Every college football fan wants his or her team to end up in one of the "New Year's Six" bowl games. When that happens, folks disrupt their holiday plans and make the trek to Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, or the Phoenix area.
However, only 12 teams make that cut each season and there are 36 other bowl games that need to put butts in the seats. Some of these games are worth adjusting holiday plans to go see, while others are not. There are numerous rankings of the bowls this year based on their slated matchups, but choosing to watch a game on television and actually traveling to it comes with a few more factors, including location, the game’s history, and its continued ability to produce quality matchups. Here is a ranking of the bowl games based on those factors.
36. Frisco Football Classic
Location: Toyota Stadium – Frisco, Texas
This Year’s Game: Miami (Ohio) vs. North Texas (Dec. 23, 2021)
Since this game was created just so all eligible teams could play in a bowl, we won’t spend a lot of time on it.
35. Camellia Bowl
Location: Cramton Bowl – Montgomery, Ala.
This Year’s Game: Ball State vs. Georgia State (Dec. 25, 2021)
If you’re a sports history buff, a trip to Montgomery to watch a game in the historic Cramton Bowl may be right up your alley. But for many, that’s a big if. It doesn't help that this year's game is being played on Christmas Day, a factor that is likely to drive down attendance.
34. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Location: Albertsons Stadium – Boise, Idaho
This Year’s Game: Kent State vs. Wyoming (Dec. 21, 2021)
This bowl has had a history of solid matchups but is ranked this low because flying to Boise generally requires a connection and fans then must watch a game outside in Idaho in December.
33. Quick Lane Bowl
Location: Ford Field – Detroit
This Year’s Game: Western Michigan vs. Nevada (Dec. 27, 2021)
At least this game is played indoors, but you still have to go to Detroit... in December. If you do, check out Slows To Go barbecue.
32. Myrtle Beach Bowl Presented by TaxAct
Location: Brooks Stadium – Conway, S.C.
This Year’s Game: Tulsa vs. Old Dominion (Dec. 20, 2021)
Years from now, the Myrtle Beach Bowl will hold the distinction of being the only bowl game successfully launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenny Powers’ ears would likely perk up when he heard the name until he realized it is played 10 miles inland between two weak Group of 5 teams.
31. Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Location: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Florida vs. UCF (Dec. 23, 2021)
Named after Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival, this was the most ridiculous-sounding bowl game until Jimmy Kimmel had one named after him. This year’s game is an easy trip for the in-state Gators and Knights and their fan bases.
30. EasyPost Hawaii Bowl
Location: Clarence T. C. Ching Athletics Complex – Honolulu
This Year’s Matchup: Memphis vs. Hawaii (Dec. 24, 2021)
This year’s game should be fun, but fans who attend this game have to plan to spend the holidays in Hawaii.
29. Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
Location: Arizona Stadium – Tucson, Ariz.
This Year’s Game: Central Michigan vs. Boise State (Dec. 31, 2021)
There are many worse places to visit in December than Tucson. The fans on both sides that choose to go should hit El Charro, the Titan Missile Museum, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to make the trip worthwhile.
28. Tailgreeter Cure Bowl
Location: Exploria Stadium – Orlando, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina (Dec. 17, 2021)
The quality of this game is generally mediocre, but its proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and it is played at a time where fans can travel to it without disrupting their holiday plans.
27. Bahamas Bowl
Location: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium – Nassau, Bahamas
This Year’s Game: Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo (Dec. 17, 2021)
The only bowl game played outside the U.S. hosts second-tier MAC and Conference USA teams. It is always fun to visit the Bahamas and this year, you can take off on work on Friday and still be back with plenty of time for the holidays.
26. LendingTree Bowl
Location: Hancock Whitney Stadium – Mobile, Ala.
This Year’s Game: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (Dec. 18, 2021)
This game was originally sponsored by GMAC, then GoDaddy.com, then Dollar General, before LendingTree took over in 2016. The name is silly, and the football is okay, but there are worse places to go this time of year than Mobile.
25. TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Location: Protective Stadium – Birmingham, Ala.
This Year’s Game: Houston vs. Auburn (Dec. 28, 2021)
The Birmingham Bowl matches one of the best teams in the AAC against one of the Power 5’s worst bowl-eligible teams. For fans of the AAC school, it is a chance to see if their team can hang with the big boys. The game was originally played at historic Legion Field but moved this year to UAB’s brand-new, on-campus Protective Stadium.
24. PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl
Location: University Stadium – Albuquerque, N.M.
This Year’s Game: Fresno State vs. UTEP (Dec. 18, 2021)
The New Mexico Bowl has tie-ins with the Mountain West and Conference USA, two conferences that normally do not play each other. This year, Fresno State and UTEP will meet for the first time since 2004.
23. Military Bowl Presented by Peraton
Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – Annapolis, Md.
This Year’s Game: East Carolina vs. Boston College (Dec. 27, 2021)
This bowl seems to have found its footing since it moved from Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium to Annapolis and signed agreements with the AAC and ACC. Now it hosts a game in a beautiful town that is generally within driving distance for both schools a few days after Christmas. Well done.
22. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium – Dallas
This Year’s Game: Air Force vs. Louisville (Dec. 28, 2021)
Formerly the Heart of Dallas Bowl, this game was originally played in the old Cotton Bowl stadium before moving to SMU's campus. It is generally hit or miss with its matchups.
21. RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl
Location: FAU Stadium – Boca Raton, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Appalachian State vs. WKU (Dec. 18, 2021)
This year’s game once again features two solid teams, and it is played in a great location. This year’s game also is on a Saturday, which makes it easier for fans to travel.
20. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium – Fort Worth, Texas
This Year’s Game: Missouri vs. Army West Point (Dec. 22, 2021)
Originally sponsored by PlainCapital Bank, but Bell Helicopter took the game over in 2006 and it was renamed the Armed Forces Bowl. The quality of the game really depends on how the military academies have performed that year. Either way, fans can enjoy the nightlife of Fort Worth’s Stock Yards.
19. Wasabi Fenway Bowl
Location: Fenway Park – Boston
This Year’s Game: Virginia vs. SMU (Dec. 29, 2021)
This bowl was scheduled to launch last year but was delayed because of the pandemic. Watching a game in Fenway Park sounds interesting but sitting outside in Boston in late December does not. However, if you don’t mind the cold, this could be a very fun trip.
18. Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl
Location: Toyota Stadium – Frisco, Texas
This Year’s Matchup: San Diego State vs. UTSA (Dec. 21, 2021)
After the Miami Beach Bowl was acquired by ESPN, it was moved to Frisco, a suburb of Dallas and home of the FCS national championship game and rebranded as the Frisco Bowl. Last year’s game was canceled because of the pandemic, but it is now back with its best matchup ever.
17. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Location: Caesar’s Superdome – New Orleans
This Year’s Game: Louisiana vs. Marshall (Dec. 18, 2021)
This game is this high because it's: a) played in arguably the most festive city in the country, and b) usually selects schools within driving distance to the Crescent City. While Marshall fans will have to travel a little farther this year, they get a matchup with a ranked team in Louisiana.
16. Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl presented by Stifel
Location: SoFi Stadium – Inglewood, Calif.
This Year’s Game: Oregon State vs. Utah State (Dec. 18, 2021)
This is the first bowl game to be named after a living person, as 1947’s Will Rogers Bowl was played 12 years after the humorist died in a plane crash. Absurdity aside, this game will pit the Mountain West champ against a solid Pac-12 team in a state-of-the-art venue.
15. Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
Location: Independence Stadium – Shreveport, La.
This Year’s Game: BYU vs. UAB (Dec. 18, 2021)
Before the bowl explosion that began in the 1990s, the Independence Bowl, which got its name because it launched the year of our nation’s Bicentennial celebration, was considered the worst bowl game because of its location. Nevertheless, Shreveport makes up for its lack of atmosphere by hosting good football. This year’s game is being played earlier than normal but features the first matchup between No. 13 BYU and UAB.
14. TaxAct Texas Bowl
Location: NRG Stadium – Houston
This Year’s Game: Kansas State vs. LSU (Jan. 4, 2022)
All good bowls outside the New Year’s Six strive to create regional matchups against good teams. After the Texas Bowl signed agreements for the Big 12 and SEC to begin playing each other in 2014, it began accomplishing that goal. The only problem is that it’s still played in Houston.
13. SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl
Location: Allegiant Stadium – Las Vegas
This Year’s Game: Arizona State vs. Wisconsin (Dec. 30, 2021)
This bowl pits a Pac-12 team against a Big Ten team in a suburb of Las Vegas. To quote Kramer, “Giddy up.”
12. TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Location: Nissan Stadium – Nashville, Tenn.
This Year’s Game: Tennessee vs. Purdue (Dec. 30, 2021)
No team starts the season saying, "Music City Bowl or bust," but every game in this event’s history except three has been fairly close. Plus, Nashville is the only city where you can walk in and out of countless clubs and hear amazing music.
11. Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Location: Chase Field – Phoenix
This Year’s Game: Minnesota vs. West Virginia (Dec. 28, 2021)
This game’s original home was Tucson, but it moved to the Phoenix Metropolitan area from 2000-05 before relocating to Tempe in '06. It returned to Chase Field in December 2016 while Sun Devil Stadium underwent renovations and is still there.
10. Cheez-It Bowl
Location: Camping World Stadium – Orlando, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Clemson vs. Iowa State (Dec. 29, 2021)
Don’t get this confused with the previous Cheez-It Bowl that is now the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Originally launched as the Blockbuster Bowl in Miami in 1990, this contest moved north to Orlando in 2001. It currently has agreements with the ACC and Big 12, but the games of the last 29 years have been interesting matchups between good programs.
9. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium – Memphis, Tenn.
This Year’s Game: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State (Dec. 28, 2021)
It is called the Liberty Bowl because it was played in Philadelphia before moving to Memphis in 1965. As more bowls have emerged, this game has lost some of its prestige, but only one city has Charlie Vergos Rendezvous and Beale Street.
8. New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Location: Yankee Stadium – Bronx, N.Y.
This Year’s Game: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland (Dec. 29, 2021)
Whoever attends this game will have to bundle up, but the upshot is that they will be in the Big Apple during the holidays.
7. Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
Location: Sun Bowl – El Paso, Texas
This Year’s Game: Washington State vs. Miami (Dec. 31, 2021)
Launched in 1935, the Sun Bowl is the second-oldest bowl game along with the Sugar and Orange Bowls (The Rose Bowl is, of course, the oldest.). El Paso’s Sun Bowl was built in a natural bowl and to watch a game there is worth the trip.
6. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Location: Petco Park – San Diego
This Year’s Game: NC State vs. UCLA (Dec. 28, 2021)
In 1984, BYU beat Michigan 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl to win the national title. It is one of only two bowls on this list that has hosted a national championship-clinching game. This game will be played at Petco Park for the first time this season since its previous home, SDCCU Stadium, was demolished last year.
5. Duke's Mayo Bowl
Location: Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, N.C.
This Year’s Game: North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Dec. 30, 2021)
Formerly the Belk Bowl, this game ranks high because Charlotte is an easy city to fly to, especially for watching a good ACC school take on a good SEC school or vice versa. Yes, the matchup between two 6-6 teams from the Carolinas this year seems phoned in, but we are still in a pandemic.
4. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Location: TIAA Bank Field – Jacksonville, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M (Dec. 31, 2021)
The Gator Bowl is college football's sixth-oldest bowl game, and its 70-year history is one of the richest on this list.
3. Outback Bowl
Location: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Arkansas vs. Penn State (Jan. 1, 2022)
Originally started in 1986 as the Hall of Fame Bowl, this New Year’s Day game is a rewarding trip for fans regardless of whether their team’s season lived up to expectations.
2. Valero Alamo Bowl
Location: Alamodome – San Antonio
This Year’s Game: Oregon vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 29, 2021)
After paying your respects at the Alamo and enjoying the San Antonio River Walk, you can watch two teams face off in the Alamodome. This may be the best atmosphere of the entire college football postseason.
1. VRBO Citrus Bowl
Location: Camping World Stadium – Orlando, Fla.
This Year’s Game: Iowa vs. Kentucky (Jan. 1, 2022)
This game has everything. Its history includes hosting Georgia Tech’s 45-21 beating of Nebraska, allowing the Yellow Jackets to clinch a share of the 1990 national title; it is played in one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world; and the matchups are always top-notch. Since 1985, the Citrus Bowl has hosted games between ranked opponents in all but three of the matchups. Only the Gator Bowl comes close to matching that type of success.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.