Bowl Rankings: How Good Were All The Bowl Games? 2021-2022

·28 min read

How good were the games in the 2021-2022 bowl season? Ranking all the bowl games from the worst to the best.

The bowl season was fantastic – to a point.

Through all the opt-outs, and cancelations, and COVID concerns were a slew of shocking, wild, and all-time great games.

And there were more than a few stunning duds.

We still have one more game that’s kind of a big deal, but the College Football Playoff National Championship isn’t like a normal bowl game. Even so, that will get added at the end.

How good were all of the bowl games? Ranked worst to first …

Bowl Rankings: Cancel Culture

It wasn’t as bad as 2020-2021 when bowls were being canceled left and right, but these five couldn’t go and they didn’t reschedule.

T39. Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl

Central Michigan vs Boise State – Canceled
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 17
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 26, 2019: 35

It’s not like you would’ve watched with two other bowls along with the College Football Playoff semifinal between Alabama and Cincinnati overlapping with this, but considering what Central Michigan did against Washington State in the Sun Bowl, this would’ve been fun.

T39. EasyPost Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii vs Memphis – Canceled
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 40
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 37

COVID, transfers, angst against the coach – it all came out as Hawaii wasn’t able to go. Memphis was left without a dance partner, but at least it got to be disappointed in paradise.

T39. Military Bowl presented by Peraton

East Carolina vs Boston College – Canceled
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 21
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 33

The last three Boston College bowl games have been canceled. It’s the Spinal Tap drummer of bowl schools.

T39. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

NC State vs UCLA – Canceled
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 6
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 26

It was supposed to be one of the more interesting matchups of the bowl season – a showcase game for a great NC State team, and a breakthrough moment for UCLA – but the Bruins got hit with a COVID outbreak and couldn’t go, pulling out just hours before the game.

T39. Wasabi Fenway Bowl

Virginia vs SMU – Canceled
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 10
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: NA

This one hurt. It was almost certain to have been among the wildest and craziest bowls of the bunch. There was no way this wasn’t going to be a funfest of offensive firepower and absolutely no defense whatsoever.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: “Too Many Bowls”

Bowl Rankings: “Too Many Bowls”

The “too many bowls” crowd needs ammunition, and these bowl games provide it. These games made the world a lesser place.

38. Allstate Sugar Bowl

Baylor 21, Ole Miss 7
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 7
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 10, 2019: 25

What should’ve been among the best games of the bowl season was a painful end to a wonderful New Year’s Day of phenomenal games.

Ole Miss star QB Matt Corral injured his knee early, and that was it for the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The rest of the game devolved into discussion about whether or not Corral should’ve been playing at all – his choice, his call – Ole Miss didn’t have a prayer, and Baylor was able to grind it out to a win over a team that played like it got punched in the gut.

37. Mercari Texas Bowl

Kansas State 42, LSU 20
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 33
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 14

It was a whole lot of fun if you’re a Kansas State fan, and it was a college football game on a Tuesday night, but it was just … sad.

LSU didn’t have any players. It gave it the old college try and brought the energy, but it had no chance. Kansas State was fully-functional, fully-engaged, and it held a light scrimmage against a group of guys wearing LSU uniforms. Again, give the Tiger players credit – they did everything they could – but this wasn’t a fair fight.

36. New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Maryland 54, Virginia Tech 10
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 25
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 18

The only saving grace in this was the fun had by Maryland as its team and long-suffering fan base got stretch their legs. There were huge plays from the Terps in all phases against a Virginia Tech team that wasn’t all that great even when it was fully functional.

The Hokies were a shell of their normal selves – they were never really in this. The Terps scored the final 33 points of the game.

35. Cricket Celebration Bowl

South Carolina State 31, Jackson State 10
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 41
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: NA

It was never close. It was supposed to be an ugly blowout, and it was absolutely that … the other way. Deion Sanders’ Jackson State team was far better, far stronger, and far nastier defensively, but South Carolina State was just a weeeeeee bit jacked to show its own swagger after all hype on the other side. That was a master class performance on how to be motivated for a bowl game.

34. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Wake Forest 38, Rutgers 10
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 16
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 12, 2019: 15

It was sort of cool to see Rutgers fill in for Texas A&M, but Rutgers didn’t beat Alabama. The Aggies didn’t go with a slew of players skipping the game and others out with COVID, but even a shell of a team probably would’ve done more than the Scarlet Knights did.

It was tight for the first 20 minutes, and that was it for the Rutgers offense that finished with 276 yards. Wake Forest scored 24 unanswered points.

33. LendingTree Bowl

Liberty 56, Eastern Michigan 20
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 34
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 23, 2019: 28

Liberty picked a bad time – at least for our bowl entertainment – to finally play like it was supposed to in 2021. Eastern Michigan got out to an early lead on a field goal, and it was 13-10 Liberty early in the second quarter, and that was about it.

Liberty went on a 36 point run, Eastern Michigan’s defense went bye-bye, and outside of scouting Malik Willis as an NFL quarterback prospect, this was an instant memory dump of a game.

32. Capital One Orange Bowl

Georgia 34, Michigan 11
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 1
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 3, 2019: 12
5 Thoughts: Capital One Orange Bowl Analysis

There’s the Georgia that ripped through the regular season before the SEC Championship.

It scored easily on its first drive, it scored easily on its second drive, and that was about it for the most disappointing game of the bowl season.

Michigan turned it over three times, couldn’t do much against the Georgia defense that swarmed like it had 14 guys on the field, and managed just one lonely second quarter field goal until the final moments.

31. Valero Alamo Bowl

Oklahoma 47, Oregon 32
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 38
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 18, 2019: 38

If watching Bob Stoops on the sidelines did it for you then this wasn’t totally awful, but it was the one big game that summed up a slew of the problems with the modern day bowl world.

A mini-comeback by Oregon made the score look a bit better late, but this was never a game. There were lots of points and plenty of big plays to make it sort of entertaining, but a slew of top guys weren’t there, neither team had its head coach, and the outcome was never in doubt.

30. AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Texas Tech 34, Mississippi State 7
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 4
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 6, 2019: 7
5 Thoughts: AutoZone Liberty Bowl Analysis

Everyone came to see the fireworks and instead we got a big fat dud.

It was a huge moment for a Texas Tech program in transition, and a total disaster for Mike Leach as his Mississippi State team couldn’t seem to function without a few key opt-outs – especially on the offensive line. The Red Raiders were up 10-7 early in the second, scored 24 unanswered points, and the grudge bowl didn’t produce like it should’ve.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: Just Bowls

Bowl Rankings: Just Bowls

It was college football played after the regular season. They were bowls – just bowls. No more, no less.

29. Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Minnesota 18, West Virginia 6
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 26
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 19

It was the perfect bowl game to put you to sleep – ending in the wee hours of the morning for those on the East Coast.

Minnesota dominated this from jump, West Virginia barely got over 200 yards of total offense and only had the ball for 21:31, and it was all about the Gopher offense grinding and grinding some more. However, we did get to see 380-pound offensive lineman Daniel Faalele ruin lives with his two-yard touchdown run.

28. Goodyear Cotton Bowl

Alabama 27, Cincinnati 6
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 8
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 22, 2019: 11
5 Thoughts: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Analysis

This was over just over five minutes in.

Alabama went 75 yards in 11 plays, finishing up with a short Bryce Young touchdown pass. Cincinnati fired a spitball at a battleship with a field goal, and that was about it for the fun.

No, Cincinnati wasn’t embarrassed, and Alabama certainly did worse things in the CFP past to teams with bigger names, but the final score was 27-6 because the SEC Champion didn’t want it to be a whole lot worse.

27. Quick Lane Bowl

Western Michigan 52, Nevada 24
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 30
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 9

There were lots of points, a slew of home runs hit by Western Michigan, and it was all totally maddening.

It wasn’t close after the first 20 minutes. The wildly inconsistent Western Michigan team played like it should’ve – and probably could’ve – all season long with over 500 yards of total offense, partly because Nevada was without star QB Carson Strong, head coach Jay Norvell, and was a shadow of its regular season self performance-wise.

26. Camellia Bowl

Georgia State 51, Ball State 20
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 24
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 7, 2019: 17

Good early, blowout late.

It was a strong back-and-forth fight with Ball State taking a 20-13 lead into the locker room, and then Georgia State flexed up with 31 straight points. QB Darren Grainger went off, Antavious Lane came up with a pick six, and things got out of hand. It was breathtaking to see, though – it was a bit more entertaining than the blowout final score.

25. Myrtle Beach Bowl

Tulsa 30, Old Dominion 17
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 27
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 25, 2019: NA

It went like it was supposed to, and it was hardly a memorable bowl, but it wasn’t all that bad a game considering it was a relative blowout.

Tulsa was able to control the game throughout with its running game, and it was able to pull away late, but Old Dominion – who started the game with a kick six – was at least able to keep this in range until late in the third quarter.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: “Bowl Games Matter”

Bowl Rankings: “Bowl Games Matter”

They were fun bowl games worth the watch. They weren’t life-chasing, but they made the bowl season interesting.

24. Frisco Bowl Classic

Miami University 27, North Texas 14
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 37
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: NA

It started great and fizzled out. The offenses were working with a 20-14 Miami lead at halftime, and that was about it for the fun with just one more touchdown the rest of the way. The RedHawks came up with 17 unanswered points – the North Texas offense struggled – but it was still close late and it wasn’t all that bad for a last-second creation of a bowl game for a December Thursday afternoon.

23. Duke’s Mayo Bowl

South Carolina 38, North Carolina 21
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 20
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 9, 2019: 4

It was a wake-and-bowl game for most of the country – an 11:30 ET start – and it turned into one of the most puzzling of the entire bowl season.

The SEC and South Carolina fans will certainly take it.

All of a sudden, the Gamecocks became … explosive? Kevin Harris and the running game were great, Dakereon Joyner hit all nine of his passes, and the team got out to an 18-0 starts and ended up cruising from there. The game wasn’t that great, but in terms of it being a marking point and a possible changing event, it mattered.

22. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Louisiana 36, Marshall 21
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 32
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 25, 2019: 27

The final score makes the bowl look far worse than it was. No, Louisiana didn’t roll until late.

The Ragin’ Cajuns got up early, Marshall came back, and it was a nip-and-tuck fight deep into the fourth quarter before Louisiana rolled with a 20-point run in the final 8:20.

Marshall RB Rasheen Ali was amazing – 160 yards and three scores – but the Louisiana balanced offense controlled the clock. There was energy, drama, and the two very good teams brought the fight.

21. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl

San Diego State 38, UTSA 24
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 37
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 8
5 Thoughts: Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl Analysis

This was unfairly ranked in the Pre-Bowl Matchup Rankings mainly because San Diego State didn’t play an aesthetically pleasing style, but it turned out to be one of the stronger bowl game with the Aztec offense opening it up a bit.

There were way too many penalties – 23 in all – and UTSA never had the ball, but there were points, a few big plays, and it was a one score game deep into the fourth quarter before Lucas Johnson put it away at the end of his huge day.

20. Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl

Utah State 24, Oregon State 13
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 18
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: NA

It wasn’t what it was supposed to be, but it was a big moment for the Mountain West and the full rebound of a Utah State program that pushed out of the doldrums of 2020.

The Aggies won the Mountain West championship, but that was against a depleted San Diego State team missing close to half the key players. They proved they were just that good with a brilliant defensive performance, allowing just two field goals after giving up a score in the first minute of the game.

It was ugly. 18 penalties – 13 from Oregon State, five turnovers, and Utah State doesn’t care. It got the big win.

19. Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl

UCF 29, Florida 17
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 23
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 30
5 Thoughts: Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Analysis

The game itself was just okay, but as an event – and a bowl game that mattered – this was big.

Start with a sold out pre-Christmas bowl game – this was a thing in Florida. It was close into the fourth quarter, but the Gators could never get the offense going after taking a 17-16 lead midway through the third.

UCF closed out with 13 unanswered points helped by a defense that came up with big stop after big stop, and then came the total joy for a program and base that got the win over that school up the road.

18. PUBG New Mexico Bowl

Fresno State 31, UTEP 24
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 43
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 24
PUBG New Mexico Bowl Reaction

There weren’t any big expectations for this, but it turned out to be a shockingly strong game because 1) Fresno State and QB Jake Haener weren’t sharp and 2) UTEP played well. It was close deep into the fourth quarter with Fresno State finally pulling away a wee bit on a field goal and a safety, but both teams played hard and it was way more entertaining than it should’ve been.

17. Outback Bowl

Arkansas 24, Penn State 10
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 3
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 11, 2019: 5

It wasn’t a bad game to kick off 2022, but it wasn’t anything special – the lack of Penn State offensive punch and a whole slew of key opt-outs saw to that.

The Nittany Lions were up 10-7 at halftime, but that was it for the fun. Arkansas scored 17 unanswered points, stopped Penn State time and again over the final 30 minutes, and it became a big moment for Hog head coach and a program that had its breakthrough moment.

16. SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl

Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 13
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 31
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 36

It actually went almost exactly like it was supposed to.

Wisconsin was in more control than the final score let on, Arizona State showed it had the guys to hang around, and in the end, the amazing Badger D allowed just 219 yards of total offense with big play after big play in the backfield.

The final score was close, but for those of you who went to bed before 2:30 am ET, Wisconsin could’ve punched it in for one last score, and didn’t – much to chagrin of a whole lot of investors out there.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: Great Bowls

Bowl Rankings: Great Bowls

You watched these bowls, you liked them, and then you moved on as a richer and more fulfilled person.

15. Cheez-It Bowl

Clemson 20, Iowa State 13
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 29
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 4, 2019: 19

You knew what you were getting – and it turned out to be gripping in the end.

Clemson’s defense was amazing, its offense wasn’t, and it was a 20-3 game before a late rally by Iowa State made this interesting over the final ten minutes.

The pick-six by Clemson’s Mario Goodrich off a batted Brock Purdy pass – Purdy miserably failed at getting the ball on the ground – was one of the wildest plays of the bowl season, and the game ended on something you probably have never seen. On fourth down, Purdy ran for a first down, got popped, fumbled the ball backwards, and recovered it behind the first down marker – Clemson survived.

14. RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl

WKU 59, Appalachian State 38
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 2
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 20, 2019: 23
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl Analysis

You wanted the Bailey Zappe show? There you go.

The WKU quarterback threw for 422 yards and six touchdowns with no picks, the running game worked, and Appalachian State couldn’t keep up the pace after tying it at 24 late in the first half.

The Mountaineers ran for 251 yards and QB Chase Brice threw for 317 yards and four scores, but four turnovers were just enough to allow Zappe and company to keep on rolling.

WKU went for 638 yards, Appalachian State 609, and it was a wild game even if the outcome wasn’t in doubt in the second half.

13. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Wyoming 52, Kent State 38
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 14
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 17, 2019: 31

It absolutely delivered.

This was supposed to have lots of points, and the two teams combined for 90. This was supposed to have lots of yards, and there were almost 1,200 of them. This was supposed to be a wild back-and-forth game, and it was that – at least for a while.

Down 17-7 in the first half, Wyoming kicked in with the big plays and pulled away in the second half with a 21-point run. There wasn’t a whole lot of drama in the end, and there were too many penalties and mistakes, but this was exactly the sugar rush bowl we were all hoping for.

12. Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl

Central Michigan 24, Washington State 21
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 39
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 21

In a shocking season of bowl results, this turned out to be a blast of a stunner because 1) Central Michigan was a last second substitution because Miami tapped out, 2) the Chippewas needed a game after Boise State couldn’t go in the Arizona Bowl, and 3) Washington State didn’t show up until it was too late.

Central Michigan had a 21-0 halftime lead with a dominant defensive performance, but Wazzu rallied back with backup QB Victor Gabalis filling in for an injured Jayden de Laura, but came up just short.

11. Vrbo Citrus Bowl

Kentucky 20, Iowa 17
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 15
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 14, 2019: 16

It started slow and turned out fantastic.

Kentucky seemed to have it in hand up 13-3 at halftime against a punchless Iowa offense, but everything stalled. The Wildcats couldn’t get the O going, the Hawkeyes came up with two terrific second half touchdown drives to go up 17-13, and they needed just one stop from that great D to pull off the win.

Eight plays, 80 yards, and one Chris Rodriguez touchdown later – and closed out with a pick – the Cats pulled it off. It was a blast of a way to start the New Year’s Day.

10. Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl

UAB 31, BYU 28
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 35
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 20
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Reaction

Well that turned out to be wonderful.

BYU should’ve rocked the Blazers – if the Cougars played like they did during the regular season – but it turned into a blast of a battle. UAB got up 14-0, Tyler Allgeier and the BYU running game took over on the way to a fourth quarter lead, and UAB pulled out the upset with a long late touchdown drive and a defensive stop.

9. Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee 31, Toledo 24
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 42
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 24
5 Thoughts: Bahamas Bowl Reaction

Considering how utterly miserable the 2020-2021 bowl season was, to kick things off with a one-score game was a major positive.

It wasn’t anything special, but it was entertaining for a Friday afternoon with Middle Tennessee coming up with 17 straight points in the fourth quarter to take over. Maddening as the game was – RUN THE BALL, Toledo – it was competitive, there were several fun moments, and it came down to an onside kick. Good enough.

8. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Air Force 31, Louisville 28
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 19
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 5, 2019: 2

Haaziq Daniels went Aaron Rodgers and hit 9-of-10 passes for 252 yards and two scores, Air Force kept answering every time Louisville landed a punch, and the back-and-forth battle had more than its share of fireworks.

There were giant pass plays, a kick six, big scoring runs, and well over 800 yards of offense in a clean game with few mistakes. Throw in the Group of Five over Power Five battle, and this was a terrific watch among the early midweek bowl games.

7. TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl

Houston 17, Auburn 13
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 22
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 40
5 Thoughts: TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl Reaction

Of course it’s more fun to have a whole lot of points in a bowl game, but considering the Power Five vs Group of Five nature of this, it had a lot of drama and a fantastic finish.

The game was a relative uggo, but the payoff was there.

Houston got the game-winning touchdown helped a few penalties that probably should’ve been called on the play – and just before that – but whatever. It was a huge moment for the program in the Dana Holgorsen era, it was a thrilling end, and the fight and energy were there throughout on both sides.

6. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Michigan State 31, Pitt 21
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 10
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 2, 2019: 3

Considering the two stars weren’t there, this turned out to be a terrific game – and a total disaster/epic euphoric bowl depending on which side of the Michigan State -3.5 you might have had.

Pitt not only didn’t have QB Kenny Pickett, but it lost backup QB Nick Patti early on. Davis Beville gave it a shot, but the Pitt passing game only came up with 170 yards against the nation’s worst pass defense.

Michigan State didn’t have RB Kenneth Walker, and it mattered – the ground game finished with just 56 yards.

The Panthers were able to get by on defense with a scoop-and-score in the third quarter enough for a 21-10 lead, but Michigan State closed with 21 unanswered points.

A touchdown pass to Jayden Reed gave the Spartans the lead, but Beville had Pitt on the march with a chance to tie the game with a field goal or come up with a win. One Cal Haladay 78-yard pick six later, and Michigan State had its 11th win.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: The Classics No. 5

Bowl Rankings: Classic Bowls

5. Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State 37, Notre Dame 35
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 11
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 15, 2019: 1

Oh was this good.

The Freemania of the new world of Notre Dame football might have slowed a bit, but it’s fine. Marcus Freeman’s team couldn’t close, but Oklahoma State had a whole lot to do with that.

The Irish were amazing early – getting up 28-7- but the Cowboys kept chipping away until it finished off a run of 30 straight points with three straight Tanner Brown field goals to take the lead for good. Notre Dame roared back with a quick score, but couldn’t get the onside kick in the final moments.

The two teams cranked up 1,056 yards, Notre Dame QB Jack Coan threw for 509 yards and five scores against one of the nation’s best defense, Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders exorcised his Big 12 Championship demons with 371 yards and four scores – and a game-high 125 rushing yards, and it turned out to be the perfect lead-in to an all-timer of a Rose Bowl.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: The Classics No. 4

Bowl Rankings: Classic Bowls

4. Tailgreeter Cure Bowl

Coastal Carolina 47, Northern Illinois 41
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 14
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 1, 2019: 24
5 Thoughts: Tailgreeter Cure Bowl Analysis

It might not have been quite as good a game as last year’s Liberty win over Coastal Carolina in that version of the Cure Bowl, but it wasn’t far off.

Seriously, what more could you have possibly wanted from an early bowl? Both teams were a blast, the offenses went off, it was a back-and-forth game with big haymakers thrown and big plays, and it came down to a controversy in the final seconds.

The Northern Illinois running game was fun. The Coastal Carolina offense as a whole was fun. It was all fun.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: The Classics No. 3

Bowl Rankings: Classic Bowls

3. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Army 24, Missouri 22
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 28
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 8, 2019: 32
5 Thoughts: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Analysis

The only thing that diminished this game was the absence of Missouri RB Tyler Badie. Yeah, the Tigers probably win if its star was playing, but whatever – Army took down the SEC team.

Missouri had chance after chance after chance to all but put this away, but it settled for way too many field goals early as Army bent but didn’t break. Tiger QB Brady Cook almost got the job done on a thrilling late scoring drive, but the door was left open after a failed two point conversion.

Up 22-21, all the SEC defense had to do was come up with one more stop, but the Black Knight offense got it done, Cole Talley nailed a 41-yard walk-off field goal, and in the end, this became Exhibit A of why bowl games are fun.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: The Classics No. 2

Bowl Rankings: Classic Bowls

2. TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Purdue 48, Tennessee 45 OT
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 12
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 22
5 Thoughts: TransPerfect Music City Bowl Analysis

This was a (Trans)perfect non-New Year’s Six bowl. Sorry.

Tons of offense, tons of momentum swings, tons of drama, tons of energy, tons of fans in the stands, and one whopper of a controversy to close, this was what you want in a bowl game.

Tennessee was up 21-7, Purdue scored 16 straight points in the second quarter, the two teams traded shots back and forth in a wild second half, and then came the finish. Tennessee RB Jaylen Wright was stuffed on fourth down just before the goal line, kept creeping, got the ball in the end zone, and … forward momentum stopped. Purdue ball, field goal, ball game.

With close to 1,400 yards of total offense helped by five touchdowns of over 40 yards, it was one of the highest-octane bowls of all-time.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1

NEXT Bowl Rankings: The Classics No. 1

Bowl Rankings: Classic Bowls

1. Rose Bowl Game

Ohio State 48, Utah 45
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 5
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: 24, 2019: 6
5 Thoughts: Rose Bowl Reaction

And to think, there were a whole lot of Ohio State fans who didn’t think going to the Rose Bowl was any big deal, and it certainly wasn’t worth it if it meant Michigan had to win the Big Ten Championship.

Buckeye fans didn’t travel for this like normal, there were a few big opt-outs, and …

It’s okay to enjoy nice things.

It wasn’t for the national title, and it wasn’t a College Football playoff game, but it was among the most entertaining and craziest games in the history of the best event in the best setting in all of sports, all while everyone was watching.

Find a more breathtaking seven minute of game action in football history than the end of the first half.

The game went from 21-7 Utah to 35-21 Utes with a kick six, two 50+ yard touchdown passes, a 62-yard touchdown run, and a stage that was set for a great second half.

The world was introduced to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the magnificent young Ohio State receiver who caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three scores, Marvin Harrison Jr. caught three touchdown passes, CJ Stroud all but won the 2022 Heisman with 573 yards and and six scoring throws, and it still almost wasn’t enough.

Utah was amazing.

QB Cam Rising was nearly perfect through the air and ran for 92 yards and a score, but it was supposedly over after he got hurt. Instead Bryson Barnes stepped in and led the way to a touchdown drive to tie it at 45 with just under two minutes to play.

Stroud went to work, Noah Ruggles hit a 19-yard field goal, and Ohio State won a classic.

Bowl Rankings 2021-2022
Cancel Culture | “Too Many Bowls”
Just Bowls | “Bowl Games Matter” | Great Bowls
Classic Bowls No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 | No. 1