MIAMI, Fla. — Just a few weeks after falling short of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff, Texas A&M is gearing up for its first-ever appearance in a New Year's Six bowl game.
The Aggies (8-1) will square off with North Carolina (8-3) in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.
"The Orange Bowl is as good as it gets," Aggie Head Coach Jimbo Fisher said. "And to be able to come to South Florida and play in such a prestigious game with great history and the great players and coaches and people who have participated in this game, it's phenomenal."
But for many Aggie faithful, playing in the Orange Bowl is a disappointing consolation after coming one spot shy of a birth in the College Football Playoff.
"For us, of course, emotions were high on the day [of the playoff selection], but the day is over and we can just move forward from it," Aggie linebacker Buddy Johnson said. "We're excited about the Orange Bowl."
Fisher confirmed no players will miss the game because of either COVID-19 or opt-outs, meaning the Aggies will be full-strength when they take the field Saturday night.
"We had two weeks off here and there," Aggie offensive lineman Carson Green said. "You had COVID, people getting quarantined. Everyone just knew that they wanted to keep playing. I think it's one of those things too where you owe it to Texas A&M to play it out."
This is only the second time the Aggies will travel to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl. Their only other appearance in that game came in 1944, when the Kiddie Corps fell to LSU.
"We haven't been to a NY6 Bowl since before I was even thought of. So, it's just a big time blessing," Johnson said.
Texas A&M has never played the Tar Heels in program history, but Aggie fans will see a familiar foe when they look across the sideline: former Texas Longhorn Head Coach Mack Brown.
"You knew he was going to be a Hall-of-Fame coach," Fisher said. "And what he's done here proves it again, but he was already going to be Hall-of-Fame coach during that time, what he achieved at all the places he'd been."
The Aggies first New Year's Six Bowl appearance is just the start for the Aggies under Fisher, Johnson said.
"They say it's calm before the storm, and it's calm right now. But the storm is most definitely coming, and guys should be worried, for sure," he said.
The Aggies and Tar Heels will kick off in Miami Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.