It looks like we won't have a full schedule of bowl games this season. Texas A&M announced Wednesday that it is unable to play in the Dec. 31 Gator Bowl against Wake Forest due to COVID-19 cases.
"It is heartbreaking for our players, coaches, staff and fans that we are not able to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl," Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said in a statement. "Postseason football is the pinnacle of the season and when the opportunity is lost, it hurts on many levels. As we have learned in the last 21 months of this health challenge, the well-being and safety of our student-athletes is paramount. Our players poured their heart and soul into this season and we appreciate their dedication as Aggies. Aggie football is on track for long-term success and we know that the best is yet to come."
Per SI, the game could still be played if the Gator Bowl can find a replacement team for the Aggies. But that would require another bowl game getting canceled due to COVID-19. Per a report from TexAgs, A&M would have only 38 scholarship players available for the game due to COVID-19, transfers, injuries and opt-outs. The FBS scholarship limit is 85.
Assuming the game is officially canceled, Wake Forest will finish the season with a 10-3 record while Texas A&M will finish 8-4. Both teams lost their final games of the season; A&M lost to LSU while Wake lost to Pitt in the ACC championship game.
Wake Forest, however, is holding out hope that an opponent can be found to replace A&M.
"While we are disappointed that we do not have the opportunity to play a talented Texas A&M football team next week in Jacksonville, our student-athletes and staff are still extremely excited and want to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl next week," coach Dave Clawson said in a statement. "From the Atlantic Division Championship to winning 10 games for the second time in program history with a program-record 15 student-athletes earning All-ACC honors, our student-athletes and staff achieved our team goal of going from 'Good to Great.' The hard work and dedication of our players and staff all season long elevated our brand of Wake Forest University and I am extremely proud of all we accomplished on and off the field during the fall semester. Our student-athletes, specifically our seniors, deserve this last opportunity to compete as a team for the chance to win a championship."
Per Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, the search for a team to play Wake Forest may also even include teams that have already played in bowl games.
Sources: In the quest to find a Gator Bowl opponent for Wake Forest, one of the options being discussed is finding a team that’s already played in a bowl game. They’d need to get a waiver to play in another.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 22, 2021
16 games canceled in 2020
Sixteen bowl games weren’t played as scheduled after the 2020 season because of COVID-19. The Redbox Bowl was the first game to get canceled over the summer and games like the Bahamas Bowl and Hawaii Bowl were canceled due to travel restrictions because of the virus.
Other games were canceled after teams were infected. The Frisco Bowl, Gasparilla Bowl, Music City Bowl and Texas Bowl were all canceled because selected teams weren’t able to play because of COVID-19 cases.
Other games were canceled due to a lack of available teams as numerous schools across the country opted not to play in bowl games because of the virus. Over a dozen eligible teams announced at the end of the season that they didn’t want to continue to risk COVID-19 exposure to prepare for a bowl game.