The 2022 season ended for Penn State with a win over Utah in the Rose Bowl, but future second-round NFL draft pick Joey Porter Jr. was not a part of the win. He was the only Nittany Lion to opt out of last season’s bowl game after James Franklin had six players opt out of the 2021 Outback Bowl.
Penn State checked in at No. 10 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and received a bid to play No. 11 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. It is Penn State’s first Peach Bowl appearance in program history, but there is a chance that a few potential NFL draft picks won’t take the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 30.
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin does not expect to have that same problem. The Rebels did not have any players opt-out of their loss to Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl last season, or their Cotton Bowl loss in 2021.
Regarding opt-outs this bowl season, Kiffin told reporters “I would expect that we don’t have any.”
That’s both good and bad news for the Nittany Lions’ chances of collecting a win in their sixth different New Year’s Six Bowl. Bad because Ole Miss will have its full complement of weapons, including quarterback Jaxson Dart and standout sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins. Good because of the reasoning that Kiffin gave.
“We’re kind of not in one of those years where we really have some first-rounders that are coming out and are concerned with injuries and so forth.”
Per PFF, wide receiver Tre Harris is the Rebels top draft prospect, at No. 117 on their big board. Edge-rusher Cedric Johnson and wide receiver Zakhari Franklin are the other players likely to be drafted and both are seniors.
If all were to play, at least by NFL standards, Penn State has the more talented roster heading into the Peach Bowl. Chop Robinson, Olu Fashanu, and Kalen King are all potential first-round picks this Spring, and Adisa Isaac, Theo Johnson, and Curtis Jacobs are all legitimate draft prospects if Johnson and Jacobs choose to depart early for the league.
Penn State has yet to have any players opt out of the Peach Bowl, and the Nittany Lions opened as 4.5-point favorites over Ole Miss. That line could certainly move if Robinson, Fashanu, or King decide that they have played their final collegiate snaps.