One of the most common themes for bowl games this season, at least those outside of the College Football Playoff, are high-profile opt-outs.
Many big-name college football players, or even sometimes just guys ready to exlore the transfer portal, are opting out of playing in bowl games. In general, it's a common theme leading up to the game -- who has lost what to the transfer portal and opt outs.
I understand why the players do it. Do Caleb Williams and Drake Maye have any reason to risk injury in a meaningless bowl game? No, they don't. Would I love to watch them play again? Yes. There lies the dilemma.
College football bowl games have become meaningless
What college football needs to do is make every postseason game mean something, even if that means getting rid of the Pop-Tarts Bowl. Expand the playoff field to 32 teams or keep it at 12, and allow 32 others to compete in an NIT-style tournament that uses bowl games.
There would still be opt-outs. It wouldn't completely solve the problem, but winning the college football NIT might mean more than winning the Duke's Mayo Bowl, although maybe not. You can keep the Mayo Bowl and incorporate it as part of the NIT field, which would be competitive.
If only 44 teams made the postseason, it wouldn't be as watered down either (no 6-6 teams), such as when there were only about 15 bowl games, making them mean something.
The worst example in all of this is Florida State. The Noles could have made a point with a win over Georgia after being left out of the playoff. Hell, if Alabama or Texas won the playoff and FSU finished 14-0 with an Orange Bowl win over Georgia with its backup quarterback, the Noles could have made a case for No. 1 in the AP Poll.
Instead, just about every good player has opted out. Expected starting quarterback Tate Rodemaker announced that he will skip the Orange Bowl to enter the transfer portal, just as Maalik Murphy had to do with Texas.
Part of it is the calendar. it's not fair for players. And in the case of Rodemaker, Florida State has been openly recruiting other quarterbacks to start over him, so you can see why he'd transfer.
That's why college football needs to end this practice of having the postseason during the offseason. It would be like the NFL playoffs and free agency at the same time.
Or, we need to get away from the meaningless bowl games. The playoff will help and maybe an NIT tournament would too, but the system is unlikely to change because the money is real and so are the extra practices which head coaches are about.
But for old-school college football fans, it's hard to see the bowl games get so watered down from opt-outs, that even the Orange Bowl feels like nothing more than a preseason game, instead of must-see TV.