It took a global pandemic, a huge amount of uncertainty in college football, the elevation of Notre Dame to play as a member of the ACC for one year, and, ironically, a victory by those same Irish over UNC. That magic formula all came together on Sunday to elevate both the Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the College Football Playoffs, which left the Tar Heels standing as the highest ranked ACC team left in the CFP rankings to go to the Orange Bowl.
Despite its conference’s nearly two-decade link to the game in Miami, the Tar Heels have never played in this game. The stadium, however, will be intimately familiar to the Tar Heels as it is the home field of the Miami Hurricanes, site of last week’s 62-26 thrashing of those Hurricanes to seal Carolina’s spot it the game.
Announced by the UNC Twitter account, the Tar Heels will face off against the Aggies of Texas A&M in the January 2nd bowl game, set to kick off at 8 PM in Miami Gardens, Florida:
The game against Texas A&M will be the first time the two storied programs have faced off against each other, but it won’t be unfamiliar for the coaches. UNC’s Mack Brown had an annual matchup against the Aggies while at Texas prior to their move to the SEC, and UNC fans are very familiar with the A&M coach, Jimbo Fisher. The last time the Tar Heels faced Fisher, this happened:
Fisher would head to Texas A&M after that season.
It is, by far, the highest-profile bowl appearance for the Tar Heels since the late 40’s, and the Saturday Night contest has the potential to be one of the best non-CFP bowl games of the season.
It’ll be interesting to see if Carolina plays with their full roster or if they use this game more as a tune up for 2021, rotating in more young guys. One will also wonder how focused the Aggies will be on this game as they will have just missed the CFP thanks to their blowout loss to Alabama. Either way, the bowl game is a remarkable turn of fortune for a UNC program that, just two years ago, was letting go of Larry Fedora and putting their hopes in Mack Brown, a Hall of Fame Coach who had been retired for several years. It’s safe to say that the results have far exceeded even the rosiest hopes of Tar Heel Fans. The announcement caps off perhaps the best eight days for the UNC football program in its history with the top 10 win over Miami, the amazing recruiting class signed, their first commit for 2022, and now the announcement of making the Orange Bowl.
Win or lose, Brown clearly has the program on the right track.