The 10 best bowl games outside College Football Playoff we can’t wait to watch

Bowl season is the best excuse to watch football.

It’s not just about the semifinals of the college football playoffs. There are 39 more bowl games on the schedule and there’s almost always a reason to watch football over the holidays.

Football is football right? It could be two under-the-radar groups of 5 teams, an NFL prospect we haven’t gotten enough of seeing, or just a fun two-school matchup we’ve been waiting for. There is a bit of everything on this list. We’ve found 10 non-CFP bowl matchups you can’t miss in 2022-23.

MORE: Against the spread picks for every bowl game

Top 10 Bowl Games We Can’t Wait For

Cure Bowl: Troy vs. UTSA

Thursday, December 16, 3 p.m. ESPN

The Conference USA and Sun Belt champions clash in a battle of 11-2 teams – and rising coaches in UTSA’s Jeff Traylor and Troy’s Jon Sumrall. UTSA is in the top 10 on offense overall (486.1 yards per game), and quarterback Frank Harris is a fantastic playmaker. Troy won 10 straight games after losing to Appalachian State in Hail Mary fashion.

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: Fresno State vs. Washington State

Friday, December 17, 3:30 p.m., ABC

That depends a bit on whether Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener will play for the Mountain West Conference champions. Haener entered the transfer portal last season before returning to the Bulldogs, and he hasn’t thrown an interception in his last five starts. Washington State quarterback Cam Ward had four 300-yard games and may lead the Cougars to eight wins in 2022. That’s progress for first-year coach Jake Dickert.

THE CASE FOR: Georgia | Michigan | State of Ohio | TCU

SDCU Holiday Bowl: #15 Oregon vs. North Carolina

Wednesday, Dec. 28, 8 p.m., FOX

The Holiday Bowl is back after a two-year absence. It’s fun in the sun for the Ducks and Tar Heels, two teams who have missed chances this season but each have a 10-win chance. Oregon quarterback Bo Nix was one of the top transfer portal finds, and Drake Maye was a breakout star for the Tar Heels.

Valero Alamo Bowl: #12 Washington vs. #20 Texas

Thursday, December 29, 9 p.m. ESPN

Here’s another quarterback matchup we can’t wait for. Quinn Ewers earned a chance to lead Texas to nine wins, and Michael Penix Jr. worked wonders for Washington in the freshman year with Kalen DeBoer. The Longhorns can win this bowl for the third time in four years. It’s going to be a high score affair.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Notre Dame vs. South Carolina

Friday, December 30, 3:30 p.m. ESPN

The Lou Holtz bowl. Each bowl season features a two-team “It” matchup for the following season. That’s all. The Gamecocks ended the season with big wins over Tennessee and Clemson, and for sophomore coach Shane Beamer it would be great to finish that off against Notre Dame. Marcus Freeman is also a year behind and Drew Pyne is on the transfer portal. What will the Irish do at quarterback?

MORE: Tracking notable QBs in the transfer portal

Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Tennessee

Friday, December 30 at 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Who gets the memo to wear orange? The Vols have had a breakthrough season and it’s a chance to prove it against the ACC Masters. This will also be newcomer Cade Klubnik’s first start for the Tigers. That alone will be a must-see on TV against the Vols and their high-profile offense. Tennessee is on the rise. Clemson has tried to stay there for the past two seasons.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Kansas State

Saturday, December 31, 12 p.m. ESPN

The Crimson Tide failed to make the playoffs despite a political push from Nick Saban. Will Bryce Young get out of the Sugar Bowl against the Wildcats – who claim an exciting Big 12 championship win? Deuce Vaughn will get his chances against the Crimson Tide defense. Alabama has not lost a bowl game outside of the CFP since 2013.


Vrbo Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Purdue

Monday, January 2, 1 p.m. ABC

There’s always a great bowl match between the SEC and the Big Ten, and this is the best. Quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Aidan O’Connell should be able to put up an offensive show between teams that lost their conference championship games. It’s also Brian Kelly’s first bowl game with the Tigers.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Tulane vs. USC

Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ESPN

Caleb Williams remains the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, and USC has 12 wins under first-year coach Lincoln Riley. The Trojans averaged 41.1 points per game. Tulane wasn’t too far behind at 35.2 points per game, and this will be a preview of how the Group 5 schools fare in the 12-team playoffs.

MORE: What a 12-team CFP bracket would look like

Rose Bowl Game: Utah vs. Penn State

Monday, Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ESPN

Utah is back in the Rose Bowl after losing a thriller to Ohio State last year, and the Nittany Lions are aiming for an 11-win season. Cam Rising was great for the Utes and it’s a bye game for veteran Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. Which young playmakers on both sides will rise? Tell me, Nick Singleton? This game will not disappoint you.