Too many bowl games? That’s just dumb.
While not every postseason game scintillated with derring-do and thrilling finishes, more than half of the 42 games were decided by eight or fewer points.
Here’s a ranking of all the postseason games from worst to best. And here’s a guess you already know the top three.
42. Miami Beach Bowl: Tulsa 55, Central Michigan 10
Tulsa became the first team in FBS history to have a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. So there’s that. And no question second-year Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery is doing a fantastic job. But the game itself … well, no.
41. AutoNation Cure Bowl: Arkansas State 31, UCF 13
It’s cool that Arkansas State went from 0-4 to a bowl victory. But, um, this game was tough to watch, starting with a combined 26 penalties.
40. Outback Bowl: No. 17 Florida 30, Iowa 3
Iowa and bowl games, eh? The Hawkeyes lost their fifth consecutive postseason game and third in a row in blowout fashion. The teams combined for five turnovers, nine penalties — only one by Iowa! — and 11 punts. Iowa, which averaged 2.3 yards per pass, took a 3-0 lead in the first and then went belly-up.
39. College Football Playoff semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Clemson 31, No. 3 Ohio State 0
Clemson gets credit for playing a fantastic game on both sides of the ball, but most expected this matchup to be close. It wasn’t. But the stunningly dashed expectations for this game, Clemson’s fantastic execution of a game plan and the oddity of watching an Urban Meyer team get romped on provide evaluative value. Like a train wreck.
38. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Oklahoma State 38, No. 10 Colorado 8
There was an important takeaway from this game: Bedlam could be unhinged next year, as both the Cowboys and Sooners look like national contenders. That said, this game was lousy, in part because it was so promising beforehand. The game was a terrible ending to a fantastic turnaround for the Buffaloes. The lasting memory of this game might be an incensed Mike MacIntyre coming unhinged — not without some justification — over the officiating.
37. Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: Baylor 31, Boise State 12
This wasn’t a good game, and it’s difficult to consider what happened with Baylor on the field this season without thinking of all the off-field woes. Neither was a feel-good story, though the fact that coach Jim Grobe and his team showed up and played hard is a consoling nugget for a program that made news much of the season for all the wrong reasons.
36. National Funding Holiday Bowl: Minnesota 17, Washington State 12
While some might salute defense for producing the third-lowest-scoring Holiday Bowl in the game’s 39-year history, those folks probably didn’t watch this game. Minnesota won despite an off-field scandal that included a potential bowl boycott and suspensions under soon-to-be-fired coach Tracy Claeys. Washington State lost because of an indifferent performance, one that was topped by a shockingly pedestrian showing from QB Luke Falk.
35. Camping World Independence Bowl: NC State 41, Vanderbilt 17
NC State folks should be thrilled with the end of their season — a victory over rival North Carolina and a bowl win, one that ended a five-game losing streak to SEC teams. As for Vanderbilt, whose dreadful performance concluded with a pick-six as time expired, the Commodores will try to erase this one from their memories.
34. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: No. 20 LSU 29, No. 13 Louisville 9
This was supposed to be a quality ACC-SEC heavyweight fight between Heisman Trophy-winning QB Lamar Jackson and LSU’s vaunted defense. Well, if that’s the case, this one was a first-round knockout for Louisville and a TKO for those still watching in the fourth quarter. Jackson was sacked eight times and produced just 153 passing yards and a season-low 33 rushing yards. He also fumbled as the Cardinals were just 2-of-17 on third down. While LSU fans loved this game, as it provided hope for the future under new coach Ed Orgeron, it’s down on this list because it fell so far short of expectations.
33. Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Oklahoma 35, No. 14 Auburn 19
The game wasn’t competitive, and the sideshow between Oklahoma’s controversial running back Joe Mixon and Auburn fans was unsavory. Tigers fans chanted, “He hits women,” at one point just before halftime, and Mixon seemed — he denied it after the game — to egg them on. Auburn lost QB Sean White early, but it was pretty clear the Sooners were a significantly better team.
32. Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Air Force 45, South Alabama 21
South Alabama scored on its first play and jumped to a 21-3 lead, looking like it was well on its way to its first bowl victory. Then Air Force woke up and rolled.
31. Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico: San Diego State 34, Houston 10
This was not a terribly entertaining game. San Diego State scored 34 straight points to blow out a Houston team that was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country this season. Still, you must tip your cap to Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey. He rushed for 115 yards, breaking the FBS career record of Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne. Pumphrey finished his college career with 6,411 rushing yards, and he also surpassed Texas’ D’Onta Foreman for the 2016 national lead in rushing with a 2,133-yard season.
30. Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami 31, No. 16 West Virginia 14
This looked like a potentially interesting matchup, but Miami’s first bowl win in a decade was a lopsided affair. Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya finished with 282 yards and four touchdowns, while West Virginia ended up with a season-low 229 yards of offense after averaging better than 500 during the season.
29. College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama 24, No. 4 Washington 7
Washington scored first, so it seemed as though this might be a game. In the third quarter, Alabama faced a third-and-9 at its own 3-yard line, leading just 17-7, and it still seemed as though this might be a game. But Bo Scarbrough rushed for 12 yards and a first down, and three plays later, he went 68 yards to complete a 98-yard touchdown drive. Game over. The Huskies had just 194 yards of offense in a game that featured 16 punts — eight by each team.
28. Hawai’i Bowl: Hawai’i 52, Middle Tennessee 35
This game certainly lacked the gravitas associated with ranked Power 5 teams, and a Christmas Eve date is always a bit dubious for drawing a large audience. Still, the game delivered plenty of exciting plays and lots of offense.
27. TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech 33, Kentucky 18
This game was redeemed by two things: 1. A fleeting Kentucky comeback in the fourth quarter; 2. Coaching meltdowns, including Kentucky coach Mark Stoops going nuclear with officials and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson screaming about the Yellow Jackets’ blocking techniques.
26. Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky 51, Memphis 31
Even without head coach Jeff Brohm, who was off to Purdue, the Western Kentucky offense was potent with 336 yards passing and 262 yards rushing. The result never seemed in doubt, but over 1,000 total yards of offense is certainly better than the alternative.
25. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 8 Wisconsin 24, No. 15 Western Michigan 16
Kudos to Western Michigan for an outstanding season. Truly a great story. That said, there was never a moment in this game when you thought Wisconsin would lose.
24. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Southern Mississippi 28, Louisiana-Lafayette 21
Southern Miss receiver Allenzae Staggers was the story of this game, catching 11 passes for 230 yards. The game wasn’t as close as the final score makes it appear; Louisiana-Lafayette totaled just 252 yards of offense.
23. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: No. 21 Tennessee 38, Nebraska 24
After an uneven career, Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs went out with a bang, completing 23 of 38 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 118 yards and three scores. Nebraska was without quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and leading receiver Jordan Westerkamp.
22. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico 23, UTSA 20
New Mexico’s second bowl victory in 55 seasons got the bowl season off to a good start on Dec. 17. The Lobos of the Mountain West Conference reached nine wins for the first time since 2007. So while some might sniff at the matchup, this game deserves a hat tip.
21. St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State 17, Miami (Ohio) 16
Mississippi State entered the game as a 5-7 Power 5 team that was needed to fill bowl slots. For most of the game, the Bulldogs played indifferently. But they provided an exciting finish when they blocked Miami kicker Nick Dowd‘s 37-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining to secure the win. Considering the SEC’s middling bowl season, this inspired at least a few relieved sighs.
20. Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: Grambling 10, North Carolina Central 9
The end was, well, peculiar. Receiver Quentin Atkinson made a great 39-yard TD catch but received a celebration penalty. Grambling then blocked the long point-after attempt by North Carolina Central. As Alex Scarborough noted in his game story: “The irony of it all, losing the Celebration Bowl because of an excessive celebration.”
19. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia 31, TCU 23
The game was sloppy, yes, with four fumbles and three missed field goals. But there were a lot of big, fancy, impressive plays that made this SEC-Big 12 showdown entirely watchable.
18. Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Old Dominion 24, Eastern Michigan 20
Old Dominion broke a fourth-quarter tie with quarterback David Washington‘s 5-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Duhart, giving the Monarchs their first bowl victory since moving up to the FBS. Though Eastern Michigan lost, it deserves credit because it snapped the second-longest bowl drought in the FBS. The Eagles had not appeared in the postseason since the 1987 California Bowl.
17. Belk Bowl: No. 22 Virginia Tech 35, Arkansas 24
This game was more interesting than exciting. Arkansas led 24-0 at halftime and then completely collapsed. With its huge second-half comeback, Virginia Tech won 10 games for the first time since 2011 in coach Justin Fuente’s first season. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised at the Razorbacks’ train wreck of a second half. Arkansas entered the game ranked 110th in second-half scoring margin, the worst among teams with a winning record.
16. Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College 36, Maryland 30
If you bet the over in this one — 43.5 points — you won big. Maryland, which went 0-5 against top-25 defenses and never scored more than 14 points, produced touchdowns of 62, 30, 63 and 52 yards against the nation’s No. 8 defense. Boston College hadn’t scored more than 26 points this season against a Power 5 team. The Eagles had 29 points by halftime. So a lackluster matchup transformed into an exciting game.
15. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho 61, Colorado State 50
The two teams combined for 111 points — third most in bowl history! Idaho was a 16-point underdog entering the contest; the Vandals were one of the most dreadful FBS teams over the past few decades. But they looked like a steamroller in this one. Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan threw for 381 yards and accounted for five scores in this offensive slugfest. Another oddity: The Vandals will play one more FBS season before becoming the first team to move down to the FCS.
14. Dollar General Bowl: Troy 28, Ohio 23
Troy scored 21 points off five Ohio turnovers and posted its first 10-win season since joining the FBS in 2001. That’s a big turnaround since going 4-8 the previous season.
13. Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Wake Forest 34, No. 24 Temple 26
Wake Forest, a double-digit underdog, led 31-10 at halftime and then withstood Temple’s second-half comeback. The Owls had a second-and-1 on the Wake Forest 44-yard line with 1:26 remaining, but the Demon Deacons’ defense stepped up and got the stop. At 7-6, Wake Forest posted its first winning season in eight years.
12. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Kansas State 33, Texas A&M 28
A vintage Bill Snyder performance, with his young team outflanking a talented crew from Texas A&M in a Big 12 reunion game. The difference? Winning the turnover battle 2-0 and getting a clutch stop on the Aggies’ final possession.
11. Foster Farms Bowl: No. 19 Utah 26, Indiana 24
Sometimes you get a good game because the better team isn’t at its best, and that’s mostly what happened here. In the end, though, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham just doesn’t lose bowl games — see his 10-1 bowl record. Utes RB Joe Williams rushed for 222 yards on 26 carries, which made up for a seemingly critical fumble on the Indiana 29-yard line in the fourth quarter with the Utes trailing 24-23. He produced runs of 21 and 32 yards on Utah’s drive for the game-winning field goal.
10. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern 31, No. 23 Pittsburgh 24
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson rushed for 224 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns in a thrilling victory over short-handed Pittsburgh, which played the second half without running back James Connor and lost QB Nathan Peterman in the third quarter. “Justin’s day will go down as one of the great performances by a Northwestern running back,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald.
9. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU 24, Wyoming 21
Wyoming was down 24-7 in the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys stormed back and seemed to be in position to at least tie the game and force overtime. But on first-and-10 from the BYU 32-yard line with 1:22 left, Josh Allen‘s pass was intercepted by Kai Nacua, giving first-year BYU coach Kalani Sitake a bowl win in a crazy season that featured more than his fair share of nail-biters.
8. Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 18 Stanford 25, North Carolina 23
Stanford seemingly had this one in hand until North Carolina mounted a 10-play, 97-yard touchdown drive, cutting the deficit to two with 25 seconds left on a 2-yard pass from Mitch Trubisky to Bug Howard. But on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt, Stanford star defensive tackle Solomon Thomas ripped through the UNC line for a dramatic sack that iced the game.
7. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State 31, Toledo 28
Toledo never led, but it also never trailed by more than seven. The Rockets could have tied the game for a fifth time, but they missed a 30-yard field goal, and the Mountaineers ran out the last 1:48. The Mountaineers won the bowl in Alabama’s capital city for a second consecutive year in dramatic fashion and secured their 10th win. Just a good ol’ football game.
6. Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army 38, North Texas 31 (OT)
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Army pitched the ball to Jordan Asberry, who scored the game-winning touchdown in OT. Army won that way because its running game is rugged, compiling 480 yards on the ground. Army finished 8-5, its best season in two decades, and that included a win over Navy in the regular-season finale.
5. Birmingham Bowl: South Florida 46, South Carolina 39 (OT)
South Florida capped an 11-2 season with a win over an SEC team in overtime, as QB Quinton Flowers passed for 261 yards and rushed for 105 yards, accounting for five total touchdowns — including a 25-yard TD in OT. It wasn’t easy, though. The Bulls led 39-24 entering the fourth quarter, but previously offensively challenged South Carolina scored 15 to force overtime.
4. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech 48, No. 25 Navy 45
Louisiana Tech’s Jonathan Barns booted a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the pass-happy Bulldogs a thrilling victory over the run-heavy Midshipmen. Louisiana Tech QB Ryan Higgins threw for 409 yards and four touchdowns, while Navy rushed for 300 yards and five scores, led by Zach Abey‘s 114 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 11 Florida State 33, No. 6 Michigan 32
In a battle of heavyweights, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook proved to be the best player on the field in this thriller, which at one point appeared to be the best game of the bowl season. Cook rushed for 145 yards on 20 carries and added another 62 yards receiving. Michigan — playing without Jabrill Peppers and Jake Butt, who left the game with an ACL injury in the second quarter — scored twice in the final six minutes to take its first lead of the game (30-27) with under two minutes to play. But on third-and-9 from the Michigan 12-yard line with 36 seconds left, Deondre Francois found Nyqwan Murray for the game-winning touchdown.
2. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 9 USC 52, No. 5 Penn State 49
No way the Rose Bowl could eclipse the Orange Bowl, right? Well it did. USC dominated early, but Penn State won the third quarter 28-8 and seemed in control heading into the fourth quarter with a 49-35 lead. Not so fast. Trojans QB Sam Darnold, in a “Hello World” moment, led an 80-yard, game-tying drive with under two minutes left, capped by a beautiful, 27-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett. Darnold finished with 453 yards passing and five touchdowns. Then, with just 27 seconds left, Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley threw a baffling interception to Leon McQuay, and Matt Boermeester‘s clutch, 46-yard field goal gave USC the victory as time expired.
1. College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T: No. 2 Clemson 35, No. 1 Alabama 31
Just plain epic. What an amazing end to the bowl season, though obviously Alabama fans aren’t thrilled. It’s difficult to score 21 points against Alabama over the course of an entire game, but QB Deshaun Watson and Clemson scored that many in the fourth quarter to win the Tigers’ first national title since 1981. Watson’s 2-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow provided the winning points in the waning moments. Watson, who was brilliant in a loss to the Crimson Tide a year ago, passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns. He, without question, is the greatest player in Clemson football history.