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Texas A&M To Play In Gator Bowl vs. ACC Runner-Up

The Aggies will ring in the new year from Jacksonville

The No. 25 Aggies will travel to Jacksonville as the SEC representative in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl. They will face No. 17 Wake Forest, the runner-up of the ACC. 

The Aggies finished the 2021 season 8-4. Wake Forest finished 10-3, ranked inside the College Football Playoff poll for the first time in program history. 

Expectations were high for the Aggies following their 9-1 season in 2020. Jimbo Fisher looked to be on a certain path that mirrors his time in Florida State following an Orange Bowl victory against North Carolina. 

Perhaps the Aggies' season would have changed should freshman quarterback Haynes King remained at the helm all season. Instead, a season-ending leg injury in Week 2 forced Zach Calzada to take over against Colorado. 

Calzada had his moments. His three-touchdown performance against then-No.1 Alabama was a staple in program history. The win was a first for the Aggies over the Crimson Tide at Kyle Field, and the first for Fisher against his former boss, Nick Saban. 

Fisher became the first former assistant to defeat Saban in his tenure. Following a 41-24 win over Kirby Smart and Georgia in the SEC Championship, Saban is 24-1 against those who coached under him.

Calzada wasn't the only issue for the Aggies. The offensive line replaced four starters, three of which were freshmen. The wide receivers struggled with health and drops. The defense remained A&M's bread and butter, finishing third among all FBS programs in scoring defense. 

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A&M already saw top defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal declare for the NFL Draft earlier this week. It it still unknown if he will travel with the team to play against the Demon Deacons. 

Wake Forest became one of the most prolific passing teams in college football under Dave Clawson in 2021. Quarterback Sam Hartman dialed up a year to remember with over 3,700 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. 

The Demon Deacons fell short Saturday against No. 12 Pitt (11-2) in the ACC Championship. Hartman tossed four interceptions while Panthers' standout QB Kenny Pickett threw for 253 yards in a 45-21 victory. 

The two programs met before under Clawson's regime at Wake Forest. Former Wake QB John Wolford threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns to help Demon Deacons defeat Texas A&M 55-52 in the 2017 Belk Bowl. 

All-time, the Aggies have only faced the Demon Deacons once. A&M was one of 13 teams from the SEC to secure a bowl bid. Kick-off time for the Gator Bowl will be set at 11 am. 

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