We’re approaching a yearly tradition unlike any other. You gather with family to be together for the holiday season, free of responsibilities for a week, two, maybe three if you’re still a student or something. Someone suggests you flip on a college football game. You scroll through the channels: the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the Progressive Gator Bowl, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. How can you possibly choose?
With this in mind, I decided to take on the challenge of power ranking every bowl game this year based on how fun the name is. Each bowl will be ranked by the full sponsored name, not its colloquial one. That means I’m ranking the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X, not the Rose Bowl. This year there are 43 bowls (including the national championship game) after the addition of the Frisco Football Classic as a one-off to accommodate all 84 bowl eligible teams. We’re going from worst to best. All times are PST because that’s where I live.
43. TaxAct Camellia Bowl (Georgia State vs. Ball State, 12/25 @ 11:30am)
42. TaxAct Texas Bowl (LSU vs. Kansas State, 1/4 @ 6:00pm)
41. Myrtle Beach Bowl Presented by TaxAct (Old Dominion vs. Tulsa, 12/20 @ 11:30am)
Leave some for the rest of us, TaxAct. Their 3 bowls are the 3 worst because of their unwillingness to allow other sponsors to enter the market. The TaxAct Camellia Bowl gets last because the last thing I want to think about on Christmas is my taxes. The Myrtle Beach Bowl beats the Texas Bowl thanks to the “presented by”, which makes the sponsor a bit less in your face during the actual game.
40. Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl (Central Michigan vs. Boise State, 12/31 @ 11:00am)
Barstool Sports is a bad company that deserves a December 18th bowl at best. Argue with your dog and get them off New Year’s Eve.
39. RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl (Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State, 12/18 @ 8am)
Don’t name bowls after websites, especially ones that are for all-in-one roof replacements. Doesn’t RoofClaim.com know that millennials can’t afford homes, and therefore definitely can’t afford roof replacements? Maybe that’s why this game is on at 8am. Only boomers and degenerate fans (like me, to be clear) will be up in time to watch the stylistic musings of the Hilltoppers’ Air Raid.
38. Guaranteed Rate Bowl (West Virginia vs. Minnesota, 12/28 @ 7:15pm)
Similar to the TaxAct bowls, don’t make me think about my mortgage while I’m trying to enjoy the holidays and college football. Also, same vein as RoofClaim.com, you’re targeting the wrong demographics here, Guaranteed Rate. You can’t get the 46% of 18-34 year olds that say they’re not fans of college football to tune in by advertising mortgages. You gotta have more fun with it than that!
37. LendingTree Bowl (Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty, 12/18 @ 2:45pm)
See #38, except that LendingTree might at least have student loan services since they’re a general lending company.
36. Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl (UCF vs. Florida, 12/23 @ 4:00pm)
Look how they massacred my boy. Same principle as the last few, but with added points because Gasparilla is a fun name even when attached to a mortgage sponsor.
35. SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Arizona State, 12/30 @ 7:30pm)
Shame on SRS Distribution for buying the naming rights to a bowl and forcing me to look up their company, only to find out it’s another roofing company. Stop selling me roofs. Better than RoofClaim.com because it’s not a website and better than the lenders because it’s not as obvious.
34. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X (Utah vs. Ohio State, 1/1 @ 2:00pm)
This is way too many words, but Capital One already has another bowl that they sponsor, so at least they went through the effort of using a different product. The Rose Bowl feels too iconic to be sullied by sponsors, especially ones advertising a specific product rather than the whole company.
33. CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl (Georgia vs. Michigan, 12/31 @ 4:30pm)
It’s not the Orange Bowl’s fault that they slapped “CFP Semifinal at the” in front of their name this year, but it is their fault that they have a duplicate sponsor. Every bowl should be unique. Get with the program, Capital One.
32. CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (Cincinnati vs. Alabama, 12/31 @ 12:30pm)
Again, just too many words. I understand why it’s so many words, but it undeniably lowers the fun factor when I have to say an entire sentence to get the full bowl name out. This is the highest of the mouthfuls since it’s not sponsored by Capital One.
31. CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T (TBD vs. TBD, 1/10 @ 5:00)
AT&T isn’t even one of the 25 biggest college football sponsors, but they get to sponsor the biggest game of the year? I feel like all of the restaurant brands on that list are missing out. Tell me the CFP National Championship Presented by Raising Cane’s wouldn’t make you immediately head to the one nearest you.
30. Military Bowl Presented by Peraton (Boston College vs. East Carolina, 12/27 @ 11:30am)
29. Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl (UAB vs. BYU, 12/18 @ 12:30pm)
28. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Air Force vs. Louisville, 12/28 @ 12:15pm)
27. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Missouri vs. Army, 12/22 @ 5:00pm)
All of these are the same to me. Military, independence, first responders, armed forces; all things to be thankful for when giving a generic speech about how much America rules. Complete with thematic sponsors for each bowl, these are inoffensive but not very much fun.
26. Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel (Utah State vs. Oregon State, 12/18 @ 4:30pm)
Jimmy Kimmel seems like exactly the kind of guy to get his bowl sponsored by an investment bank. Also, is it a purposeful thing that Stifel is presumably pronounced like stifle, the thing you do to laughter? That’s carrying this ranking.
25. EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl (Memphis vs. Hawaii, 12/24 @ 5:00pm)
The Hawai’i Bowl feels like it should be sponsored by something more exotic than a shipping API. The Tropical Smoothie Cafe Hawai’i Bowl, for example. It used to be the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl, which was at least good marketing for Sheraton. What about Hawai’i makes me want to use a shipping API?
24. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (UCLA vs. NC State, 12/28 @ 5pm)
I grew up in San Diego, so maybe this is high because I’m biased from being exposed to it every year. SDCCU needs to cut down on the word count and I miss the poinsettias.
23. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Louisiana vs. Marshall, 12/18 @ 6:15pm)
R+L Carriers is evidently a shipping company headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio, a fact that I did not know until researching this article despite the fact that they’ve sponsored the New Orleans Bowl since 2006. Also, R+L once acquired a different trucking company called Gator Freightways in 1989. They should’ve kept the name; the Gator Freightways New Orleans Bowl sounds awesome.
22. Valero Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. Oklahoma, 12/29 @ 6:15pm)
Fossil fuels are destroying our atmosphere and Valero owns 15 oil refineries. The Alamo is a good addition to this name, but that’s where the fun stops.
21. Outback Bowl (Penn State vs. Arkansas, 1/1 @ 9:00am)
This paragraph was going to be about how it should at least be the Outback Steakhouse Bowl before I looked it up and discovered that Outback Steakhouse is actually the title sponsor of the Outback Bowl. What’s with the trickery, Outback Steakhouse?
20. AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech, 12/28 @ 3:45pm)
The Liberty Bowl used to be sponsored by St. Jude’s and used to be another service academy bowl, which explains why it feels like it should be in the service bowl tier. AutoZone is a fine name, but not the best of the auto service-themed sponsors in the bowl game naming sphere.
19. Quick Lane Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Nevada, 12/27 @ 8:00am)
Quick Lane is a better auto service name than AutoZone in a bowl sponsor context. The Quick Lane Bowl is also evidently organized by the Detroit Lions, which is a ridiculous fact that I will certainly be bringing up to my family.
18. Bahamas Bowl (Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo, 12/17 @ 9am)
The Bahamas Bowl is fun for reasons other than its name, like the fact that it’s in the Bahamas. Last year it would’ve ranked much higher if it was played, since it was sponsored by the city of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which is about as opposite from the Bahamas as I can imagine. With no title sponsor this year, all the bowl name does is tell you where it is.
17. TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl (Houston vs. Auburn, 12/28 @ 9:00am)
Reselling is an epidemic for any goods that are sold lately. PS5s, sneakers, live event tickets, the list goes on and on. TicketSmarter is part of this problem as a live event ticket reselling platform. However, this ranking is salvaged by the fact that TicketSmarter has to disclose that no, they’re not Ticketmaster, in the FAQ section on their website.
16. TransPerfect Music City Bowl (Tennessee vs. Purdue, 12/30 @ 12:00pm)
TransPerfect is ultimately kind of a clunky brand name for a bowl game, but Music City carries this into the top half of the rankings. The bowl naming rights is the latest development in TransPerfect’s pursuits in streaming after acquiring a few media localization companies in 2019. Because TransPerfect is a translation service, not a social commentary due to some not great laws in Tennessee, where the bowl is played.
15. Allstate Sugar Bowl (Baylor vs. Mississippi, 1/1 @ 5:45pm)
I could’ve sworn Allstate has sponsored the Sugar Bowl for my entire lifetime, but they bought the naming rights in 2007. Previously, it was the Nokia Sugar Bowl, which just sounds odd. Kudos to Allstate for gaslighting me into thinking this was an institution.
14. Vrbo Citrus Bowl (Iowa vs. Kentucky, 1/1 @ 10:00am)
As someone that currently lives in a state that has actual seasons, Vrbo is an effective marketer this time of year. Now that you mention it, I would like to rent a vacation home and go somewhere warmer. However, its rise up the rankings stops here because of the confusion you and your family will inevitably endure over how to pronounce Vrbo. (It’s Ver-boh, not vee-are-bee-oh, for what it’s worth.)
13. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Pitt vs. Michigan State, 12/30 @ 4:00pm)
Chick-fil-A has questionable morals and their fries turn into cardboard if you let them sit for like ten minutes, but they have pretty good chicken and mac and cheese. Also, to their credit, they avoided sponsoring a Sunday bowl game, so they’ll be open when you’re eventually marketed to during this game. Popeye’s is better, though.
12. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame, 1/1 @ 10:00am)
I’m a firm PlayStation > Xbox guy because I’ve only ever owned a PlayStation, but I miss when this was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. That was excellent brand pairing and reminds me of the Boise State-Oklahoma game, which is the first sports event I will remember forever that didn’t involve one of my favorite teams. I remember being incredulous that Jared Zabransky didn’t get drafted in 2007. I was also less than ten years old at the time, so sue me.
By the way, give us Elder Scrolls back Microsoft. I’ll fistfight you.
11. Cheez-It Bowl (Clemson vs. Iowa State, 12/29 @ 2:45pm)
Cheez-Its are an elite tier snack, especially the white cheddar and extra toasted versions. They’re arguably the only reason I graduated college. They also turned 100 years old this year and have been acquired three times as part of Kellogg’s quest to own every wheat-based food product on earth. I can’t put them higher than this because I get the Cheez-It Bowl confused with the Redbox Bowl, which produced a game so bad that the bowl hasn’t been played since 2019. Perhaps that’s because the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, played five days earlier, was equally awful.
10. New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Maryland vs. Virginia Tech, 12/29 @ 11:15am)
I like to think this bowl is telling me that there’s a new era of pinstripes unfolding before my eyes. What new things can they possibly do with pinstripes? What does a new era even look like? These sorts of questions can get you through a possibly terrible game any year. Also, I appreciate that it’s the Pinstripe Bowl and not something like the Yankee Bowl, which I would demand be sponsored by Yankee Candle.
9. Wasabi Fenway Bowl (SMU vs. Virginia, 12/29 @ 8:00am)
This one was going to be higher until I discovered that the Wasabi part of this is Boston-based cloud storage company Wasabi Technologies and not just the concept of wasabi, the Japanese horseradish. In retrospect, this makes much more sense, since I doubt the whitest of the ten largest metro areas in the country is a big fan of how spicy wasabi is.
Before Yankees fans complain that the Red Sox stadium bowl is higher than theirs, I pose one thing to you: get a better naming rights sponsor.
8. Tailgreeter Cure Bowl (Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina, 12/17 @ 3pm)
I had to look up what Tailgreeter was and what I found uncovered a deep-seated memory of much darker days. Tailgreeter is an app to find tailgates to attend at various sporting events, which is actually kind of cool. You don’t have to set things up yourself, you can connect with likeminded fans, it’s a nice social thing. My problem comes from this paywalled article, whose headline calls Tailgreeter the “Airbnb for tailgating”. Now, you might not know this if you’re not familiar, but thousands upon thousands of startups have been called the “Airbnb of ____.” There’s an Airbnb of boats, garage storage, pools, etc. Wired crowned 2019 as the beginning of the “Airbnb for everything” age.
Long story short, I think it’s funny that a member of the Airbnb for everything epidemic is sponsoring the Cure Bowl. It’s the Cure for Tailgreeter. The Cure for the Airbnb for everything.
7. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl (UTSA vs. San Diego State, 12/21 @ 4:30pm)
This is a much better sponsor, name-wise, than DXL was from 2017-2018, because something about the bluntness of Tropical Smoothie Cafe is very funny to me. What’s not funny is that they sell food items other than Tropical Smoothies, which is a clear betrayal of their marketing.
If it’s not obvious by this point, I have never been to a Tropical Smoothie Cafe. I’m a Jamba Juice man and will remain that way until the Cafe eliminates non-smoothie items from their menu. However, points to them for snagging the naming rights to a bowl in Frisco, which is sunny 230 days out of the year and thus is probably a large market for them.
6. Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl (Washington State vs. Miami, 12/31 @ 9:00am)
I appreciated Kellogg’s for not calling this the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl, because the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl is funnier. Naming bowls after people is kind of weird (looking at you, Kimmel), but naming them after anthropomorphic tigers is much cooler. Also, Tony the Tiger turned 69 this year but has only been Italian since the 1970s. Ah, the masculine urge to become Italian in your early 20s.
5. Duke’s Mayo Bowl (North Carolina vs. South Carolina, 12/30 @ 8:30am)
I like that this one is both a bowl game and a dish your uncle invented for Thanksgiving and refuses to stop making. It’s a massive upgrade on the Belk Bowl, which this game used to be called. Some quick hits on this one:
- The Duke’s Mayo Bowl has a good Twitter account that engages with the degenerate college football fans that love weird stuff.
- As part of this, the Bowl announced that if the winning team dumps a bucket of mayonnaise on their coach, the Bowl will donate $10,000 to a charity of the team’s choosing. This comes after outcry following the 2020 game when they teased the mayo bucket and then dumped regular Gatorade on the coach.
- This is the bowl game where Graham Mertz broke the trophy last year.
- The founder of Duke’s Mayo was a woman active in getting the 19th Amendment passed.
4. Frisco Football Classic (North Texas vs. Miami (OH), 12/23 @ 12:30pm)
This is the one-off bowl being played to accommodate the extra bowl-eligible teams, which also allows Hawai’i to play in the Hawai’i Bowl, as is their right. It’s essentially the replacement for the game formerly known as the Redbox Bowl, which was cancelled for the second year in a row this year. What makes this name so funny to me is that they’re calling it a Classic. You know, the game that has never been played before, will probably not ever be played again. 6-6 North Texas versus 6-6 Miami (OH), in the middle of the day on the Thursday before Christmas. If I hadn’t already taken the entire week off, I would still have to be at work during this game! That’s the true hallmark of a classic.
3. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, 12/31 @ 8:00am)
I know we’ve really bashed the tax services in this article, but think about the possibilities with TaxSlayer Gator. I’m going to think about an alligator with a sword dismantling the IRS for the next five days at least, and then I’ll think about it again when the actual game is played. From 2014-2017, TaxSlayer somehow fumbled this marketing in the worst way possible by dropping the Gator from the name, even though the game is run by Gator Bowl Sports. Anyway, TaxSlayer Gator. Make it the mascot.
2. PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl (UTEP vs. Fresno State, 12/18 @ 11:15am)
This is ridiculous and wonderful and super cool. It sounds like an esports tournament. PUBG Mobile has gotten this opportunity following a 2019 scandal involving the New Mexico Bowl’s previous sponsor, which it turns out didn’t exist. The Albuquerque Journal tried garnishing the wages of the guy who claimed to own the company and found a paycheck from Sony Pictures for less than two dollars. Let this be a lesson to you: anyone can sponsor a bowl game. Even you. It might only be for three weeks, but you can do it for less than two dollars.
Also, the New Mexico Bowl is owned by ESPN, which seems weird. Where are we at on Disney being a monopoly?
1. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Kent State vs. Wyoming, 12/21 @ 12:30pm)
This is a classic and if you don’t like it, you hate football. It’s been the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl since 2011, when the Idaho Potato Commission bought the naming rights to…advertise potatoes, I guess. Fun facts about the Idaho Potato Commission:
- When established in 1937, it was called the Idaho Fruit and Vegetable Advertising Commission. Evidently they realized that the only fruit or vegetable they were growing was potatoes and changed the name.
- They tried to get Mr. Potato Head to be the mascot of the Commission, but then Toy Story came out and Hasbro realized they didn’t need to partner with a potato marketing board.
- They’re also the people that started driving a giant potato around on a flatbed truck. The truck is on its second potato, because you can rent a night in the first one as an Airbnb. Idaho is like the Airbnb for potatoes.
The best part about the top 5 is that they’re all on different days, so you can watch all of them without interruption from a superiorly named game. Enjoy the bowls and don’t let TaxSlayer Gator get too close with its sword. Meet you at the Big Idaho Potato Hotel.
Follow Alex on Twitter @alexkatson.
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