No. 21 Texas A&M, NC State meet for 1st time in Gator Bowl
Gator Bowl: No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4) vs North Carolina State (9-3), Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)
Line: Texas A&M by 7.
Series Record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
A four-game winning streak to end 2018. The Aggies and Wolfpack each have won three straight entering the postseason. Texas A&M hasn’t lost since Nov. 3 at Auburn. North Carolina State’s last setback came Nov. 8 against Wake Forest.
Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams leads the Southeastern Conference with 1,524 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. He needs 169 yards on the ground to break Darren Lewis’ single-season school record of 1,692 set in 1988. The Wolfpack rank 13th nationally against the run, allowing 109.1 yards a game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Texas A&M: All-American tight end Jace Sternberger has 47 receptions for 804 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ray Guy Award winner Braden Mann is averaging 51.15 yards a punt, the best mark in college football history by nearly a yard.
North Carolina State: QB Ryan Finley is looking to boost his draft stock and solidify himself as a first-round pick. Finley has thrown for 3,789 yards, with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a senior.
FACTS & FIGURES
Texas A&M has lost three consecutive bowl games. … Aggies are playing in a Florida bowl for the first time in 61 years. … Coach Jimbo Fisher went 5-3 against North Carolina State while at Florida State. … Texas A&M will wear tribute helmet decals to honor the memory of late president George H.W. Bush, whose Presidential Library is located on A&M campus. … NC State is making its fifth straight bowl appearance and looking to win a third consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history. … NC State is 22-5 against non-conference opponents under coach Dave Doeren. … Finley has topped 300 yards passing eight times in 12 games this season, including five with at least 370 yards. … NC State will be without two of its best players. Junior receiver Kelvin Harmon, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,186 yards receiving, and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt, who led the team in tackles (104) and tackles for loss (10 1/2 ), are skipping the bowl to avoid potential injury and protect their NFL draft stock.