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2017 Belk Bowl preview: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest

The Aggies seek their first bowl win since 2014.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M will look for its first victory in the post-Kevin Sumlin era Saturday when they play Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It is the first meeting between the two programs will be aired at 1 p.m. on ESPN.


A&M is 7-5 and will need a win to post an 8-5 record for a fourth straight season. The Aggies will play its first game after firing Sumlin on Nov. 26, following a 45-21 loss at Louisiana State in the regular-season finale. Sumlin was 51-26 and 16-20 in the Southeastern Conference’s West division along with a 3-2 bowl mark during his six-year tenure at A&M.

The Aggies hired Jimbo Fisher from Florida State on Dec. 1, but he won’t coach A&M in the bowl game. Special teams coach Jeff Banks will be on the sidelines as the Aggies interim coach.

A&M will play in a school record ninth consecutive bowl game, but will try to snap a two-game postseason losing streak. The Aggies fell to Louisville (2015 Music City Bowl) and Kansas State (2016 Texas Bowl) by six and five points, respectively. Their last bowl win was a 45-37 victory against West Virginia in the 2014 Liberty Bowl.

Demon Deacons

Wake Forest improved on a breakout season in 2016 with seven victories and have a chance to match their most wins in a season since 2008.

Head coach Drew Clawson has led the Demon Deacons turnaround since he was hired in 2013. It was rough start with back-to-back 3–9 (1–7 ACC) seasons in 2014 and 2015, but in Clawson’s third season things started to click. In 2016, his team started the season by winning five of its first six games and beat then No. 23 Temple 34-26 in the Military Bowl. It was Wake Forest’s first bowl win in eight years.

The Demon Deacons will try to win a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008. They defeated UConn and Navy in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The win over the Huskies was in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

Players to watch

Texas A&M

QB, Nick Starkel: Starkel, who missed six games after suffering an ankle injury against UCLA, is expected to make his fourth consecutive start. However, Kellen Mond, who gives A&M a dual threat at QB, could also see time behind center. Starkel has thrown for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns since his return.

WR, Christian Kirk: Kirk is the main threat in the passing game, catching 58 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also an elite punt returner. It will likely be Kirk’s final game for A&M as he’s expected to declare for the 2018 NFL draft.

S, Keldrick Carper: Senior safety Armani Watts will reportedly not play in the Belk Bowl due to a shoulder injury. Carper is Watts’ top backup. He has recorded 22 tackles (12 solo) and one pass defended in seven games during his true freshman season.

Wake Forest

QB, John Wolford: Wolford threw 25 touchdown passes with six interceptions and was second on the team with 615 rushing yards and 10 scores.

TE, Cam Serigne: Serigne is Wolford’s main target in the passing game. He holds the Atlantic Coast Conference career record among tight ends for receptions, receiving yards and tied for the lead in touchdowns with Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech and Heath Miller of Virginia.

DE, Duke Ejiofor: Ekiofer is Wake Forest’s leader on the defensive line with 6 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for loss.

Belk Bowl game day

Game: Texas A&M (7-5) vs. Wake Forest (7-5)

When: 1 p.m. ET, Friday, Dec. 29

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.


Live Stream: WatchESPN