A viewer's guide to the most (and least) entertaining bowls

The most wonderful time of the year is here.

The 2016 bowl season kicks off with six games on Saturday. We'll have to wait until Dec. 31 for the College Football Playoff semifinals, but there are plenty of other compelling bowl games to watch between now and then.

Which games are the most interesting? We rank each of the 41 bowl games from best to worst:

1. College Football Playoff semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson (Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

A prime-time quarterback matchup (Clemson's Deshaun Watson vs. Ohio State's J.T. Barrett) and a big-time coaching duel (Clemson's Dabo Swinney vs. Ohio State's Urban Meyer) with a spot in the CFP National Championship Game on the line. What more could you want?

2. College Football Playoff semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama (Dec. 31, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

Defending national champion Alabama is two victories away from completing the first 15-0 season in modern college football history. The Crimson Tide must defeat the Pac-12 champion Huskies to advance to the CFP National Championship Game. Will Washington coach Chris Petersen have another trick up his sleeve?

3. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State (Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California)

Two of the hottest teams in the FBS square off in "The Granddaddy of Them All." The Nittany Lions won their past nine games after starting 2-2; the Trojans won their final eight after starting 1-3.

4. Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State (Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida)

The Wolverines just missed making the College Football Playoff, but they'll have to bounce back to slow down Seminoles tailback Dalvin Cook. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher already has won something Michigan's Jim Harbaugh wants: a national championship.

5. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: No. 20 LSU vs. No. 13 Louisville (Dec. 31, 11 a.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida)

New LSU coach Ed Orgeron will try to carry some momentum into the offseason by handing Louisville its third straight loss. The game will feature one of the best tactical matchups of the postseason: Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino vs. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

6. Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 14 Auburn vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans)

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his high-octane offense get another chance to take down an SEC opponent. Auburn's offense should be better if quarterback Sean White is healthy.

7. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Colorado (Dec. 29, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas)

We probably won't see another 31-point second-half comeback, like last season's Oregon-TCU game, in which the Horned Frogs prevailed here. But the Buffaloes and Cowboys might still produce one of the more compelling games of the postseason.

8. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas)

The undefeated Broncos will row their boat to the Cotton Bowl, where they'll look to become only the sixth FBS team to finish a season with a 14-0 record.

9. Las Vegas Bowl presented by Geico: Houston vs. San Diego State (Dec. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)
(Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas)

The Cougars will try to slow Aztecs star Donnel Pumphrey, who needs 108 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in FBS history.

10. Russell Athletic Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia vs. Miami (Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida)

The Hurricanes and Mountaineers renew an old Big East rivalry. The Hurricanes haven't won a bowl game since 2006, and coach Mark Richt will try to end their six-game losing streak in the postseason in his first year.

11. Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis vs. Western Kentucky (Dec. 20, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida)

Get out your calculators. The Hilltoppers ranked No. 2 in the FBS with 45.1 points per game; the Tigers were 17th with 39.5.

12. Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 18 Stanford vs. North Carolina (Dec. 30, 2 p.m. ET, CBS)
(Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas)

It's your last chance to see Stanford star Christian McCaffrey in a college uniform. Do you really need another reason to watch?

13. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Nebraska vs. No. 21 Tennessee (Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee)

The Cornhuskers had problems scoring down the stretch. That shouldn't be a problem against the Volunteers, who were torched for a combined total of 118 points and 1,983 yards in their past three games.

14. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs. Wyoming (Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego)

We really need a WAC marathon before this one.

15. Belk Bowl: Arkansas vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech (Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina)

If you haven't heard, Hogs coach Bret Bielema didn't include the Hokies on his final ballot in the coaches' poll. He later explained that it was an oversight by the person who fills out his ballot. Yeah, right.

16. Outback Bowl: No. 17 Florida vs. Iowa (Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)
(Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida)

First team to 13 points wins, am I right?

17. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State (Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas)

If nothing else, you can watch Kansas State coach Bill Snyder break in his new pullover.

18. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. TCU (Dec. 30, noon, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee)

Both of these teams were ranked in the top 15 after the opening week of the season. Then things kind of changed.

19. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern (Dec. 28, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York)

The Panthers beat No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State. How many other teams can say that?

20. TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky (Dec. 31, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida)

The Yellow Jackets and Wildcats have a lot in common. They both probably overachieved to upset their more celebrated in-state rivals at season's end.

21. Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana vs. No. 19 Utah (Dec. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
(Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California)

Indiana fans will get their first look at the Hoosiers under new coach Tom Allen.

22. National Funding Holiday Bowl: Minnesota vs. Washington State (Dec. 27, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego)

Remember that time the Gophers had a 31-point lead over a Mike Leach-coached team in a bowl game? In the 2006 Insight Bowl, Texas Tech rallied from a 38-7 deficit to stun Minnesota 44-41 in overtime.

23. Camping World Independence Bowl: NC State vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App)
(Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana)

It's not every day that you get a chance to watch the state champions of North Carolina and Tennessee play in Louisiana.

24. Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. South Carolina (Dec. 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama)

Biggest reason to watch: South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers might be the best player you haven't yet heard about.

25. Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: Boise State vs. Baylor (Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Chase Field, Phoenix)

Baylor won its first six games and lost its next six; now the Bears finish their season in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.

26. AutoNation Cure Bowl: UCF vs. Arkansas State (Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
(Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida)

Talk about turnarounds: The Knights improved from 0-12 in 2015 to 6-6 this season under first-year coach Scott Frost; the Red Wolves started 0-4, then won seven of eight games to finish 7-5.

27. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo (Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama)

What do the Mountaineers and Rockets have in common? They both defeated Michigan in the past nine seasons.

28. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho vs. Colorado State (Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho)

It might be your last chance to see Idaho in a bowl. The Vandals are making the unprecedented drop from the FBS to FCS after the 2017 season. They finished 8-4 this season, which is one more win than they had in their previous four seasons combined.

29. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (Ohio) vs. Mississippi State (Dec. 26, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida)

No, Ole Miss isn't the best 5-7 team in the FBS. Mississippi State beat Texas A&M and the Rebels down the stretch to secure a bowl bid based on its Academic Progress Rate score.

30. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. No. 25 Navy (Dec. 23, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas)

This game probably would have been a lot more compelling if Navy hadn't lost another quarterback to a season-ending injury. At least the Midshipmen will have a couple of weeks to get somebody ready to direct the triple-option offense.

31. Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: No. 24 Temple vs. Wake Forest (Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland)

You might get to see the Demon Deacons score against the Owls for the first time in school history. Temple won the only previous meeting, 36-0 in 1930, in the first night game played at Temple Stadium.

32. Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy (Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama)

How's this for a coaching matchup? Ohio's Frank Solich, 72, is twice as old as Troy's Neal Brown, 36. When Brown was born on March 11, 1980, Solich was coming off his first season coaching Nebraska's freshman team.

33. Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion (Dec. 23, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas)

At least you'll get to see two football teams that are going to cherish their opportunity to play in the postseason. The Eagles haven't played in a bowl since 1987; the Monarchs are making their first bowl appearance.

34. Hawai'i Bowl: Hawai'i vs. Middle Tennessee (Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Aloha Stadium, Honolulu)

The Rainbow Warriors probably don't want to hear about Middle Tennessee's travel concerns about heading to the islands. Hawaii traveled more than 19,000 miles to play California in Australia and Michigan on the road for its first two games this season. At least Hawai'i will get to stay home for the postseason.

35. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana Lafayette (Dec. 17, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans)

It might be a matchup of 6-6 teams, but it's going to be one heck of a party on Bourbon Street and inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

36. Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Tulsa (Dec. 19, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Marlins Park, Miami)

Tulsa's high-powered offense is fun to watch. The Golden Hurricane averaged 41 points per game and scored 31 or more in every game but one, a 48-3 loss at Ohio State.

37. Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland vs. Boston College (Dec. 26, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Ford Field, Detroit)

Hey, at least Rutgers isn't playing.

38. Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: North Carolina Central vs. Grambling State (Dec. 17, noon ET, ABC/ESPN App)
(Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

The HBCU showdown in the Georgia Dome is about more than the halftime show. After winning one game in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013, the Tigers have won 20 games over the past two seasons.

39. Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: South Alabama vs. Air Force (Dec. 30, 5:30 p.m. ET, Campus Insiders)
(Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona)

South Alabama upset Mississippi State on the road to open the season, but it didn't win again away from home -- losing at Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho.

40. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. Texas San Antonio (Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
(University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico)

This will be Texas San Antonio's first-ever bowl game. The Roadrunners started their program in 2011 and are only in their fifth season of FBS play, matching the NCAA record for the fastest program to reach a bowl game, equaling South Alabama (2014) and Georgia State (2015).

41. Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army vs. North Texas (Dec. 27, noon, ESPN/ESPN App)
(Cotton Bowl, Dallas)

If you think you've seen this game before, it's because you have. The Mean Green knocked off the Black Knights 35-18 on Oct. 22. Army had four turnovers in its loss.