SQ Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Preview
In a game that will be mostly overshadowed by the two CFP games being played the same day, the Peach Bowl should be a terrific matchup. Florida State and Houston play each other for the 17th time in their history, but the first since 1978. Houston is riding high after winning the American Athletic Conference, but FSU has to be disappointed after having a lackluster year by their standards. Here's what to expect from this year's matchup:
No Everett Golson: Upon his arrival at Florida State, quarterback Everett Golson was supposed to be the bridge between former star Jameis Winston and the future. However, Golson wasn't able to duplicate the success he had from Notre Dame, and due to personal reasons, he will not play in the Peach Bowl.
Golson started eight of the first ten games this season, throwing for 1,778 yards and 11 touchdowns. After starting off well, key turnovers and a head injury hindered Golson's play. Incumbent backup Sean Maguire took over starting duties late in the season due to poor performances from Golson and will start against Houston.
The Cougars Are Looking for National Respect: Houston is having the best season for an American Athletic team since UCF won the Fiesta Bowl in 2014. That might not sound like an accomplishment, but the American Athletic Conference was much improved this year with three teams winning at least ten games, up from only one the previous season. Houston is also the best Group of 5 team, ranked 18th in the CFP rankings. The Cougars are looking at this game as a shot to show everyone how good they are. With a win over Florida State, Houston can also put themselves in position to be considered as the Group of 5's best chance at making the next College Playoff.
40.6 - Points per game scored by Houston this season. The Cougars have one of the nation's top offenses, and not many know about it. Ranked 11th nationally in scoring offense, Houston has scored over 50 points four times while being held to 24 or less on only two occasions, one being their lone loss to Connecticut. If the Cougars offense is running on all cylinders, they can compete with practically anyone, especially FSU.
15.8 - Average number of points given up by Florida State's defense. This game will come down to the matchup between Houston's high-octance offense and Florida State's stout defense. Talk all year focused on FSU's offense, especially Golson and running back Dalvin Cook, but their defense is where they shined and the main reason that they’ve been successful. While they don't force many turnovers, only 14 on the year, they definitely stop their opponents from scoring. Ranked fifth in least points allowed per game, the Seminoles are anchored by a NFL-caliber defensive back in Jalen Ramsey, who should be matched up with Houston's best receiver Demarcus Ayers. This game will be a classic bout of power offense verses power defense.
31- Total rushing touchdowns for Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (19) and running-back Kenneth Farrow (12). Houston’s offense has already been mentioned, but special attention should be put on the Cougars' rushing attack. While Ward Jr. leads the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, he’ll be glad to have Farrow in the backfield. Farrow is second on Houston with 949 yards and 12 touchdowns, but missed the final two games of the season with an injury. Farrow is expected to return for the Peach Bowl and the running game will be relied on to exploit the Seminoles' weakness on defense. FSU gives up 180.9 rushing yards a game, 53rd in the nation.
Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston: After being recruited to Houston as a defensive back and starting his career at wide receiver, Ward Jr. has turned into one of the most exciting players in college football as a quarterback. His unique style of play has only been seen by this FSU team last season when going up against Marcus Mariota in the Rose Bowl. Ward Jr. has 19 rushing touchdowns, 16 through the air and is the only quarterback to both run and pass for over 1,000 yards. The Seminoles will need to be on their toes to try and defend both aspects of Ward Jr's game.
Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU: Cook is one of the best running backs in the country, and some would even argue that he is the best. Many thought it was a joke that Cook wasn’t in the top five of Heisman voting, especially when looking at his stats. Rushing for 1,658 yards with a 7.9 yards per carry average and 18 touchdowns, Cook was in the top ten among running backs in all these statistics. Cook accounted for almost 37% of the Seminoles’ total offense and almost 40% of their touchdowns. It's safe to say that Cook makes the Seminole offense move.
Houston has the advantage on offense and FSU has the advantage on defense. The real deciding factor will be the Cougars’ defense against the Seminoles' offense, where there’s a distinct advantage for FSU. Neither should be able to pull away enough to make this game a blowout. Betting against Greg Ward Jr. is hard, but the old adage of defense wins championships could apply here in the end.
FSU def. Houston 24-21