It's the most wonderful time of the year - that's right, it's the time where we have college football on our TV's basically from noon to well after midnight every single day. Sure, Covid has led to a few cancelations, but we're not going to let it ruin the fun, dammit.
With that said, one thing that's important in this era of watching - and betting - key bowl games is opt outs. They're a reality of college football in 2021, and it's especially important for those of you trying to wager on these games.
So with that said, we have decided to do our best, and get you all the key opt outs all in one place to make you the smartest viewer and gambler possible.
Speaking of gambling, here are Aaron's bowl bets for the big bowl games and College Football Playoff as well.
Now, to the opt outs:
Birmingham Bowl: Houston vs. Auburn, Tuesday, December 28th, 12:00 p.m. ET
Houston All-American cornerback Marcus Jones has opted out of this game and will declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. Jones was one of the best defensive backs in the sport this year, with 13 total pass break-ups and five interceptions.
Auburn has a slew of opt outs in the lead up to this bowl game - as cornerback Roger McCreary, linebacker Zakoby McClain and offensive lineman Brodarious Hamm have all decided to opt out of this game and prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.
First Responder's Bowl: Air Force vs. Louisville, Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET,
There are no opt outs for this game, but it is worth noting that Louisville has lost one of its top playmakers to the transfer portal - as wide receiver Jordan Watkins elected to leave the program. Watkins was second on the team in receptions with 35, and also had four touchdown catches. For those keeping score at home, Watkins recently announced his decision to transfer to Ole Miss.
Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech, Tuesday, December 28th, 6:45 p.m. ET
Charles Cross, an offensive tackle for Mississippi State who is projected as a first round NFL Draft pick has opted out of the Liberty Bowl. Cross allowed just two sacks in over 900 snaps for a Mississippi State offense that finished third nationally in pass offense. The decision comes just days after Bulldog coach Mike Leach criticized players skipping out on bowl games saying "it's the most bizarre thing in the world to me."
Texas Tech has a marquee opt out too, as wide receiver Erik Ezukanma announced that he would opt out as well. Ezukanma led the Red Raiders with 48 catches this season.
Holiday Bowl: UCLA vs. NC State, Tuesday, December 28th, 8:00 p.m. ET
UCLA has two opt outs in the lead-up to their Tuesday night Holiday Bowl matchup with NC State, as both defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight and defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia have both opted out of this game. Knight was UCLA's leader with 65 total tackles this season. Ogbinnia had 27 total tackles and two sacks.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl: West Virginia vs. Minnesota, December 28th, 10:15 p.m. ET
West Virginia's best skill position player, running back Leddie Brown, has announced that he has opted out of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Brown rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Pinstripe Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland, Wednesday, December 29th, 2:15 p.m. ET
At least four starters will be out for Virginia Tech, as several opt outs are confirmed. Among those who have left and will prepare for the NFL Draft including top wide receiver Tre Turner (40 catches, 675 yards, three touchdowns), defensive end Amare Barno (5.5 TFL's, three sacks) and defensive tackle Jordan Williams (3.5 sacks)
Additionally, Braxton Burmeister, who started every game for the Hokies this season has announced that he will transfer - and will not play in this game.
Cheez It Bowl: Iowa State vs. Clemson, Wednesday, 5:45 p.m. ET
Breece Hall, an All-American who rushed for over 1,400 yards for Iowa State this season, has elected to opt out of the Cheez It Bowl. It was a second straight 1,400-yard rushing season for Hall, who set an NCAA record with 24 straight games with at least one rushing touchdown.
In an interesting twist, no players have opted out of this game for Clemson despite a disappointing season for the Tigers. The most notable player who has elected to play is cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., who could be a first round pick this fall.
Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Oklahoma, Wednesday, December 29th, 9:15 p.m. ET
Oregon's roster has been decimated by injuries and opt outs, as the Ducks will be down close to 30 players from their opening day roster. Among those who have elected to opt out of this one are potential No. 1 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux on the defensive line, top cornerback Mykael Wright and top receiver Devon Williams, who had a team-high 35 catches this year. Thibodeaux led the team with seven sacks.
Oklahoma has several opt outs as well, mostly on the defensive end with Nik Bonitto, Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas, and Brian Asamoah all headed to the NFL. Asamoah led the team in tackles with 80, with Thomas, Bonitto and Winfrey finished No's 1, 2 and 3 in sacks on the team combining for 20.5 on the season.
In addition to opt outs, Oklahoma had several transfers after the season as well. Notable players who have left the school are wide receiver Jadon Haselwood who has committed to Arkansas, and back-up quarterback Spencer Rattler as well as tight end Austin Stogner, who both committed to South Carolina. Haselwood had a team-high 62 catches, to go along with seven touchdown receptions.
Duke's Mayo Bowl: South Carolina vs. North Carolina, Thursday, December 30th, 11:30 a.m. ET
South Carolina had two players opt out of this bowl game: Leading rusher ZaQuandre White (583 yards rushing) and lineman Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare, who led the team with 4.5 sacks. It's also worth noting Gamecocks starting quarterback Jason Brown entered the portal following the news that Spencer Rattler would transfer to the program. Back-up Zeb Noland will get the start for the Gamecocks.
In case there was any confusion, North Carolina starting quarterback, and projected first round pick Sam Howell WILL play in this game.
Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Purdue, Thursday, December 30th, 3:00 p.m. ET
Purdue's two best players - defensive end George Karlaftis and wide receiver David Bell - yet it is NOT clear whether they will play in the Music City Bowl on December 30th or not. Bell may have been the nation's best wide receiver, hauling in 93 passes for nearly 1,300 yards of offense, while Karlaftis led this team with 4.5 sacks. Both are projected as first round picks by ESPN's Mel Kiper, so this will be a situation to monitor.
Peach Bowl: Michigan State vs. Pitt, Thursday, December 30th, 7:00 p.m. ET
The announcement that many of us were expecting became official mid-December, as Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker has opted out of the Peach Bowl and declared for the NFL Draft. Walker was the heartbeat of the Spartan offense this year, rushing for over 1,600 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns.
Pitt star Kenny Pickett has also announced he will not play in this game. The news isn't all taht surprising, considering that Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple abruptly resigned just a few weeks before this game to take the same role at Nebraska.
Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State, Thursday, December 30th, 10:30 p.m. ET
Arizona State will be down five key players, as leading rusher Rachaad White has elected to opt out of this game and prepare for the NFL Draft, as well as cornerbacks Jack Jones and Chase Lucas. In an interesting twist, third leading rusher DeaMonte Trayanum elected to transfer to Ohio State to play linebacker, and finally, offensive lineman Dohnovan West - a second-team All-Pac 12 performer - is out after undergoing thumb surgery following the season.
Outback Bowl: Arkansas vs. Penn State, Saturday, January 1, 12:00 p.m. ET
Arkansas star receiver Treylon Burks has announced that he will opt out of the Outback Bowl and begin preparations for the NFL Draft. Burks was one of the best wide receivers in college football this year, catching 66 balls for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns.
Penn State will be down several key pieces from this season's disappointing 7-5 squad. Most notably is star receiver Jahan Dotson, who had 91 catches. Additionally All-Big Ten safety Jaquan Brisker won't play, nor will linebackers Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks.
Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky, Saturday, January 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Star Iowa running back Tyler Goodson has announced that he will opt out of the Citrus Bowl. Goodson ran for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns for the Hawkeyes this season.
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday, January 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Marcus Freeman's debut as a head coach will come without two key members of the Irish's 2021 roster - as running back Kyren Williams and All-American safety have both opted out of the Fiesta Bowl. Williams was easily the Irish's most dangerous offensive weapon with over 1,100 yards rushing, while Hamilton is a projected Top 10 NFL Draft pick this spring.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah, Saturday, January 1, 5:00 p.m. ET
In news that isn't ultimately all that surprising, four marquee Ohio State Buckeyes have opted out of the Rose Bowl. All-American wide receiver Garrett Wilson was the first to announce his intentions, and later Ryan Day said that fellow receiver Chris Olave, defensive lineman Haskell Garrett and offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere wouldn't be playing either. Wilson finished the season with 70 catches and 12 touchdowns, with Olave grabbing 13 touchdowns of his own. Both are expected to be first round picks in next spring's NFL Draft.
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Baylor, Saturday, January 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral - the potential first quarterback off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft will play in this year's Sugar Bowl.
Gerry Bohanon, who had to miss the Big 12 championship game because of injury, is expected to start for Baylor at quarterback in the Sugar Bowl.
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