold on this one, not because of the lingering storylines from the first two installments, but for the new faces (Kelly Bryant, Raekwon Davis), new dynamics (Alabama with a chip on its shoulder?) and new stakes. The Sugar Bowl is the best of both worlds — a fresh take on an old rivalry — with a spot in the national championship on the line. It’s hard to get any better than that.


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