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Some of the can’t-miss or skip-'em bowl games

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Florida head coach Urban Meyer reacts as he leaves the field after defeating Alabama 31-20 in the SEC championship game.

Florida head coach Urban Meyer reacts as he leaves the field after defeating Alabama 31-20 in the SEC championship game.

Stephen Morton, Associated Press

It's bowling season.

Starting today, a grand total of 34 bowl games will be played in 20 days. It all starts with Wake Forest and Navy playing in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium this morning.

It culminates with a game that will generate slightly more interest and excitement when Florida and former Utah coach Urban Meyer square off with Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game on Jan. 8.

With 68 of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams qualifying for bowl games, it goes without saying that some teams aren't deserving of playing in the postseason and some matchups aren't worth watching.

That's where we come in. We've identified 10 must-see bowl games, five must-miss contests, and ranked the rest in terms of how watchable they'll be. Despite the high number of teams playing in bowls, there are some intriguing games, and one that will determine the 2008 national champion.

The best 10:

1. BCS Championship game, Florida vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 8, 6 p.m.

On paper, this looks like a dream college football matchup, and not just because Ohio State isn't here to ruin the title game for the third straight year. The game features the last two Heisman Trophy winners in Florida's Tim Tebow and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, and two explosive offenses.

Oklahoma scores an average of 54 points per game and Florida scores 45.2. The two teams have never met.

2. Sugar Bowl, Alabama vs. Utah, Jan. 2, 6 p.m.

Utah would like to be as dominant as the 2004 Utes were in a BCS bowl, and the Utes certainly want to avoid getting trounced like Hawaii did in last year's Sugar Bowl. The best bet for this game is that it will resemble Boise State's bid into the BCS when it stunned Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. This game should go down to the wire.

3. Rose Bowl, USC vs. Penn State, Jan. 1, 2:30 p.m.

These two tradition-rich programs comprise a classic matchup. Just think of the atmosphere on New Year's Day with the uniforms on the field and the bright Southern California sun. Both teams could have been playing in the BCS Championship game if each hadn't suffered a shocking road upset.

4. Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State vs. Texas, Jan. 5, 6 p.m.

OK, so we made a joke about the Buckeyes not ruining the title game this year. The truth is that Ohio State came on strong at the end of the year and has a realistic shot at beating the Longhorns in this game. If Texas is pouting about not playing for the national championship, it'd better stop and get prepared for a red-hot Ohio State team.

5. Poinsettia Bowl, TCU vs. Boise State, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

The second- and third-best non-BCS conference teams should put on a classic. Boise State has the right to feel robbed about missing a BCS bowl game after going undefeated during the regular season, which included a victory at 17th-ranked Oregon. Here's the Broncos' chance to show they were slighted against a TCU team that was a late Brian Johnson touchdown pass away from busting the BCS.

6. Las Vegas Bowl, BYU vs. Arizona, today, 6 p.m.

Regardless of the weather for this game, it could be a shootout. Arizona scores an average of 37.1 points per game and BYU puts up 35.3. It's the third straight year the two teams have played. The Wildcats will be highly motivated to win tonight after putting together a winning season and qualifying for a bowl for the first time since 1998.

7. Holiday Bowl, Oklahoma State vs. Oregon, Dec. 30, 6 p.m.

This could be an old-school Holiday Bowl featuring a lot of points and excitement. This is another game that will pit two high-scoring teams against each other. Both teams average more than 40 points per game.

8. Cotton Bowl, Texas Tech vs. Mississippi, Jan. 2, noon

The Red Raiders, 11-1, will enjoy a home-state advantage against Mississippi. But don't take the Bulldogs lightly in this game. They beat both Florida and LSU this season, and have won five straight games.

9. Sun Bowl, Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 31, noon

Jacquizz Rodgers should return after missing the Beavers' regular-season finale in the "Civil War" against Oregon. The two teams are coming in heading in opposite directions. Its loss to the Ducks kept Oregon State from a BCS bowl. Pittsburgh is here after upsetting West Virginia in its regular-season finale.

10. Alamo Bowl, Missouri vs. Northwestern, Dec. 29, 6 p.m.

The Tigers were one of the nation's hottest teams early in the year. They struggled in big games, and could be in for another tough one against the underrated Wildcats.

The bottom five:

5. International Bowl, Buffalo vs. Connecticut, Jan. 3, 10 a.m.

Who plans this game? Once again, it is scheduled on the same day that the NFL playoffs start. And they bring in two college football powerhouses in Buffalo and Connecticut. Skip it.

4. New Mexico Bowl, Colorado State vs. Fresno State, today, 12:30 p.m.

This game should have all the intensity of an early September showdown.

3. Independence Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 28, 6:15 p.m.

This bowl has tie-ins to the Big 12 and SEC, but neither conference could qualify enough teams. So instead the bowl gets these two former Big West Conference rivals.

Oh, you didn't know they used to be in the same conference? Bowl organizers should be promoting that like crazy.

2. Orange Bowl, Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, Jan. 1, 6:30 p.m.

This should set record-low ratings for a BCS bowl game. What a waste of a New Year's night bowl game.

1. Motor City Bowl, Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 26, 5:30 p.m.

When you have a game that features a team with Atlantic in its title playing against a Central anything, you're doomed if you're looking for a good football game. But at least all the empty seats in Ford Field will make for compelling TV.

Ranking the rest of the bowl games

11. Capital One Bowl, Georgia vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1, 11 a.m.

12. GMAC Bowl, Tulsa vs. Ball State, Jan. 6, 6 p.m.

13. Chick-fil-A Bowl, LSU vs. Georgia Tech, Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m.

14. Hawaii Bowl, Hawaii vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 24, 6 p.m.

15. Gator Bowl, Clemson vs. Nebraska, Jan. 1, 11 a.m.

16. Champs Sports Bowl, Florida St. vs. Wisconsin, Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m.

17. Outback Bowl, South Carolina vs. Iowa, Jan. 1, 9 a.m.

18. Emerald Bowl, Miami vs. California, Dec. 27, 6 p.m.

19. Music City Bowl, B. College vs. Vanderbilt, Dec. 31, 1:30 p.m.

20. Meineke Car Care Bowl, W. Virginia vs. UNC, Dec. 27, 11 a.m.

21. PapaJohns.com Bowl, N.C. State vs. Rutgers, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.

22. Armed Forces Bowl, Air Force vs. Houston, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.

23. EagleBank Bowl, Wake Forest vs. Navy, today, 9 a.m.

24. Insight Bowl, Kansas vs. Minnesota, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m.

25. Liberty Bowl, East Carolina vs. Kentucky, Jan. 2, 3 p.m.

26. Humanitarian Bowl, Nevada vs. Maryland, Dec. 30, 2:30 p.m.

27. Texas Bowl, Rice vs. Western Michigan, Dec. 30, 6 p.m.

28. St. Petersburg Bowl, So. Florida vs. Memphis, today, 2:30 p.m.

29. New Orleans Bowl, Troy vs. So. Mississippi, Sunday, 6:15 p.m.


E-mail: aaragon@desnews.com