NCAA Football Orange Bowl: Texas A&M/North Carolina Preview

by Big Al Staff

The final New Year’s Six Bowl for 2020-21 takes place Saturday night with the Orange Bowl at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida, featuring two teams ranked in the top-14 in the nation.

Texas A&M ranks 5th in the Associated Press poll after an 8-1 regular season that culminated with a 34-13 win at Tennessee on December 19th. Quarterback Kellen Mond completed 26 of 32 passes for 281 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the victory. He added another 59 yards on the ground with another rushing touchdown. The senior completed 63.5% of his passes this season for 2050 yards with 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions while rushing for 258 yards with another three touchdowns.

Mond leads an offense that ranked 34th in the nation by averaging 437.2 yards-per-game. The Aggies defense held their opponents to 316.6 yards-per-game, the 11th best mark in the country. Texas A&M’s lone loss was at Alabama by a 52-24 score in Tuscaloosa on October 3rd. With victories over Florida, Mississippi State, and Auburn, head coach Jimbo Fisher thought his team deserved to make the College Football Playoff. Whether his team will have a chip on their shoulder to make a statement the day after the semifinals took place, or they will be complacent to play against a perennial basketball power from the ACC with three losses is one of the questions for this game.

Fisher has overseen a team that has gone 25-10 in the three years since taking over the program with two victories in bowl games. They defeated North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl last year by a 52-13 score.

North Carolina ranks 14th in the AP poll after concluding their 8-3 regular season with a 62-26 upset victory at Miami (FL) as a 3-point favorite on December 12th. Led by quarterback Sam Howell, the Tar Heels generated 778 yards against the Hurricanes’ defense. North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation averaging 556.6 yards-per-game, and their 43.0 points-per-game scoring average is the sixth-best in the country.

Howell completed 14 of his 19 passes for 223 yards in the victory. The sophomore completed 69.1% of his passes for 3352 yards with 27 touchdown passes with six interceptions.

The Tar Heels lost by just three points to Virginia and Florida while remaining competitive against Notre Dame in a 31-17 setback. North Carolina had three other victories against bowl teams in Duke, Wake Forest, and North Carolina State.

Head coach Mack Brown will be using this game as a preview for the 2021-22 season, with four of his best players opting out for this game. Wide receiver Dyami Brown caught 55 passes for 1099 yards with eight touchdowns. Running back Michael Carter rushed for 1245 yards on 156 carries for an 8.0 yards-per-carry average with nine touchdowns. Fellow running back Javonte Williams ran the ball 157 times for 1140 yards for a 7.3 yards-per-carry average with 19 touchdowns. Linebacker Chazz Surratt registered 91 tackles with six sacks.

Brown has a 15-9 record in his two years at Chapel Hill. North Carolina beat Temple in the Military Bowl by a 55-13 score last season.

BookMaker lists Texas A&M as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 65.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 8 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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