A focus group hired to review Rankman’s annual worst-to-best bowl picks concluded that this year’s guesses may be even better than last year’s guesses. Anyone using this list for wagering purposes has a serious problem and is probably never going get elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. The usual disclaimers apply: never use these rankings while operating heavy machinery. Children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult under 85. The use of these rankings and its contents, without the expressed, written consent of the author is strictly forbidden unless you really want to use them.
40: Cure, San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6), Dec. 19, CBSSN
Forget the cure…we want to know the cause.
Winner: Georgia State
39: Arizona, Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5), Dec. 29, Amer. Sports Network
The Mountain West got its ridges in a bunch after two of its teams were forced to play again even though no one remembers the first game. The SEC would have adamantly opposed the rematch in 2006, but approved of it in 2011.
Winner: Colorado State
38: Motel 6 Cactus, West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6), Jan. 2, ESPN
Arizona State was a top 15 preseason team many thought would end up in the Ritz Carlton Bowl. Instead, it joins a chain where every room has free HBO.
Winner: Arizona State
37: Quick Lane, Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7), Dec. 28, ESPN2
This college hockey round-up pairing conjures a lyric from that old Eagles song, “Life in the quick lane, surely make you lose your mind.”
36: Famous Idaho Potato, Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6), Dec. 22, ESPN
Terry Bowden has done a zip-bang job leading Akron to only its second bowl. It also doesn’t hurt for promotional purposes that he, sort of, resembles an Idaho potato.
35: Independence, Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6), Dec. 26, ESPN
Celebrate Frank Beamer’s last game as Hokies coach in Shreveport at Strawn’s Eat Shop, or maybe Bergeron’s Boudin and Cajun Meats.
Winner: Virginia Tech
34: New Mexico, Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5), Dec. 19, ESPN
Rich Rodriguez thought he’d be in South Carolina so won’t have any new plays prepared for game this against a really good former ESPN analyst named Bob Davie.
Winner: New Mexico
33: Bahamas, Middle Tennessee (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5), Dec. 24, ESPN
Player gift bag includes seven days, without food or fresh water, on deserted island with your pick of “Survivorman” Les Stroud or Bear Grylls.
Winner: Western Michigan
32: Heart of Dallas, Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4), Dec. 26, ESPN
This bowl game wasn’t randomly picked out of cowboy boot at the end of a long, boozy night of karaoke—but it could have been.
31: Liberty, Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5), Jan. 2, ESPN
Bill Snyder’s team needed a miracle finish against Iowa State to get to this bowl against an Arkansas team that lost to “Holy Toledo!”
30: Poinsettia, Northern Illinois (8-5) vs. Boise State (8-4), Dec. 23, ESPN
Boise demanded a faraway bowl game on green grass after losing two straight on the blue turf against New Mexico and Air Force.
Winner: Boise State
29: Camellia, Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2), Dec. 19, ESPN
Ken Burns returns to this lesser-known Civil War battle site to interview relatives of Shelby Foote for inclusion in the 25th anniversary box-set collection.
Winner: Appalachian State
28: Belk, N.C. State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4), Dec. 30, ESPN
A game with limited interest that makes you think the end of the year can’t get here soon enough.
Winner: Mississippi State
27: New Orleans, Louisiana Tech (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (9-3), Dec. 19, ESPN
How about that: the crummy Sun Belt team USC got criticized for scheduling, Arkansas State, ended up in a bowl city with better music and food.
Winner: Arkansas State
26: Miami Beach, South Florida (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (11-2), Dec. 21, ESPN
This bowl in South Florida, featuring South Florida, which is actually located in Central Florida, is best paired with the films “North by Northwest” and “Krakatoa, East of Java.” Note: Krakatoa is actually WEST of Java.
Winner: Western Kentucky
25: Pinstripe, Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6), Dec. 26, ABC
This “Holiday Classic” at Madison Square Garden features programs with 10 combined NCAA hoops titles. Joe Lunardi’s latest “bracketology” report has Indiana as a 9 seed in the South Region opening against Georgetown in Des Moines.
24: TaxSlayer, Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3), Jan.2, ESPN
You have permission to skip and watch a replay of the 1983 Sugar Bowl in which Penn State defeated Georgia to win the national title. Georgia would not win another SEC title until 2002, under Mark Richt, who was just fired.
Winner: Penn State
23: GoDaddy, Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Georgia Southern (8-4), Dec. 23, ESPN
Bowling Green coach Dino Babers is off to Syracuse where he joins Power Five ACC coaches Dabo and Jimbo.
Winner: Georgia Southern
22: Hawaii, Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3), Dec. 24, ESPN
San Diego State, while no one was looking, won the Mountain West and all the spoils that got dragged along with it.
Winner: San Diego State
21: St. Petersburg, Connecticut (6-6), vs. Marshall (9-3), Dec. 26, ESPN
In another time this game should have been played in the other St. Petersburg, preferably behind an Iron Curtain.
20: Sun, Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4), Dec. 26, CBS
Averaging 69 mph in a car, it takes 44 hours and 20 minutes to drive from Pullman to Miami. No one has ever made the return trip.
19: Music City, Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (8-4), Dec. 30, ESPN
Louisville lost its first three and then won seven of its next nine. Texas A&M won its first five before fading. Rankman thinks that means Louisville will lose the first quarter but win the last three.
18: Foster Farms, Nebraska (5-7) vs. UCLA (8-4), Dec. 26, ESPN
A winning record would have earned Nebraska a team hotel with access to the concierge level. All-you-can-eat “meatloaf special” on tap for Christmas dinner at “Tommy’s Joynt” on the corner of Van Ness and Geary.
17: Birmingham, Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3), Dec. 30, ESPN
Auburn should have played Arizona State, or Georgia Tech, in the “Biggest 2015 Disappointment Bowl.” Wagering gauge: Auburn lost to Mississippi, which lost to Memphis.
16: Military, Navy (10-2) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4), Dec. 28, ESPN
Navy has a helicopter standing by in case quarterback Keenan Reynolds gets invited to the post-game MVP ceremonies.
15: Armed Forces, California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5), Dec. 29, ESPN
Part of package in coaxing Sonny Dykes to stay at Cal included getting a Berkeley protester removed from his front lawn.
14: Russell Athletic, North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3), Dec. 29, ESPN
Replays still show North Carolina was “on-sides” against Clemson in the ACC title game. Injury-depleted Baylor expects to start a former left tackle at quarterback.
Winner: North Carolina
13: Texas, Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3), Dec. 29, ESPN
LSU will monitor Leonard Fournette’s electrolytes in a game in which he could run for 600 yards in retaliation for Heisman snub.
12: Citrus, Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3), Jan.1, ABC
One can only hope Florida’s vitamin-deficient offense is loading up on the citrus provided by this bowl, otherwise we’re looking at a 5-2 final.
11: Boca Raton, Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2), Dec. 22, ESPN
These capital “T” schools deserve a warm-weather bowl reward after outstanding seasons in which Temple defeated Penn State and Toledo hog-tied Arkansas.
10: Holiday, Wisconsin (9-3) vs. USC (8-5), Dec. 30, ESPN
If your grandpa went to USC ask him about the 1963 Rose Bowl and then go to a movie. When you come back he’ll still be talking about quarterback Ron VanderKelen nearly leading the Badgers back from 42-14 deficit.
9: Peach, Florida State (10-2) vs. Houston (12-1), Dec. 31, ESPN
A Houston Chronicle sports columnist has turned this high-flying circus into his own line of jellies and preserves: “Phi Slamma Peach Jamma.”
Winner: Florida State
8: Las Vegas, BYU (9-3) vs. Utah (9-3), Dec. 19, ABC
Taking the “The Holy War” to the Las Vegas strip is like moving a Tupperware party to Sodom and Gomorrah. After Utah defeated BYU in 2004 a Utes’ fan held up a sign at Rice-Eccles Stadium that read: “Where’s your God now?”
7: Outback, Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4), Jan. 1, ESPN
Northwestern has never won 11 games unless you count two or three seasons the school did it in basketball.
6: Sugar, Mississippi (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2), Jan.1, ESPN
The last time Ole Miss sweet-talked its way into the Sugar it had a Manning at quarterback. Eli? No, Archie.
5: Rose, Stanford (11-2) vs. Iowa (12-1), Jan. 1, ESPN
Rankman is reminded of L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray’s post-game recap after Iowa lost to UCLA in 1986. “These people are the salt of the earth. They feed the world. They just can’t play football…” Iowa’s governor shot back that Iowans were tough and “we’re coming back.”
4: Fiesta, Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1), Jan. 1, ESPN
Urban Meyer speaks about Notre Dame like an old girlfriend who got away, even though he had a chance to become coach in 2004 but chose Florida instead.
Winner: Notre Dame
3: Cotton, Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1), Dec. 31, ESPN
Michigan State will hold Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to 154 yards on 153 carries in a grind-it-out game so dry it will leave everyone with cotton mouth.
Winner: Michigan State
2: Orange, Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1), Dec. 31, ESPN
Clemson smoked Oklahoma. 40-6, in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. If that happens again, Bob Stoops may be working next year’s Orange Bowl as an in-studio analyst.
1: Alamo, Texas Christian (10-2) vs. Oregon (9-3), Jan. 2, ESPN
Remember this Alamo. It could have been a national title match up had these teams not suffered season-altering injuries. Trevone Boykin vs. Vernon Adams is the best QB bowl match-up this side of Deshaun Watson vs. Baker Mayfield.
Championship game, University of Phoenix Stadium, Jan. 11, ESPN: Oklahoma vs. Michigan State
Oklahoma reminds Rankman of last year’s Ohio State team, which lost early but rallied late to dominate the playoffs and win the national title.