CFN Bowl Special: Bowls Worthy Of Respect

Staff Columnist
Posted Dec 2, 2012

It’s no secret that college football has far too many bowl games, mere exhibitions that reward or at least encourage mediocrity. However, some of the non-BCS bowl games own rich histories that have added to the life and color of this sport. Here’s a look at the second-tier bowls you should care about.

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CITRUS BOWL – Beginning in 1983

(Now the corporate Capital One Bowl, a label which the Weekly Affirmation abhors)

WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR RESPECT: This game matched the Big Ten No. 2 and the SEC No. 2 for quite some time, producing heavyweight battles such as John Cooper’s Ohio State team versus Gene Stallings’s Alabama outfit in the early 1990s. Loaded teams from Michigan and Tennessee, from Wisconsin and Arkansas, from Florida and Penn State, have played in this game and made it a hard-hitting addition to the regular New Year’s Day menu. This game has done a very reasonable job of filling the large gap left by a cherished favorite, the Cotton Bowl.

TOP THREE CITRUS BOWL WINNERS: Tennessee with four (last win in 2003); Georgia (last win in 2009) and Michigan (2008) with three; Penn State (2010), Auburn (2003), Wisconsin (2007) and Clemson (1989) with two.

TOP THREE CITRUS BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS: Penn State and Tennessee with five; Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State with four; Florida, Clemson, and Michigan State with three.


This is one of the nation’s more enduring non-BCS bowls, a proud pigskin pageant that lived in the venerable Gator Bowl stadium for many years before moving to the updated home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In January of 1971, the Gator Bowl pitted Archie Manning of Ole Miss against Pat Sullivan of Auburn in a confrontation of two of the SEC’s most decorated quarterbacks. In the 1978 game, Ohio State icon Woody Hayes ended his career with a punch thrown at Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman. In 1981, one of the best teams in North Carolina history missed out on an ACC championship because an even better Clemson team claimed the national title. However, the Tar Heels still beat a fine Arkansas team coached by Lou Holtz. Keith Jackson called this game for a number of years on ABC – that’s testament enough to the prestige this game once owned for a generation of college football fans..

TOP THREE GATOR BOWL WINNERS: Florida with seven (last win in 2012); Florida State with six (last win in 2010); North Carolina (1998) with five; Clemson (2009) and Auburn (1974) with four.

TOP THREE GATOR BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS: Clemson and Florida with nine; Florida State, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, and North Carolina with seven.


WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR RESPECT: Played in an attractive setting and now in possession of more than 30 years of history, the Holiday Bowl has delivered the goods more often than most bowls. In the first decade of the bowl’s existence, almost every Holiday outing in San Diego turned into a wacky shootout with a thrilling finish. Brigham Young beat Southern Methodist on a Hail Mary. A man named Lee Corso won this game with Indiana in 1979. George Welsh, one of the more underappreciated coaches in college football history, won the inaugural game for Navy in 1978. BYU won a national title in the 1984 game against Bo Schembechler and Michigan. Barry Sanders ran wild here. Ty Detmer rolled up huge numbers in this game. In the past decade, Texas pulled off a remarkable comeback to outlast Washington. Oregon and Oklahoma State waged an impressive shootout a few years ago. Normally, you can count on this bowl game for late-December entertainment.

TOP THREE HOLIDAY BOWL WINNERS: BYU with four (last win in 1984); Kansas State (2002) and Texas (2011) with three; Oregon (2008), (2007), Ohio State (1993), and Iowa (1991) with two.

TOP THREE HOLIDAY BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS: BYU with 11; Texas with five; Washington with four; Oregon, Arizona State, Kansas State, Colorado State, Iowa, and Nebraska with three.


WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR RESPECT: First, this was the bowl that hosted the last game Bear Bryant ever coached, the 1982 game in which Alabama beat Illinois. Second, 1962 Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker starred in this game for Oregon State. Third, when big-name programs endured disappointing seasons in the past, they came to Memphis. USC’s 1975 team played in the Liberty Bowl. UCLA and Alabama dueled in the 1976 game. This is a postseason event with a legacy worth sustaining.

TOP THREE LIBERTY BOWL WINNERS: Ole Miss with four (last win in 1992); Louisville (last win in 2004), Tennessee (1986) and Penn State (1979) with three; Mississippi State (2007), Southern Miss (1999), Utah (2003), Tulane (1998), Syracuse (1996), Air Force (1992), Alabama (1982) and North Carolina State (1973) with two.

TOP THREE LIBERTY BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS (compressed list): Arkansas, East Carolina, Louisville, Air Force, Ole Miss, and Alabama with four; eight schools with three; 14 schools with two.


(Now the corporate Chick-Fil-A Bowl, a label the Weekly Affirmation once again abhors)

WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR RESPECT: Bobby Bowden coached multiple times in this game. Moreover, he did so in an era before the current glut of 35 bowls. Bowden won his last game at West Virginia in this contest, and he did so against a North Carolina State team coached by Lou Holtz (in 1975). This game has been around for more than 40 years; in the late 1970s and into the mid-1980s, it commanded a spot on national television via CBS, a testament to its attractiveness in the larger bowl ecosystem. In 1982, Johnny Majors and Hayden Fry coached in this game, as Tennessee got nipped by Iowa in the final minutes. Today, this re-branded game is one of the best-attended December bowls on the slate, and it possesses an electric atmosphere inside the Georgia Dome. It’s not a bad landing place unless your SEC school expected in late August to play in the Sugar Bowl.

TOP THREE PEACH BOWL WINNERS: LSU with five (last win in 2008); North Carolina State (last win in 1995) and Auburn (2011) with four; Georgia (2006) and West Virginia (1981) with three.

TOP THREE PEACH BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS: Clemson and North Carolina State with seven; Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, North Carolina, and Auburn with five; Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia with four.


WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR RESPECT: This is the fourth-oldest bowl game in the United States after the Rose, Orange and Sugar. The Sun Bowl is one of the more impressive economic success stories in American sports. This modest event in El Paso, Tex., has remained intact since New Year’s Day of 1936. It’s also impressive that the Sun Bowl’s contract with CBS persists to this day, a sign that a game doesn’t have to be played in New York – or to use a Super Bowl comparison, Miami or New Orleans – for a TV event to gain favor with a national audience. The 1980s editions of this game were fabulous. SMU, ranked in the top 10, got knocked off by Alabama in 1983 in the first year of the post-Bear Bryant era. Tennessee and Maryland staged a memorable duel in 1984, and Barry Sanders frolicked in this game – in snow, no less – in 1987. Earlier in this game’s history, the stars still shone brightly in West Texas. Tony Dorsett carried Pittsburgh to victory in the 1975 game, and Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin – before a fine NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles – booted a 62-yard field goal in the January 1977 game, the only 60-plus-yard field goal in all of bowl history.

TOP THREE SUN BOWL WINNERS: UTEP with five (last win in 1967); Oklahoma (2009), Oregon (2007), Alabama (1988), and Wyoming (1966) with three; 14 schools with two.

TOP THREE SUN BOWL APPEARANCE LEADERS: Texas Tech with nine; UTEP with eight; Oregon, Arizona State, Washington, North Carolina, Texas, and Hardin-Simmons with four.