The best of the bowls: Ranking 1-38

OK, give the College Football Playoff selection committee some credit.

Despite the controversy and debate, the committee provided us with two compelling semifinal games and a potentially memorable national championship game in the first season of the four-team playoff.

It also made the right calls on the other New Year's Six bowl games.

Before the national champion raises the trophy on Jan. 12, we'll get to see 38 other bowl games (not counting the title game) from coast to coast, starting on Dec. 20.

Here's the bowl lineup, ranked from best game to worst:

1. Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
5 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN)

One of the two College Football Playoff semifinal game features Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, against Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the favorite to win it this year. The Seminoles will be making a trip back to the Rose Bowl, where they won last year's national title game.

2. Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State
8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN)

The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes were the sport's two hottest teams in the final month of the regular season, and Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer will rekindle their coaching rivalry in the other CFP semifinal game. The Buckeyes will try to end their 0-10 slide against SEC teams (including their vacated victory over Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl).

3. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor
12:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN)

The Bears are peeved about being left out of the College Football Playoff, but they should be motivated to make amends for their flop in a 52-42 loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl last season. It will be a matchup of very contrasting styles: Baylor's high-octane offense against Michigan State's menacing defense.

4. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 9 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 TCU
12:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (ESPN)

The Horned Frogs were the other Big 12 team left out of the playoffs, and they'll have to get over their disappointment if they're going to beat the Rebels. Ole Miss salvaged what was becoming a disappointing finish by upsetting rival Mississippi State 31-17 in the Egg Bowl. TCU's spread offense will be a major test for the Rebels' stout defense.

5. Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (ESPN)

The Yellow Jackets can earn the ACC a ton of respect by upsetting a top-10 SEC opponent for the second time this season. Georgia Tech came up just short in a 37-35 loss to Florida State in the ACC championship game, and its triple-option offense might give the Bulldogs fits. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the country until losing two of their last three games to Alabama and Ole Miss.

6. Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 11 Kansas State vs. No. 14 UCLA
6:45 p.m. ET, Jan. 2 (ESPN)

UCLA's first trip to the Alamo Bowl figures to be quarterback Brett Hundley's last game in a Bruins uniform, as the junior is expected to enter the 2015 NFL draft. Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters also will be playing in his final college contest. Both teams lost their final regular-season game, so both will be motivated to finish on a winning note.

7. Belk Bowl
No. 13 Georgia vs. No. 21 Louisville
6:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (ESPN)

Welcome to the Todd Grantham Bowl. Grantham, the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, bolted Georgia after the 2013 season and didn't exactly leave on the best of terms. He'll try to help the Cardinals shut down UGA's high-powered rushing attack. Plus, Louisville can get an early start on scouting any Georgia players that might be dismissed from the team next summer.

8. VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
No. 20 Boise State vs. No. 10 Arizona
4 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (ESPN)

After barely putting up a fight against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, the Wildcats will look for a better performance in their first Fiesta Bowl since shutting out Miami 29-0 at the end of the 1993 season. The Broncos are playing in their third Fiesta Bowl, but this team probably isn't as good as the ones that upset Oklahoma in 2006 and beat TCU in 2009.

9. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. No. 23 LSU
3 p.m. ET, Dec. 30 (ESPN)

Two of the sport's traditional heavyweights will battle in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Fighting Irish will try to end a four-game slide to build some momentum for 2015. Notre Dame hasn't defeated an SEC opponent in a bowl since beating Florida 38-28 in the 1991 Sugar Bowl. The Irish have dropped three straight postseason games against SEC foes, including two to LSU.

10. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
2 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN)

Neither team was very good this season, but for pure entertainment, this game is going to be fun to watch. In fact, they might want to install triple-digit scoreboards at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. The Aggies and Mountaineers are capable of scoring a lot of points, and both teams have struggled to stop opponents. Texas A&M has already fired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen worked as Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin's offensive coordinator at Houston from 2008 to '09.

11. Outback Bowl
No. 19 Auburn vs. No. 18 Wisconsin
Noon ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN2)

Both teams suffered disappointing finishes to the regular season, as the Badgers were crushed 59-0 by Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and Auburn lost its last three SEC games. It might be one of the shortest bowl games of the season; Wisconsin is No. 4 nationally in rushing and Auburn is No. 12. It will be the final college game for Badgers tailback Melvin Gordon, who has run for 2,336 yards with 26 touchdowns this season.

12. National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. No. 24 USC
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN)

The two storied programs have met only four times and never in a bowl game. The Cornhuskers fired coach Bo Pelini two days after the regular season ended and then hired Oregon State's Mike Riley to replace him. Assistant Barney Cotton will serve as Nebraska's interim coach. USC first-year coach Steve Sarkisian guided Washington to a 19-7 victory over the Cornhuskers in the 2010 Holiday Bowl.

13. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
No. 16 Missouri vs. No. 25 Minnesota
1 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC)

The Gophers and Tigers put together nice seasons, but it never really seemed like they were as good as the elite teams in their respective conferences. Still, it's a matchup of two of the sport's more underrated coaches -- Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Minnesota's Jerry Kill. It's the Gophers' first trip to a New Year's Day bowl game since beating UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl. Minnesota also will try to end a six-game losing streak in bowl games.

14. Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
6 p.m. ET, Dec. 23 (ESPN)

Set aside your Power 5 arrogance and hear me out. The Thundering Herd and Huskies were two of the best teams from the Group of 5 conferences this season. Marshall went 12-1 and its only loss was 67-66 in overtime to Western Kentucky. Northern Illinois went 11-2, falling to Arkansas and Central Michigan. Seeing Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato in action is enough of a reason to watch.

15. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
9 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN)

It would have been nice if the grown-ups at Texas and Texas A&M would have put aside their differences (or had enough guts) to play each other in this game. Instead, we'll still get a pretty good matchup between the Longhorns and Razorbacks, who are old Southwest Conference rivals and have played 77 times.

16. Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina
3:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ABC)

Both teams limped through disappointing seasons, but it's always fun when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier hooks up with the Hurricanes. Both teams are 6-6 and the loser will finish with a losing record. Miami will be trying to avoid its first losing season since 2007; Spurrier will be trying to avoid his first since his 1987 Duke team went 5-6. Who knew you couldn't spell Shreveport without S-T-E-V-E?

17. Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. No. 17 Clemson
5:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN)

I'd probably be a lot more excited about this game if I knew that Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson was going to play. Watson, who led the Tigers to a 35-17 victory over South Carolina while playing with a torn ACL, might undergo surgery to repair his knee and miss the bowl game. It certainly seems like the smart thing to do. Cole Stoudt, who has struggled mightily lately, would start if Watson can't play. The Tigers will already be without former offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who left to become SMU's new coach. After a disappointing 8-4 season, the Sooners can probably lock up a top-five preseason ranking in 2015 if they defeat the Tigers. That's how it works, right?

18. TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee
3:20 p.m. ET, Jan. 2 (ESPN)

Tennessee fans keep waiting for the Volunteers to break back through; Iowa fans keep waiting for coach Kirk Ferentz to actually earn his $4 million salary. The Volunteers are playing in their first January bowl since 2007, and can continue to gain momentum under coach Butch Jones by finishing 7-6 if they beat the Hawkeyes.

19. Hyundai Sun Bowl
No. 15 Arizona State vs. Duke
2 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (CBS)

The Blue Devils and Sun Devils will both be aiming toward finishing with 10 victories, which hasn't happened a lot in the history of either program. Arizona State hasn't won 10 games in back-to-back seasons since 1972-73; Duke has never accomplished the feat.

20. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
3:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 20 (ABC)

The matchup lost a little of its luster when Colorado State's Jim McElwain left last week to become Florida's new coach. But the Rams can become only the second team in program history to win 11 games. They also can defeat a Power 5 opponent for the fourth straight time, after beating Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl last season and Colorado and Boston College this season.

21. Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
2 p.m. ET, Dec. 22 (ESPN)

Memphis was one of the country's biggest surprises under up-and-coming coach Justin Fuente, winning its last six games to claim a share of an AAC title. The Tigers are playing in their first bowl game since 2008 and will be going for their first postseason win since beating Akron 38-31 in the 2005 Motor City Bowl. The Cougars are 6-3 in bowl games under coach Bronco Mendenhall.

22. New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Penn State vs. Boston College
4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN)

The Nittany Lions are back in the postseason for the first time since 2011 after the NCAA lifted its four-year bowl ban early. Penn State hasn't played in New York since a 75-0 win against Fordham at the Polo Grounds in 1947. The Nittany Lions will try to finish with a winning record under first-year coach James Franklin after dropping six of their last eight games.

23. Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford
10 p.m. ET, Dec. 30 (ESPN)

Welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland. After going 7-5 in its first season in the league, the Terrapins will get to spend the postseason nearly 3,000 miles from home. Stanford, which upset then-No. 8 UCLA 31-10 in its regular-season finale, isn't playing in a BCS-type bowl game for the first time in five seasons. At least Stanford will be playing close to home at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

24. Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 26 (ESPN)

NC State bounced back from a dreadful start to coach Dave Doeren's tenure by finishing 7-5 this season. UCF went 9-3 after losing star quarterback Blake Bortles. Both head coaches have guided underdog teams to the big stage. Doeren guided Northern Illinois to the 2013 Orange Bowl and George O'Leary led UCF to last season's Fiesta Bowl.

25. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
5:45 p.m. ET, Dec. 20 (ESPN)

Let's call it the "Charles Barkley Bowl" because both teams put together incredible rebound seasons in 2013. Western Michigan went from 1-11 to 8-4; Air Force improved from 2-10 to 9-3. The Broncos will be trying to win their first bowl game after losing in their previous five postseason appearances. They're among eight FBS teams that have played in bowl games and never won. Only Ball State (0-7) has played in more bowl games without winning.

26. Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
1 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN)

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock was the man who hired Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville, and he'll be the man who might have to decide Hokies coach Frank Beamer's future. Beamer will be back next season, but the Hokies will have to show great improvement. Cincinnati went 9-3 and earned a share of the American title.

27. Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
2:20 p.m. ET, Dec. 20 (ESPN)

The Miners might be seeing double when they take on the Aggies. Utah State linebackers Zach Vigil and Nick Vigil are brothers who have combined to make a whopping 261 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Utah State will be shooting for a 10-win season, while the Miners will be going for their first eight-win season since 2005.

28. Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Noon ET, Dec. 24 (ESPN)

Fried chicken, red beans and rice and sand between your toes. Is there a better postseason destination than the inaugural Bahamas Bowl? The Chippewas went 7-5 and took down Purdue 38-17 on the road. The Hilltoppers went 7-5 and spoiled Marshall's bid for a perfect season with a 67-66 victory in overtime. WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty has passed for 4,344 yards with 44 touchdowns.

29. Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida
1 p.m. ET, Jan. 3 (ESPN)

This isn't where East Carolina or Florida expected to be in the postseason, but both teams will try to make the best of it. The Gators went 6-5 and fired coach Will Muschamp before hiring McElwain to replace him. The Pirates won six of their first seven games and looked destined for a New Year's Six bowl game, but then they dropped three of their last five games. ECU has four wins over Power 5 teams in the past two seasons, including victories over Virginia Tech and North Carolina this season.

30. TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State
10:15 p.m. ET, Jan. 2 (ESPN)

The Huskies went 8-5 in coach Chris Petersen's first season, with each of their losses coming against ranked opponents. Washington's defense has been dominant and is fun to watch, with future NFL players like Shaq Thompson, Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton dominating opponents. The Pokes upset rival Oklahoma 38-35 in Saturday's Bedlam game to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible.

31. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh
Noon ET, Jan. 2 (ESPN)

We can call it the "Underappreciated Bowl." The Cougars fired coach Tony Levine on Sunday after he guided the Cougars to a 21-17 record in three seasons and back-to-back bowl games. He wasn't as good as his predecessor, Sumlin, but was still pretty good. The Panthers went 6-6 and never seem to get enough credit for being a pretty good team.

32. Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 26 (ESPN)

Both coaches could use a bowl victory to turn things back in the right direction heading into the offseason. The Tar Heels just can't seem to get things started under Larry Fedora, and the Scarlet Knights haven't been nearly as good under Kyle Flood as they were under Greg Schiano.

33. Hawai'i Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
8 p.m. ET, Dec. 24 (ESPN)

It's only fitting that Fresno State is playing on Christmas Eve. Playing in a postseason bowl game has to seem like a gift, after the Bulldogs started the season 0-3 and 3-6. Fresno State won its last three regular-season games to finish 6-6, and then lost to Boise State 28-14 in the Mountain West Conference championship game. The Bulldogs received a waiver to play in the postseason at 6-7.

34. Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26 (ESPN)

Both teams went 4-8 last season, but rebounded to reach the postseason this year. Illinois defeated Northwestern 47-33 on the road to finish 6-6 and reach its first bowl game in coach Tim Beckman's three seasons. The Bulldogs went 8-5 in coach Skip Holtz's second season and lost to Marshall 26-23 in the Conference USA championship game.

35. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
9:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 23 (ESPN)

The Aztecs love playing home games. The Poinsettia Bowl has to feel like home for the Midshipmen, who will be playing there for the fourth time since 2005. The Aztecs defeated Navy 35-14 in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. No, silly, the Midshipmen weren't the last team to lose to a Brady Hoke-coached squad.

36. GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State
9 p.m. ET, Jan. 4 (ESPN)

Nothing against the Rockets and Red Wolves, but who didn't want to see Texas State and coach Dennis Franchione in this game? Coach Fran back in Alabama? Talk about swag. Arkansas State is playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the fourth straight season, winning the last two.

37. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
11 a.m. ET, Dec. 20 (ESPN)

The New Orleans Bowl will kick off the bowl season on Dec. 20, and it was pretty smart of game organizers to schedule kickoff for 10 a.m. local time. Ragin' Cajuns in New Orleans? Then again, it probably won't matter.

38. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
9:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 20 (ESPN)

The Jaguars will play in their first bowl game not far from home in the inaugural Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. The Jaguars made the postseason in their sixth season of existence. Congrats.