Ranking the bowl games, from a viewing perspective

If UCLA can get an NCAA waiver to play in a bowl game with a losing record, I deserve a pass for going 18-17 and getting blasted by fans who lost their house betting my wild guesses in Las Vegas.

These annual predictions are for entertainment purposes only — unless you win a million dollars and want to send me half. There are not a lot of good matchups this season, but there are a lot of tough picks.

The bowls are ranked in reverse order, the least interesting first, and were painstakingly selected with help from the consulting firm of “Manny, Moe & He Doesn’t Know Jack.”

35. Kraft Fight Hunger, UCLA (6-7) vs. Illinois (6-6), Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m., ESPN: Two programs with interim coaches play “little ball” in the San Francisco Giants’ home ball park. Winner: Illinois.


34. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Marshall (6-6) vs. Florida International (8-4), Tuesday, 5 p.m. PST, ESPN: The ratings might be as flat as Chipped Beef on ‘O’ Brady toast, but FIU did win more games than Miami, Florida or Florida State. Winner: Florida International.

33. Music City, Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (6-6), Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Last year’s game was a double-overtime thriller between North Carolina and Tennessee. Winner: Mississippi State.

32. BBVA Compass, Southern Methodist (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6), Jan. 7, 10 a.m. PST, ESPN: Arizona State turned down SMU Coach June Jones to hire Pitt Coach Todd Graham. Winner: SMU.

31. Famous Idaho Potato, Utah State (7-5) vs. Ohio (9-4), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Utah State nearly stunned national champion Auburn to start the season but didn’t, so who cares? Winner: Utah State.

30. New Mexico, Wyoming (8-4) vs. Temple (8-4), Saturday, 11 a.m. PST, ESPN: Temple bus pulls into downtown Albuquerque, players get out, one screams: “Anyone know where we can get a decent Philly cheese steak around here?” Winner: Wyoming.

29. New Orleans, Louisiana Lafayette (8-4) vs. San Diego State (8-4), Saturday, 6 p.m. PST, ESPN: La-La has the home beignet advantage, but San Diego State will play five hard quarters if you count the French. Winner: San Diego State.

28. Independence, North Carolina (7-5) vs. Missouri (7-5), Dec. 26, 2 p.m. PST, ESPN2: Four out of five independent dentists note six of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Winner: Missouri.

27. Military, Air Force (7-5) vs. Toledo (8-4), Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Joint Chiefs of Staff have protested pairing Air Force against a team nicknamed “Rockets.” Winner: Air Force.

26. Pinstripe, Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa State (6-6), Dec. 30, 12:15 p.m. PST, ESPN: This has the chance to be the second-greatest Pinstripe Bowl ever after last year’s thrilling inaugural game between Syracuse and Kansas State. Winner: Rutgers.

25. Little Caesars Pizza, Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6), Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: As tough to swallow as cardboard dough with tomato paste, but you are allowed to add anchovies and up three other toppings. Winner: Purdue.

24. Belk, North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Louisville (7-5), Dec. 27, 5 p.m. PST, ESPN: Louisville lost a tiebreaker to West Virginia for the Big East title; North Carolina State lost the potato-sack race at Belk’s annual company picnic. Winner: Louisville.

23. Sun, Utah (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (8-4), Dec. 31, 11 a.m. PST, Channel 2: Georgia Tech runs the triple option offense, but the head coach says crossing border to Juarez is not a fourth option. Winner: Utah.

22. Liberty, Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6), Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. PST, Channel 7: Cincinnati looked Bowl Championship Series bound until quarterback Zach Collaros got hurt. Winner: Cincinnati.

21. Armed Forces, Brigham Young (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4), Dec. 30, 9 a.m. PST, ESPN: Fort Worth-hosted game features tough BYU defense against Tulsa team that has, um, won four more games than it’s lost. Winner: BYU.

20. Gator, Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6), Jan. 2, 10 a.m. PST, ESPN2: The bowl’s Mendoza-line mediocrity was masked by pairing Urban Meyer’s former team against the school he will soon be coaching. Winner: Florida.

19. Meineke Car Care, Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6), Dec. 31, 9 a.m. PST, ESPN: Texas A&M is a 10-2 BCS team before halftime and a folding chair in the second half. Winner: Northwestern.

18. Poinsettia, Texas Christian (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4), Dec. 21, 5 p.m., ESPN: TCU was two BCS spots from playing in a major bowl before getting dropped to a game with a gift bag that includes tickets to a bull fight in Tijuana. Winner: TCU.

17. Chick-fil-A, Virginia (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5), Dec. 31, 4:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: The game must be completed by midnight because Chick-fil-A is closed Sundays. Winner: Auburn.

16. Hawaii, Southern Mississippi (11-2) vs. Nevada (7-5), Dec. 24, 5 p.m. PST, ESPN: Southern Mississippi deserved better after winning Conference USA, but no kid who gets to leave Hattiesburg for Hawaii should ever complain. Winner: Southern Mississippi.

15. Insight, Oklahoma (9-3) vs. Iowa (7-5), Dec. 30, 7 p.m. PST, ESPN: Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops attended Iowa and thinks “Be True to Your School” is fine except when there’s a bowl bonus in your contract. Winner: Oklahoma.

14. Sugar, Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2), Jan. 3, 5:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: The Sugar Bowl’s choice of Virginia Tech was so awful and unfair to Boise State and Kansas State that even Hokies fans are refusing to buy tickets. Winner: Michigan.

13., Arkansas State (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (10-3), Jan. 8, 6 p.m. PST, ESPN: This day-before the BCS title game features two conference champions (Sun Belt and Mid-American), something the BCS title game does not. Winner: Arkansas State.

12. Holiday, California (7-5) vs. Texas (7-5), Dec. 28, 5 p.m., ESPN: Mack Brown thinks Texas deserves to be in the Rose Bowl and Jeff Tedford thinks Cal should make its first trip since 1959. Wait, sorry, that was 2004. Winner: Cal.

11. MAACO Las Vegas, Boise State (11-1) vs. Arizona State (6-6), Dec. 22, 5 p.m., ESPN: Blue turf quarterback Kellen Moore lost three games by five points in four years and got shipped to the Casino II Bowl. That’s a load of craps. Winner: Boise State.

10. Alamo, Washington (7-5) vs. Baylor (9-3), Dec. 29, 6 p.m. PST, ESPN: Take a boat ride on the San Antonio River and catch RG3 enjoying No. 3 combination plate with his Heisman at a local cantina. Winner: Baylor.

9. TicketCity, Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3), Jan. 2, 9 a.m. PST, ESPNU: Dallas parking enforcement warns no parking between 9.a.m to 3 p.m. for street sweeping. Violators face $100 fine. Winner: Penn State.

8. Orange, Clemson (10-3) vs. West Virginia (9-3), Jan. 4, 5 p.m. PST, ESPN: Clemson freshman Sammy Watkins is a playmaker. West Virginia is another shaky excuse for a Big East champion. Winner: Clemson.

7. Champs Sports, Florida State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4), Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Notre Dame clinches national title with win and victory next week against Boston College. Wait, sorry, that was 1993. Winner: Notre Dame.

6. Outback, Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3), Jan. 2, 10 a.m. PST, Channel 7: What was worse: Michigan State’s bowl loss to Alabama last year or Georgia’s loss to Central Florida? Winner: Georgia.

5. Capital One, Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2), Jan. 2, 10 a.m. PST, ESPN: The Big Ten has struggled versus the SEC in bowls so Nebraska will spend bowl week pretending it’s still in the Big 12. Winner: South Carolina.

4. Cotton, Arkansas (10-2) vs. Kansas State (10-2), Jan. 6, 5 p.m. PST, Channel 11: Two schools that deserved BCS bids more than Virginia Tech get shipped to the future fifth BCS bowl (if Jerry Jones gets his way). Winner: Arkansas.

3. BCS championship, Louisiana State (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1), Jan. 9, 5:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Every pollster who voted Alabama into this game instead of Oklahoma State should be locked in a room while Nick Saban reads the Acme Oyster House menu. Winner: LSU.

2. Rose, Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2), Jan. 2, 2 p.m., ESPN: Oregon has lost its last two BCS bowl games because opposing teams had a month to slow down tape and actually translate Chip Kelly into English. Winner: Wisconsin.

1. Fiesta, Oklahoma State (11-1) vs. Stanford (11-1), Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m. PST, ESPN: Andrew Luck gets miffed again after finishing second to veteran Oklahoma State quarterback, BW 28, for Fiesta Bowl’s lifetime achievement award. Winner: Stanford.