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Date/time: Thursday, Dec. 31
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia
The Seminoles (10-2, 6-2 in the ACC) come in at No. 5 in the S&P+ rankings and riding a three-game winning streak since their loss to top-ranked Clemson. The Noles’ headliner will be sophomore tailback Dalvin Cook, who led the ACC with 1,658 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Sean Maguire has come on strong down the stretch as well, with 8 touchdowns against just two interceptions in his last five games since replacing Everett Golson as the starter. On defense, the Noles allowed just 15.8 points per game, led by senior linebacker Reggie Northrup and freshman safety Derwin James.
Houston (12-1, 8-1 in the AAC) has been one of the top stories among college football mid-majors under first-year head coach Tom Herman — who will be staying at Houston for at least a little while longer. Herman’s first season in Houston saw the Cougars improve by four wins and 11 points per game, climbing to 48th in the S&P+ and becoming the taste of H-town. Keep an eye on quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who scored a combined 35 touchdowns running and passing this season, to go with 3,631 yards of total offense in Herman’s high-powered attack.
Houston might not be quite as good as its 12-1 record, but the Cougars do a couple of things as well as almost anyone. Peach Bowl 2016 Live They’re the best team in the country at finishing drives, scoring 5.68 points per trip inside the opposing 40-yard line. They also have a plus-17 turnover margin, which is tied for second-best. Florida State had better take care of the football.The coach matchup is a good one, too.Houston’s Herman and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher are both pretty close to the top of the college coaching profession, with Fisher solidifying his elite status over the last few years and Herman joining that party with a monster debut season leading the Cougars. There will be a lot of talent on both the field and the sidelines here.
For Houston and the American Athletic Conference, respect is on the line. Though coach Tom Herman says his team already has proven it belongs in one of the six games in the College Football Playoff, a lopsided loss would support doubters who refused to rank the Cougars higher despite having only one loss. Florida State’s seniors could become only the second class in the nation with 50 wins, following Boise State (2008-11).KEY MATCHUPHouston ranks 12th in the nation with 40.6 points per game while Florida State is sixth in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 points. A key for the Seminoles has been a revived pass rush. One year after ranking 108th in the nation with 17 sacks, Florida State has 30 sacks. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker has 10 1/2 sacks.PLAYERS TO WATCHHouston: The Cougars’ only loss to Connecticut came without QB Greg Ward Jr., who was injured. Ward emerged as one of the nation’s top dual-threat players as he ranked third in the nation with 19 rushing TDs while throwing for 16 scores.
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Florida State: RB Dalvin Cook set a school record with 1,658 yards rushing — more than 400 yards more than Warrick Dunn’s old mark set in 1995. Cook ran for 18 touchdowns and ranks second in the nation with 7.86 yards per carry. Only a sophomore, Cook already is fifth in the school’s career rushing leaders.FACTS & FIGURESFlorida State is playing in a bowl game for the 34th consecutive season, the nation’s longest streak. The Seminoles’ all-time bowl record is 27-15-2. … Houston won the last meeting between the schools, 27-21 at Florida State in 1978.
This is Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s fifth appearance in the Atlanta bowl, including his time as Auburn’s quarterbacks coach in 1997, LSU’s offensive coordinator in 2000 and 2005 and at FSU in 2010. His teams won each of the previous four games. … Houston is playing for its second 13-win season. It finished 13-1 in 2011. … FSU S Derwin James has 77 tackles, tied for fourth-most by a freshman in school history. … Houston is second nationally with seven wins by 21 or more points. … The Cougars are 10-12-1 in bowl games. … When ranked, Houston is 3-1 against Florida State.
All season, the Houston Cougars have been proving themselves as the top team outside of college football’s Power Five conferences. Now they’ll have the opportunity to prove they can play with college football’s elite when they go against the Florida State Seminoles in the Peach Bowl. With a noon kickoff on New Year’s Eve, it’s the first of the New Year’s Six and an interesting matchup to kick off the biggest day in this college football season. Peach Bowl Live Stream Here’s all the information you need to make sure you don’t miss out on this game:According to Odds Shark, the Seminoles come into the game as a seven-point favorite over the 12-1 Cougars. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The ‘Noles may have fallen short of the massive expectations created by a playoff appearance last season, but they are still a top 10 team.
The Cougars shouldn’t be counted out though. Houston has done a lot to prove its merit as a top team in college football and is predicted to win the game by FEI projections, according to BCF Toys. Here’s a look at the key matchups that will determine whether the Cougars are able to pull off the upset. There’s a case to be made that Dalvin Cook is the best running back in the country. He’s that good. Sure, he didn’t get an invite to New York for the Heisman ceremony. But that has more to do with Florida State fading from the spotlight after losing to Georgia Tech than Cook’s injuries.
The star back only carried the ball twice against Wake Forest (albeit for 94 yards and a touchdown) and missed the Syracuse game completely. Still, no one has been more explosive on the field. Cook leads the nation in runs of 20 yards or more and averages the most yards after contact, as college football writer Matt Hinton notes The Cougars definitely have their work cut out for them but have passed every test they could on their way to this game. Houston’s front seven has actually been one of the best run-stuffing units in the country this season.
It’s a front that is allowing just 3.3 yards per carry on the season and hasn’t relented more than four yards per carry to a single opponent this year. That includes Navy who ended the season as the country’s eighth-best team in yards per carry. Cook is a much different task Peach Bowl Live Stream News than the triple-option attack that Navy brought to the table, so keying on Cook will make a huge difference in this game. If this were just Houston quarterback Greg Ward against the Seminoles’ secondary, Florida State wouldn’t have much to worry about. It ranks fourth in the nation in passing yards allowed per attempt and has given up just 12 passing touchdowns this season.
But Greg Ward isn’t just a passer, so it takes more than the four men in the secondary to stop him. It means all 11 defenders must know where he is on the field to slow down the dynamic playmaker. The aformentioned Ramsey spoke to the challenges of stopping a dual-threat quarterback like Ward, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:The quarterback really makes the team run. We understand how good of an athlete he is; he used to be a receiver. But we don’t discredit his throwing ability as well because we’ve seen him make great throws on the run. And he can make throws in the pocket. He’s very dynamic, so we have to be very conscious of him.The Seminoles (10-2, 6-2 ACC) are making their 34th consecutive postseason appearance, which is the nation’s longest active streak. FSU finished the 2015 regular season strong with three straight wins, including a 27-2 beat-down of rival Florida.