College football viewing guide: Ranking every Texas bowl game by watchability

By Will Leverett

The college football postseason is here, and six Texas-based teams will be participating in bowl games at the FBS level. 

Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor, Houston and North Texas all still have one game remaining to prove their worth. Some of the games have major stakes, like the Sugar Bowl. Others are a nice consolation prize, like Houston's matchup in the Armed Forces Bowl. 

But regardless, bowl games will give each of these teams a chance to work out some new players, hold more practices and – most importantly – provide some much-needed entertainment for the holiday season.

With so many games to play, it can get overwhelming to sort through which games are worth your time. We're here to help. 

Here's a guide of all the bowl games from most to least watchable: 

1. New Mexico Bowl: North Texas vs. Utah State

When: Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. on ESPN

For several reasons, this game will be a must-watch for college football fans. North Texas and Utah State field two of the best offenses in college football, both ranking in the top 15 of total offensive yardage per game. Several of UNT’s top senior defenders will also play in their final college football games, including Nate Brooks and E.J. Ejiya.

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine is one of the nation’s best signal-callers, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 3,734 yards, 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions. On the other side, sophomore Utah State quarterback Jordan Love completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 3,208 yards, 28 touchdowns and five interceptions.

This game will also be an interesting one for Texas Tech fans. Former USU coach Matt Wells took the Tech job last week. While Wells and his staff will not coach the game, it will give some insight into the style that Wells wants to instill at Texas Tech.

2. Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia

When: Jan. 1, 2019 at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN

Off field, this game has all the makings of a classic. These are two of the great programs in the history of college football, and both are experiencing a resurgence under head coaches who won national championships as assistants.

However, on the field, it’s unclear what we’re going to see. Texas coach Tom Herman has typically gotten his team up for big games, but the Longhorns have their work cut out. The Bulldogs rank top 10 in both passing and rushing S&P+, and are one of the few teams nationally that can beat Texas physically. The Bulldogs are especially strong defending the pass, which is where Texas has found mismatches this season.

The motivation factor might come into play with this one. Texas is back in a big-time bowl game for the first time since the 2009 season, when the Longhorns played for a national championship. Georgia was in the national championship game last year, and was moments away from being in the playoff this year. A letdown could be possible.

3. Gator Bowl: Texas A&M vs. North Carolina State

When: Dec. 31 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN

North Carolina State isn’t a particularly big name, but the Wolfpack have a superstar at quarterback. Senior Ryan Finley is in the conversation to be the first signal-caller taken in the 2019 NFL Draft after completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,789 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The Aggies proved that they could compete with any team in the nation with a close game against Clemson and a win over LSU. Texas A&M is playing some of its best football heading into the bowl. Running back Trayveon Williams is a must-watch offensive player.

Texas A&M has lost three straight bowl games under Kevin Sumlin and interim coach Jeff Banks. Winning a bowl game would give the Aggies their first nine-win season since Johnny Manziel left campus in 2013. That would be a heck of a start to the Jimbo Fisher era.

4. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Army

When: Dec. 22 at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN

It’s a little unclear at this point what this game will even look like. Houston is without quarterback D’Eriq King and defensive lineman Ed Oliver, arguably the two best players on the roster.

Houston beat Navy 49-36 earlier in the year, so the Cougars have experience playing against the option. However, Army has been on a different level than Navy all season long. The Black Knights’ defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the best assistant coach in college football.

Some of this ranking will depend on whether you can stand watching option football. At times, it can be tedious. However, Army runs the option at a very high level. It will be fascinating to watch whether Army is able to do to Houston’s offense what the Black Knights did to Oklahoma earlier this year.

5. Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt

When: Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. on ESPN

It’s hard to know what to expect from this game. Baylor had a great, resurgent year, but ultimately only beat one bowl game this season. Vandy didn’t fare much better; the Commodores' only win over a bowl team came against Middle Tennessee.

The high-powered Baylor offense of old doesn't exist anymore. Instead, the Bears are more of a junk offense team, consistently moving the chains by the skin of their teeth. Vanderbilt is rated a little higher by advanced metrics, but the Commodores are solid and not spectacular. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur took steps as a senior, but the Commodores still didn't produce a 1,000-yard receiver. 

Vanderbilt is a consistent team, while Baylor is woefully inconsistent because of youth. The result of this game depends on which Baylor team shows up. Unfortunately, that will also affect how watchable the game ends up being. 

6. Cheez-It Bowl: TCU vs. Cal

When: Dec. 26 at 8 p.m. on ESPN

If you hate points and offensive yardage, you’re going to love the Cheez-It Bowl.

TCU and Cal both rank bottom 30 nationally in scoring offense and each score fewer than 25 points per game. On the other end, both teams allow fewer than 25 points per game and rank top 26 in yards allowed per game despite playing in offense-heavy conferences.

TCU will likely be without top two quarterbacks Shawn Robinson and Michael Collins for the bowl game. That could make the offense even uglier. Give Gary Patterson a month to play for an opponent and he’ll find a way to stop them too. First to score wins?

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