JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There will be no lack of interest when No. 5 Texas A&M takes on No. 14 North Carolina in Saturday's Orange Bowl.
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond told reporters Monday that the Aggies are "100%" dialed in and focused on playing.
The Aggies (8-1), who have won seven straight games, may have been passed over for the College Football Playoff, but Mond said he and his teammates won't be any less motivated when they take the field at Hard Rock Stadium.
Third-year head coach Jimbo Fisher expects nothing less.
"Because we always want to have the same level of focus no matter what game we're playing, no matter if it's week one in the season or in the national championship," Mond said. "Coach Fisher always talks about building national championship habits, and no matter what game we're playing, I think that's what's important."
Fisher knows a thing or two about national championship habits. In his fourth year at the helm of Florida State, the Seminoles finished the 2013 season 14-0 and No. 1 in the country.
"Whether we're No. 5 or got left out of the playoffs or not, we want to play the best we can," Mond said.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey agreed, noting that the team has worked too hard to get to where it is now.
"We've all been through a very different season, a different year, just as everybody in the world has been," Dickey said. "But we have to also look back and think there was a point in time where we were thinking we might not even get to play football. So I think these kids have enjoyed this season. Now, it has been long, and we've had to grind through it and we have to push them through the practices, but there's nothing that's shown me any indication other than this football team is going to continue to practice this week, pointing towards Saturday, and go out and have a lot of fun playing a great football game against a great opponent."
Both teams will be chasing their first Orange Bowl victory. While North Carolina (8-3) will be playing in its first Orange Bowl in school history, the Aggies haven't played in the game since a 19-14 loss to LSU in 1944.
"I think we'll be ready," Dickey said. "Everything shows that we will, and I think everything shows that these guys are excited about playing in one of the traditional big-time bowl games that college football has to offer."
Fisher has history on his side. He's 2-0 in Orange Bowl games, most recently a 33-32 victory over Michigan in 2016, and a perfect 6-0 in South Florida, winning all four meetings between Florida State and Miami at Hard Rock Stadium.
"I think he's a tremendous football coach," Tar Heels co-defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said. "I think he's a tremendous play-caller. He does a lot. So I think schematically he gives you a lot of conflicts, probably as many conflicts as anybody we've played. I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for their players."
That respect will be tested Saturday.