Following the conclusion of the 2023 college football season, there are now 43 college bowl games scheduled to play out. The first game of the post-season was December 16 when Ohio University defeated Georgia Southern in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. The post-season extravaganza will conclude on January 8 with the College Football Playoff National Championship game. And, if 43 bowl games seems like a saturated market, consider that many of these teams are a shadow of what they were during the regular season thanks to the NFL Draft and the transfer portal.
Anyone who has followed BCS college football throughout the year will barely recognize these college football teams playing in the various post-season bowls due to the numerous “opt outs” by many of the better players. Good thing the uniforms haven’t changed because in this bowl line-up, many of these post-season teams come across as imposters of the regular-season teams—something akin to a football version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
With the exception of the two BCS semi-final games of Alabama/Michigan and Washington/Texas, along with the line-up of playoff games at the FCS level, many of these non-important bowl games will be missing several key players that heavily contributed throughout the regular season thanks to them either opting out because they are about to declare themselves as NFL prospects (these players are all starters), or they are transferring to another school for next year via the transfer portal (a combination of starters and non-starters).
Because The Ohio State is only playing in the Cotton Bowl against lowly Missouri, starting quarterback Kyle McCord and Heisman Trophy finalist Marvin Harrison are staying home—McCord transferring via the portal to mighty Syracuse while Harrison is opting out for the NFL draft. You can be sure if the Buckeyes had made the top four and propelled into the official playoffs, those two would still be on the roster. Nevertheless, I was delighted to hear that OSU was held to only one field goal in their demoralizing loss to the Tigers.
Speaking of the Heisman Trophy, this year’s winner, Jayden Daniels of LSU will sit out the ReliaQuest Bowl (to enter the NFL Draft) when the 9-3 Tigers meet 7-4 Wisconsin on January 1. Meanwhile, thirteen players from USC are opting out of their appearance in the Holiday Bowl against Louisville including last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.
As long as players are opting out for the NFL Draft or to transfer before their teams’ seasons are completed, my question is, what’s the point in having all these other bowl games if the starting line-ups are fractured and the games have no consequence other than just another “W” or “L” for their season record?
I see two possible solutions.
First, given that college football players at this level of collegiate play receive lucrative college scholarship, they should be required to sign a yearly contract that stipulates they will play in every game of the season and post-season barring any kind of injury. If they opt out for any games for whatever reason—including the post-season—they have to pay back their scholarships in full for that year. For those that are hedging their bets on an NFL career, given the money they will likely make in the NFL, that reimbursement of funds for the year will be a drop in the bucket. Those wishing to enter the transfer portal, can’t do so until college football’s last game of the year has concluded (i.e., the BCS title game).
The other possible solution is to simply eliminate the quagmire of insignificant bowl games that are essentially consolation prizes for teams that had a better than average year (never mind there are some .500 teams in this year’s bowl games). Instead of having 43 bowl games where only three have any real meaning (the two semi-finals and the title game), whittle it down to 31 bowl games that are all part of a 32-team playoff where any team could claim the national title.
Until one of these things happen, college football’s BCS will continue to be badly broken. So, bring on the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas between the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State and the Grizzlies of Montana.