Kirby Smart calls for change with opt-outs after Georgia’s blowout of Florida State: ‘It affected the game 100 percent’

The 2023 Orange Bowl might as well have been titled the disappointment bowl. Both Florida State and Georgia believed they should have been in the College Football Playoff. Neither were. Both had a number of major stars with NFL prospects. Florida State had a litany of opt outs. Georgia did not.

And the divide between a largely full slate of Bulldogs vs. a depleted Seminole roster was on full display in a historic beatdown that saw Georgia wallop Florida State 63-3, the largest margin of victory in both Orange Bowl and college football bowl game history.

Kirby Smart should have been delighted in his team’s efforts in winning the Orange Bowl, which he had talked about being viewed as an important game for the Bulldogs. But amid the celebration, he also decried the state of the game where Florida State was forced to play down a significant number of players.

“I can say we had our guys and they didn’t have their guys. I can listen to all that. But college football has got to decide what they want,” Smart said after the win. “I know things are changing and things are going to change next year. You know what? There’s going to still be bowl games outside of those. People have got to decide what they want and what they really want to get out of it.

“Because it’s really unfortunate for those kids on that sideline that had to play that game that didn’t have their full arsenal. It affected the game 100 percent.”

MORE: Georgia sets record with historic beatdown of Florida State

Georgia was impacted with a few notable players missing the game, including Brock Bowers, offensive tackle Amarius Mims and wide receiver RaRa Thomas. However, all those players — and the remaining absences — were listed out due to either injuries or transfer. There were no players officially listed as having opted out.

That was in stark contrast to the Seminoles, who were missing 30 total players due to injury, transfers or declaring early for the NFL draft. That list included countless starters, including both its top two quarterbacks and players that accounted for 86 percent of the team’s total touchdowns in 2023.

Opt outs have become a growing theme of college football bowl games in recent years. Players heading to the NFL hope to stay healthy playing in non-College Football Playoff contests. But adding to the count lately has been the opening of college football’s transfer portal on Dec. 4. With more players than ever heading to the portal, which stays open only for 30 days, players have to jump in early and often wind up missing the bowl games since they need to announce their intentions to leave.

This year’s wave of players heading to the portal have led to the belief that both the coach hiring cycle and the transfer portal should all largely be moved until after the conclusion of the national championship game. The expansion of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams starting in 2024 should help to quell some of the major opt outs, but as Smart pointed out, there are still likely to be opt outs in other bowl games.

There are not likely to be many easy solutions for reducing opt outs. But Smart — and likely many others looking to watch more competitive bowl games in the future — would certainly like to see just about anything happen to keep teams closer to full strength.


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