College football bowl season begins on Saturday, with five games kicking off the 39-game slate that stretches out over more than two weeks during the holiday season.
Bowl season is known for its unpredictability because of coaching changes, differing levels of motivation, NFL Draft decisions, etc., but now it's time to rank all 39 games with confidence points. These games are ordered from 39 (most confident) to 1 (least confident) based on my confidence in predicting the winners, straight up.
Check out our bowl matchup watchability rankings from last week here.
All times Eastern.
39. Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic over Akron
7 p.m., Dec. 19, Boca Raton, Fla., ESPN
On Sept. 23, Florida Atlantic traveled to Buffalo and lost 34-31, falling to 1-3 in Lane Kiffin's debut season. Since then, the Owls have won nine in a row, all against Conference USA opponents, and they've averaged over 45 points per game during the winning streak. The offense has been unstoppable, led by national rushing touchdown leader Devin Singletary, who has 275 carries for 1,796 yards and 29 TDs. Akron is 112th in offensive yards per play and 90th on defense, and it's 7-6 with one win over an FBS team with a winning record. The Zips aren't going to outscore FAU on the Owls' home field.
Pick: Florida Atlantic 49, Akron 21
38. Independence Bowl: Florida State over Southern Miss
1:30 p.m., Dec. 27, Shreveport, La., ESPN
One of the factors that makes predicting bowl games more difficult than the regular season is motivation. Consider Florida State's situation: It is the most disappointing team in the country, going from preseason No. 3 to needing to reschedule a canceled game against UL Monroe to get to 6-6 and extend its bowl streak to 36 years. Head coach Jimbo Fisher just left for Texas A&M, star safety Derwin James has already left for the NFL Draft and, instead of a marquee bowl destination, the Noles are playing a Conference USA team in Shreveport. With all that said … Florida State remains the far more talented team, and Southern Miss scored 10 points against a Tennessee team having a worse season than the Noles.
Pick: Florida State 35, Southern Miss 17
37. TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville over No. 23 Mississippi State
Noon, Dec. 30, Jacksonville, Fla., ESPN
Mississippi State has been the better team most of the season, but coach Dan Mullen left for Florida and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald dislocated his ankle in the Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. Without those two, and with an improved Louisville defense late in the season, it's going to be difficult for the Bulldogs to keep pace with Lamar Jackson, in what could be his final college game.
Pick: Louisville 38, Mississippi State 24
36. New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State over Marshall
4:30 p.m., Dec. 16, Albuquerque, N.M., ESPN
After falling to 3-9 last year, Marshall bounced back to start this season 6-1, but it enters the New Mexico Bowl having lost four of its past five games to fellow bowl teams. The Thundering Herd have played well defensively, but this will be a stiff test from the Ram's offense, which boasts a prolific passing combination in QB Nick Stevens throwing to WR Michael Gallup, in addition to an underrated tailback in Dalyn Dawkins (1,349 yards, 6.3 yards per carry).
Pick: Colorado State 33, Marshall 24
35. Outback Bowl: Michigan over South Carolina
Noon, Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla., ESPN2
Before Shea Patterson arrives, Brandon Peters -- who missed the Ohio State game with a concussion -- will return to the lineup for Michigan with a chance to prove himself in a big game against the Gamecocks. Both offenses have had struggles, but the good news for Michigan is that it can still lean on one of the nation's best defenses, with a front that's going to put a lot of pressure on Jake Bentley.
Pick: Michigan 23, South Carolina 13
34. Peach Bowl: No. 7 Auburn over No. 12 UCF
12:30 p.m., Jan. 1, Atlanta, ESPN
Scott Frost is pulling double duty right now, preparing Nebraska for the early signing day while also returning to UCF to coach in the Peach Bowl. It's a tough balancing act, but Frost will try to finish the job with the Knights in their pursuit of a perfect season. Of course, their trip to Atlanta represents their hardest game of the season, against the best defense they've seen as the nation's No. 1 scoring offense. Explosive offense gives UCF a chance, but it hasn't seen a team this good in the defensive front and this talented overall.
Pick: Auburn 35, UCF 24
33. New Orleans Bowl: Troy over North Texas
1 p.m., Dec. 16, New Orleans, La., ESPN
North Texas played in the first four New Orleans Bowls back when it was still a part of the Sun Belt, which is where Troy still plays. The Trojans and Mean Green meet in a solid matchup of rising star coaches (Neal Brown, Seth Littrell) and impressive Group of Five quarterbacks (Brandon Silvers, Mason Fine). The difference in this game is that Troy is far better defensively.
Pick: Troy 30, North Texas 24
32. Music City Bowl: No. 21 Northwestern over Kentucky
4:30 p.m., Dec. 29, Nashville, Tenn., ESPN
Advanced stats everywhere seem to agree that Kentucky isn't as good as its 7-5 record: Kentucky is ranked 64th by Jeff Sagarin, 94th by S&P+ and 58th by the Massey composite. Northwestern, meanwhile, is quietly in the top 20 in the Sagarin and Massey ratings. After losing big to Duke early, Northwestern has flown under the radar in winning seven straight games to finish the regular season 9-3. Three straight close wins in overtime may be a red flag, but Northwestern's defense can control this game.
Pick: Northwestern 29, Kentucky 17
31. Sun Bowl: No. 24 N.C. State over Arizona State
3 p.m., Dec. 29, El Paso, Texas, CBS
N.C. State has passed eight wins in a season only once in the past 15 years. It needs to beat Arizona State to do it for the second time in what's been an 8-4 season that has had some high moments but has ultimately fallen short of its potential. The Wolfpack are the better team here against Arizona State, which will play its final game before moving into the Herm Edwards era. Bradley Chubb and N.C. State's defensive line should be able to put pressure on the Sun Devils' offense.
Pick: N.C. State 39, Arizona State 27
30. Dollar General Bowl: Toledo over Appalachian State
7 p.m., Dec. 23, Mobile, Ala., ESPN
It's a rematch of last year's Camellia Bowl up the road in Montgomery. Appalachian State won that game 31-28. This year's matchup features the co-Sun Belt champion Mountaineers and the MAC champion Rockets. Although they are both league champions and enter this game with a combined 19 wins, Toledo has been the better team much of the year. Appalachian State lost to UL Monroe and Massachusetts and had a few other close calls against inferior teams. Toledo lost to Ohio, but it has mostly dominated the competition behind QB Logan Woodside and a prolific offense.
Pick: Toledo 34, Appalachian State 21
29. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah over West Virginia
1:30 p.m., Dec. 26, Dallas, ESPN
West Virginia would have the advantage here if it had a healthy Will Grier. Alas, the status of the star Mountaineers quarterback is uncertain after he broke his finger on Nov. 18. Utah should have some success running the ball behind Zack Moss against a beatable West Virginia defense, and if Grier can't go, the Mountaineers will be at a significant disadvantage.
Pick: Utah 32, West Virginia 24
28. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple over Florida International
8 p.m., Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, Fla., ESPN
Lane Kiffin has earned plenty of attention at Florida Atlantic, but nearby rival Florida International has also done a nice job under its high-profile first-year coach, Butch Davis. The Golden Panthers are 8-4 and making their first bowl bid since 2011. They'll meet a Temple team that achieved mixed results under first-year coach Geoff Collins: After back-to-back 10-win seasons, the Owls are 6-6, although five of their losses have been to bowl teams. The edge goes to Temple's superior defense.
Pick: Temple 27, FIU 20
27. Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State over Army
3:30 p.m., Dec. 23, Fort Worth, Texas, ESPN
It's been a spectacular season for Army: It won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996 by beating both Navy and Air Force, it beat Duke out of the ACC and it is 9-3 with a chance to get to double-digit wins for the first time since 1996, too. However, although wins over teams like Duke and Navy are impressive, the Black Knights haven't beaten a team with a winning record, which makes the Armed Forces Bowl as tough of a challenge as they've faced all season. San Diego State is 10-2 with wins over Arizona State and Stanford and a top-five Heisman finisher in star tailback Rashaad Penny. The Aztecs are the type of ground-and-pound team capable of controlling the clock themselves to dictate the flow of the game.
Pick: San Diego State 24, Army 20
26. Alamo Bowl: No. 15 TCU over No. 13 Stanford
9 p.m., Dec. 28, San Antonio, Texas, ESPN
The key question is the status of Heisman finalist tailback Bryce Love, who's dealt with an ankle injury throughout the second half of the season. Love's health dictates the fortunes of Stanford, especially in a matchup against a well-rounded TCU squad that has held its past six non-Oklahoma opponents to a total of 52 points.
Pick: TCU 31, Stanford 24
25. Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Penn State over No. 11 Washington
4 p.m., Dec. 30, Glendale, Ariz., ESPN
Both the Nittany Lions and Huskies had hopes of repeating as conference champions and earning playoff bids, but they both fell short thanks to two close losses each and are instead matched up in what should be a competitive Fiesta Bowl. Washington's defensive, led by Vita Vea up front, poses a difficult challenge for Penn State's offensive line in trying to open up holes for Saquon Barkley, but injuries have taken a toll on the Huskies' offense as they prepare for a Penn State defense allowing just 15.5 points per game.
Pick: Penn State 34, Washington 27
24. Camping World Bowl: No. 19 Oklahoma State over No. 22 Virginia Tech
5:15 p.m., Dec. 28, Orlando, Fla., ESPN
Both the Cowboys and Hokies have had solid seasons, but neither team has a win over an opponent with a record better than 7-5 (they both beat West Virginia). This is an opportunity to end on a high note against a ranked opponent and, especially for the Hokies and young QB Josh Jackson, a chance to increase the preseason hype for 2018. It's the last college game featuring Mason Rudolph throwing to James Washington, and the Cowboys will be charged with beating an excellent Hokies defense. Oklahoma State looks like the better pick, as the Hokies haven't hit five yards per play in a game since October.
Pick: Oklahoma State 34, Virginia Tech 27
23. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona over Purdue
8:30 p.m., Dec. 27, Santa Clara, Calif., Fox
Arizona has one of the most entertaining players in college football in Khalil Tate. Purdue has one of the most entertaining play-callers in the country in Jeff Brohm. But with Purdue still trying to build under Brohm, it's the Boilermakers defense that's actually ahead of the offense, ranking 35th in yards per play allowed. Purdue hasn't seen many great offenses lately, although it did play Lamar Jackson and Louisville unexpectedly close back in Week 1 and it blew out Missouri in Week 3. The slight edge goes to Tate.
Pick: Arizona 35, Purdue 28
22. Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin over No. 10 Miami
8 p.m., Dec. 30, Miami, ESPN
Miami's offense struggled down the stretch, as quarterback Malik Rosier hasn't been accurate and the team managed a total of 17 points in losses to Pitt and Clemson. This is still a talented Hurricanes team with a disruptive defense, but the loss of Ahmmon Richards at receiver is big, and a significant turnaround on offense is needed for this team to be able to beat the Badgers' defense. Wisconsin's offense is one-dimensional, of course, so this comes down to how consistently and effectively the Badgers can run with Jonathan Taylor.
Pick: Wisconsin 24, Miami 17
21. Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon over No. 25 Boise State
3:30 p.m., Dec. 16, Las Vegas, Nev., ABC
The good news for Oregon is that the Ducks are a different team with Justin Herbert healthy at quarterback, as shown by a 48-28 win over Arizona and a 69-10 win over Oregon State to end the regular season after he returned from a broken collarbone. The bad news is that Oregon lost head coach Willie Taggart to Florida State after just one year. There will be continuity, however, as interim coach Mario Cristobal has been promoted to the full-time job. Cristobal's first task is taking on a Boise State team that looked sloppy early in the season but ultimately won the Mountain West with solid defense and a standout receiver in Cedrick Wilson. One possible thing that could hold back Oregon: star tailback Royce Freeman will not play.
Pick: Oregon 35, Boise State 28
20. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan over Wyoming
4 p.m., Dec. 22, Boise, Idaho, ESPN
After a rough season in the NFL Draft spotlight, Wyoming QB Josh Allen hopes to play in Boise as he tries to bounce back from a shoulder injury. Despite the presence of a touted prospect behind center, Wyoming is bowl-eligible because of a defense that ranks 10th nationally in yards per play allowed. However, with Allen sidelined, the Cowboys lost their last two games to Fresno State and San Jose State, and now they'll face a Chippewas squad that owns a five-game winning streak that includes victories over Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
Pick: Central Michigan 20, Wyoming 16
19. Liberty Bowl: No. 20 Memphis over Iowa State
12:30 p.m., Dec. 30, Memphis, Tenn., ABC
Iowa State has been a fantastic story this season, beating both Oklahoma and TCU and staying in the hunt for the Big 12 title game until late in the season. But it still ended up finishing 7-5, with losses to West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State in three of its past four games. Will the Cyclones slow down Memphis' explosive attack in the Tigers' home stadium? Memphis already beat UCLA in the Liberty Bowl in September, and it has scored 49 points per game against American Athletic Conference opponents, more than any other team in conference play. Iowa State is tough defensively and can run the ball, but keeping up with Memphis isn't easy.
Pick: Memphis 34, Iowa State 30
18. Birmingham Bowl: South Florida over Texas Tech
Noon, Dec. 23, Birmingham, Ala., ESPN
Last year, South Florida beat a 6-6 Power Five team (South Carolina) in overtime. Circumstances are similar this year, only the Bulls have a better defense under Charlie Strong but will face a team, Texas Tech, that has a more potent offense than they saw last year against the Gamecocks. The Red Raiders' defense has actually finally improved, but they'll still be tested in the final college game of Quinton Flowers' prolific USF career.
Pick: South Florida 37, Texas Tech 31
17. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest over Texas A&M
1 p.m., Dec. 29, Charlotte, N.C., ESPN
The Demon Deacons boast perhaps the most underappreciated quarterback in the country in John Wolford, who transformed himself into an ACC star this season, averaging 309 yards of total offense per game. This is an improved Wake Forest team that beat both N.C. State and Louisville. While there's excitement about Texas A&M's future under Jimbo Fisher, first the Aggies have to make a bowl trip to face a tougher than expected Wake Forest team.
Pick: Wake Forest 27, Texas A&M 24
16. Frisco Bowl: SMU over Louisiana Tech
8 p.m., Dec. 20, Frisco, Texas, ESPN
Despite not being officially introduced as head coach until Monday, Sonny Dykes will coach SMU in the Frisco Bowl just nine days later … against his former team, Louisiana Tech. Dykes coached prolific offenses with lackluster defenses at both Louisiana Tech and Cal, and he inherits a Mustangs squad from Chad Morris that is in the same position: 16th in offensive yards per play and 123rd on defense. SMU is the better team, though, as Louisiana Tech took a sizable step back on offense in 2017.
Pick: SMU 34, Louisiana Tech 31
15. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa over Boston College
5:15 p.m., Dec. 27, New York, ESPN
Boston College undeniably made significant strides on offense this season, largely behind the running of freshman A.J. Dillon, who has 1,432 yards. But despite the improvement, the Eagles still rank only 111th in yards per play. Of course, despite scoring 55 on Ohio State, 44 on Iowa State, 56 on Nebraska and 45 on Illinois, Iowa hasn't fared much better: It ranks 102 in yards per play. A close, low-scoring game still seems like the most likely outcome, despite the occasional bursts of offense from both teams.
Pick: Iowa 19, Boston College 16
14. Holiday Bowl: No. 16 Michigan State over No. 18 Washington State
9 p.m., Dec. 28, San Diego, FS1
Washington State's offense has been rather uneven this season, with some benchings of prolific QB Luke Falk, and now the Cougars will play the Holiday Bowl without their top two receivers, Tavares Martin and Isaiah Johnson-Mack. They'll do so against one of the best defenses they've seen all year, and they'll do so after a blowout loss to Washington to end the regular season. Michigan State has significant red flags on offense, so this actually could be fairly low-scoring, like Washington State's 17-12 Holiday Bowl loss to Minnesota a year ago.
Pick: Michigan State 23, Washington State 21
13. Hawaii Bowl: Houston over Fresno State
8:30 p.m., Dec. 24, Honolulu, ESPN
Jeff Tedford engineered an incredible turnaround at Fresno State, as he took over a team that went 1-11 and ended up winning nine games with a division title. The Bulldogs were rewarded with a trip to Hawaii to face a talented but inconsistent Houston team led by All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver. This looks like a toss-up, although the Hawaii Bowl has repeatedly featured blowouts in recent years.
Pick: Houston 27, Fresno State 23
12. Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oklahoma over No. 3 Georgia
5 p.m., Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif., ESPN
Georgia ranks in the top 15 nationally in yards per play on both sides of the ball. It is excellent defensively and efficient offensively. Oklahoma is No. 1 in yards per play on offense but … 68th on defense. Georgia is a more balanced team overall, sure, but there's still one big difference between the two teams in this game: Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield playing behind arguably the nation's best offensive line. Georgia should be able to run the ball on the Sooners, but will it be able to keep up with Mayfield and the best offense in college football if Oklahoma gets a lead? I'm going with the Heisman winner, who has shredded the best defenses he has faced, including Ohio State and TCU.
Pick: Oklahoma 34, Georgia 27
12. Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Ohio State over No. 8 USC
8:30 p.m., Dec. 29, Arlington, Texas, ESPN
Both teams have had a couple low moments this season, but both teams have the talent to play like playoff teams. Although the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions missed out on the playoff, there will be a ton of NFL talent on the field, particularly in the USC backfield (QB Sam Darnold, RB Ronald Jones II) and on the Ohio State defense (DE Nick Bosa, CB Denzel Ward, etc.). Will either team lack motivation after being left out of the playoff? Can Darnold avoid some of the turnovers that have proven costly? Will Darnold be adequately protected? Ohio State has been a bit more erratic, but it's a bit more complete, too.
Pick: Ohio State 30, USC 28
10. Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Alabama over No. 1 Clemson
8:45 p.m., Jan. 1, New Orleans, La., ESPN
The national title isn't directly on the line, but it's the third straight season featuring a Clemson-Alabama game in the playoff. Alabama won for the national title in 2015. Clemson won for the national title in 2016. This time, they'll meet in a semifinal for the right to play for a championship. Alabama's chief tormenter the past two seasons, Deshaun Watson, is gone, so this time it's up to Kelly Bryant and a Clemson offense that isn't quite as potent as the past two years to beat the Alabama defense. Even though the Crimson Tide looked vulnerable down the stretch, the defense will be ready for revenge.
Pick: Alabama 27, Clemson 24
9. Cactus Bowl: UCLA over Kansas State
9 p.m., Dec. 26, Phoenix, ESPN
The key to this game is the status of Josh Rosen, who has dealt with some injury issues -- including leaving the regular-season finale with a shoulder issue -- and seemed to be a candidate to sit out before likely going to the draft. But Rosen has practiced, and all signs point to him playing in the final UCLA game before the Chip Kelly era begins. It's just a matter of how much support he'll get from the defense, which has struggled to slow down just about every opponent's running game.
Pick: UCLA 34, Kansas State 31
8. Texas Bowl: Missouri over Texas
9 p.m., Dec. 27, Houston, ESPN
The Longhorns will play the Texas Bowl without two of their best players: left tackle Connor Williams, whose absence was significantly felt when he missed much of the season with an injury, and All-American safety DeShon Elliott. The shorthanded Longhorns will meet a resurgent Missouri squad that started 1-5 but finished 7-5, scoring over 45 points in each of its six straight wins to end the regular season.
Pick: Missouri 33, Texas 31
7. Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky over Georgia State
2:30 p.m., Dec. 16, Orlando, Fla., CBSSN
WKU took a big step back this year after losing coach Jeff Brohm and several key offensive contributors. Despite the return of QB Mike White, the Hilltoppers fell from 11-3 to 6-6 and first nationally in yards per play to 98th. They've lost four of five entering the Cure Bowl against a Georgia State team that won six of seven in the middle of the season but lost by double digits to Appalachian State and Idaho the past two games. Call it a toss-up between teams that stumbled to the finish line.
Pick: Western Kentucky 29, Georgia State 27
6. Quick Lane Bowl: Northern Illinois over Duke
5:15 p.m., Dec. 26, Detroit, ESPN
Led by national sacks leader Sutton Smith and what's been a terrific defense, Northern Illinois beat Nebraska and lost a tight opener to an ACC team, Boston College. Now it has a winnable bowl matchup against another ACC team, Duke, that started 4-0, lost six in a row and beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in the last two games to get to bowl eligibility.
Pick: Northern Illinois 23, Duke 21
5. Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Notre Dame over No. 17 LSU
1 p.m., Jan. 1, Orlando, Fla., ABC
In just a few weeks, Notre Dame went from prime playoff contender to sure thing for a New Year's Six bowl to the Citrus Bowl. The Fighting Irish lost two of their final three games by double digits to Miami and Stanford, making this a pretty big game in terms of how this season is perceived, no matter how much better it was than 2016's 4-8 debacle. Over the course of the season, Notre Dame has been the better team, but given its limitations in the passing game, the key is how consistently it can run against a stellar LSU defense that allows 3.8 yards per rush.
Pick: Notre Dame 27, LSU 23
4. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State over Utah State
5:30 p.m., Dec. 29, Tucson, Ariz., CBSSN
The last time New Mexico State played in a bowl game, it beat Utah State 20-13 in the Sun Bowl. Of course, that was fifty-seven years ago and thus has no actual impact on the Aggies' long-awaited first bowl trip in decades. New Mexico State does have some talent on offense, led by QB Tyler Rogers, RB Larry Rose III and WR Jaleel Scott, giving it a chance to pull off its first bowl win in 57 years, too.
Pick: New Mexico State 28, Utah State 27
3. Bahamas Bowl: UAB over Ohio
12:30 p.m., Dec. 22, Nassau, Bahamas, ESPN
UAB is one of the biggest sentimental favorites of bowl season. After two years without playing a game, the Blazers returned to the field and improbably went 8-4 to earn their second bowl bid ever behind freshman tailback Spencer Brown and coach Bill Clark. Their fate in the Bahamas depends on which opponent shows up: Ohio started the season 8-2, with a 38-10 win over MAC champion Toledo on Nov. 8. However, the Bobcats lost their last two games on the road to Akron and Buffalo and have dealt with some late-season injury issues.
Pick: UAB 28, Ohio 27
2. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee over Arkansas State
8 p.m., Dec. 16, Montgomery, Ala., ESPN
The Blue Raiders have been banged-up much of the year, with star receiver Richie James out, but at least QB Brent Stockstill returned down the stretch to lead them to bowl eligibility. Stockstill's presence makes this an intriguing quarterback matchup against Arkansas State's Justice Hansen, who has racked up 34 touchdown passes but has also been intercepted 15 times.
Pick: Middle Tennessee 33, Arkansas State 31
1. Military Bowl: Virginia over Navy
1:30 p.m., Dec. 28, Annapolis, Md., ESPN
Not an easy game to call: Navy isn't as strong as it's been in some recent years, and it's lost six of seven against a tough schedule after a 5-0 start. All seven of those games were against bowl teams. Virginia started 5-1 but has lost five of six, with all five losses by double digits -- including a season-finale 10-0 shutout against Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers did, however, do a solid job defending Georgia Tech's option attack in their only win in the second half of the season.
Pick: Virginia 27, Navy 26