Tonight at 7:00pm Central time, the Texas A&M Aggies will play the North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2021 Orange Bowl. This game presents an opportunity for Texas A&M to do a few great things:
First, the Aggies have a chance to prove to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee that A&M should have made the playoffs. They suffered a bad loss at Alabama in Week 2, but that was early in the season and Alabama ended up being a pretty good team, right? Additionally, Notre Dame beat UNC 31-17 earlier this season, so there will be a direct comparison to Notre Dame’s earlier performances. Many folks, including me, weren’t as upset about Notre Dame and Clemson getting in as they were upset about Ohio State getting in. Ohio State is obviously a good team (destroying Clemson last night in case you were sleeping off a New Years Day hangover), but they only played six games before the playoffs began, and only three games between November 8 and December 31. Texas A&M played nine games. Of their eight wins, the only game that was close was against No. 7 Florida, which the Aggies won by 3. A win tonight would show the CFP Selection Committee that A&M should have been in ahead of Notre Dame for sure.
Second, A&M has massive recruiting opportunities tonight. The Orange Bowl is a nationally televised game. And yeah, having Jimbo Fisher as your head coach will help bring recruits in, but nothing recruits better than highly publicized success. Texas A&M still loses recruits within the Lone Star State to the University of Texas. Aside from Texas having a long history of success (which really has been historical in the “not-so-recent” context lately), Texas has its own TV channel, plays a hugely marketed rivalry game against Oklahoma every year, is in one of the coolest cities in the country (Austin, Texas), and has the publicity of Elon Musk flashing the horns with the governor. All of that adds up to A&M having an uphill battle for recruiting purposes. A big win on a national stage would help that.
Finally, there’s the bit of payback. There’s just a touch of intense dislike felt collectively by all Aggies whenever Mack Brown is involved in anything. Mack Brown was the Texas Longhorns’ head football coach from 1998 to 2013, during which time he was 10-4 against the Aggies. The rivalry died after the 2011 season, when A&M’s jumped ship to the Southeastern Conference. That said, there’s still no love lost between anything Texas A&M related and anything University of Texas related. I, for one, did not like A&M’s move to the SEC (and still don’t) and one of the larger reasons is the loss of that rivalry game. I stayed in College Station my junior year to watch the A&M/Texas game in person, and it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had, despite the fact that A&M lost. In the interest of fairness, Texas was ranked #3 at the time. But now, today, the Fightin’ Texas Aggies of Texas A&M University have an opportunity to beat up on Mack Brown, and I sincerely hope the opportunity is not wasted.
Catch the game tonight at 7:00pm Central time on ESPN.