No. 25 Texas A&M won’t have enough players to compete in the Gator Bowl because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the program that has reportedly left the Aggies with only 38 healthy players. The game is scheduled for Dec. 31, and the No. 25 Aggies were supposed to take on No. 17 Wake Forest.
“We are disappointed that Texas A&M University and the Aggie fans will be unable to represent the Southeastern Conference in Jacksonville at this year’s TaxSlayer Gator Bowl game,” said TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Chairman John Duce in a statement. “However, the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff remains our primary concern.”
Bowl officials are looking for a replacement opponent, but that would likely require taking a team committed to play in another bowl or waiting until another bowl encounters a similar issue and another team is left searching for an opponent. Another option, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, is that Wake Forest could face a team that has already played in another bowl, although that would require a waiver.
An uptick in COVID-19 cases nationally due to a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants has proved disruptive to the sports world. Dozens of college basketball games have been canceled in recent weeks amid the spread and it now appears college football’s bowl season may not make it through unscathed by the pandemic.
A Gator Bowl victory would have sent the Aggies into the offseason with some momentum after they struggled in the season’s final month with losses to Ole Miss and LSU sandwiched around a win against Prairie View A&M. The Aggies’ last win vs. an FBS opponent came on Nov. 6 against Auburn. Wake Forest is trying to tie its all-time record of 11 wins that it set in 2006 with a victory and could still do so if a replacement team is found.