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Dec 19, 2:51 AM EST

Best of the season's 39 bowl games


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Best of the season's 39 bowl games

39 bowl games and a reason to watch every one

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The College Football Playoff era is here and as the bowl season starts, it feels a bit like a New Year's three-for-one special: Three big games instead of one.

There's still a bit of controversy just like there was in the BCS - ask Baylor and TCU - but most college football fans believe the selection committee got it right with two marquee semifinal games to set up the Jan. 12 national championship game in North Texas.

But those are far from the only bowls worth watching.

With 39 bowls, there are plenty of other great games, star players and must-see matchups this season. And, of course, we've got a rundown of the biggest and the best.

Here you go:

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TOP GAMES

College Football Championship, teams TBD, Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas. Goes without saying.

Rose Bowl, Florida State vs. Oregon, Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California. Not only a national semifinal, it pits the past two Heisman Trophy winners and two dynamic offenses.

Sugar Bowl, Ohio State vs. Alabama, Jan. 1 in New Orleans. Another national semifinal, another can't-miss game.

Cotton Bowl, Baylor vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1 in Arlington, Texas. Classic strength-against-strength matchup: the Bears' prolific offense facing the stingy Spartans.

Fiesta Bowl, Boise State vs. Arizona, Dec. 31 in Glendale, Arizona. Teams with a flair for the dramatic in bowl games. Might want to watch this one all the way through.

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TOP PLAYERS

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Won the Heisman. You may have heard of him.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Despite the off-the-field troubles, last year's Heisman winner is a dynamic player who still hasn't lost a game as the Seminoles' starter.

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. Heisman finalist is unstoppable even when teams know the ball his headed his way.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. One last chance to see Gordon run before he heads to the NFL.

Shaq Thompson, WR, Washington. The all-purpose All-American will be all over the Cactus Bowl.

Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona. Makes ball carriers scream ruh-roh!

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TOP INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS

East Carolina WR Justin Hardy vs. Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III. Hardy set the NCAA career record with 376 receptions and Hargreaves is one of the nation's best cover corners. Certainly should add some intrigue to the Birmingham Bowl.

Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas vs. Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney. Thomas leads an option offense that was third nationally in rushing. McKinney, a second-team All-American, will be the key to stopping him in the Orange Bowl.

Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. Ohio State DE Joey Bosa. A big game within the game to keep an eye on during the Sugar Bowl.

Auburn LB Cassanova McKinzy vs. Wisconsin's Gordon. Gordon ran for over 2,300 yards and 26 TDs and McKinzy figures to meet him in a few holes during the Outback Bowl.

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ODDS

According to Glantz-Culver, the two national semifinals will not be close.

In the Rose Bowl, Oregon has been picked as a nine-point favorite and Alabama is favored by 9 1/2 points over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.

The biggest spread is Stanford by 14 points over Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl. The smallest spread is a point in three games: Kansas State over UCLA in the Alamo Bowl, Nevada over Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans and Memphis over BYU at Miami Beach.

The highest over/under is 72 points between Oregon and Florida State in the Rose Bowl, the lowest 40 points between Boston College and Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl.

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NUMBERS

33-Straight bowl appearances by Florida State, longest in the nation.

45-Consecutive games with touchdown pass by Marshall's Rakeem Cato, an FBS record.

54-Years since Duke won a bowl game. The Blue Devils face Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.

87-Years since a bowl game was played outside the United States or Canada before this year's Bahamas Bowl. The Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba, was the last.

4,344-Passing yards this season by Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty, the FBS leader.

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BOWL SPONSORS

There was a time when dot-coms were the primary sponsors of bowl games.

Now, food and cars are king.

The 2014-15 bowl season includes six games sponsored by car-related companies and six more that have to do with food, from potatoes to fried chicken.

Four bowls do not have primary sponsors, going only be the site name: Miami Beach, Boca Raton, Hawaii and Birmingham.

There's also three bowls sponsored by apparel companies, one by a mover, a media company, health products and even one by the online home of the Duck Dynasty guys.

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DISTANCES

When it comes to hometown advantages, no team will have a better one than San Diego State this bowl season. Playing in the Poinsettia Bowl, the Aztecs will face Navy just up the road at Qualcomm Stadium.

Stanford will have a similarly-short drive, making the 15-mile-or-so trip to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara to face Maryland in the Fosters Farms Bowl, and Louisiana-Lafayette will be playing about 135 miles away in New Orleans against Nevada.

The longest trip by far belongs to Rice. The Owls will be about 3,900 miles from home when they face Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Longest trip without crossing an ocean goes to Florida State, which will travel roughly 2,200 miles to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

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