Tar Heels headed to Orange Bowl

Quarterback Sam Howell and the 20th-ranked Tar Heels could be playing for an Orange Bowl berth in their regular season finale this weekend at No. 9 Miami. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

The Tar Heels are headed to the first Orange Bowl in program history after accepting a bid to play the Texas A&M Aggies on Jan. 2.

This will be North Carolina’s first major bowl (Sugar, Orange, Rose or Cotton) since 1950, when North Carolina capped a span of three trips in four years to the Sugar and Cotton.

North Carolina earned a spot in the bowl by being the highest-rated ACC team. The Tar Heels blowout of Miami to close the regular season on Dec. 12 opened the door. North Carolina passed Miami in the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings, becoming the third highest rated ACC team. When Clemson beat Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, avenging a regular season loss to the Irish, the College Football Playoff committee decided to take both ACC contenders, clearing the way for Carolina’s selection.

The Tar Heels will face Texas A&M, who will likely be smarting from Notre Dame’s selection. A&M lost one regular season game, to Alabama, which kept the Aggies out of the playoff. Texas A&M was ranked No. 5, the first team out of the field.

The game reunites the Tar Heels with Jimbo Fisher, a familiar face from Fisher’s eight years coaching the Seminoles in the ACC. He left prior to the 2018 season.