Texas A&M, North Carolina look forward, await Orange Bowl

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) speaks to head coach Jimbo Fisher during an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. (Brianna Paciorka/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, Pool)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – If there’s one belief that Texas A&M and North Carolina share heading into the Orange Bowl, it’s that there’s no use in looking backward.

For the Aggies, that means not lamenting missing the College Football Playoff.

For the Tar Heels, that means not fixating on four top players skipping this game.

A chance to end 2020 seasons and kickstart 2021 campaigns in major-bowl fashion awaits on Saturday night when Texas A&M (8-1, No. 5 AP and CFP) meets North Carolina (8-3, No. 14 AP, No. 13 CFP) in the 87th edition of the Orange Bowl.

“I always say this: The Orange Bowl is as good as it gets,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said Friday. “To be able to come to South Florida and play in such a prestigious game with such great history, and the great players and coaches, people who have participated in this game, it’s phenomenal.

“We want to finish this season off the right way.”

When this matchup was put together, it looked like the quintessential collision of strength vs. strength: North Carolina, featuring two of the top running backs in the country, against a Texas A&M rush defense that is among the nation’s best.

Thing is, neither of those running backs — Michael Carter and Javonte Williams — chose to play in the Orange Bowl. They opted out, as did wide receiver Dyami Brown and linebacker Chazz Surratt.