Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Georgia Dome, Atlanta (Dec. 31, 12:00 PM Eastern)
(18) Houston Cougars vs (9) Florida State Seminoles (-7, 54.5 o/u)
At first glance, it might just look like that “other” game that takes place on the day of the College Football semifinals, but there is plenty of reason to tune into the battle between the Houston Cougars (12-1, 7-1 AAC) and the Florida State Seminoles (10-2, 6-2 ACC) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
After losing Jameis Winston to the pros, the Seminoles were (briefly) expected to take a step back this season. Thanks to transfer Everett Golson, though, they entered the year as ACC favorites. But after a concussion and a string of bad play, the former Notre Dame QB lost his starting job (just like he did come bowl season last year). Now Sean Maguire will be under center when the Noles take on the Cougars in the season-ending game.
While quarterback selections no doubt matter, this offense relies on running back Dalvin Cook to carry the load. Cook finished seventh in Heisman voting this year, and was curious why he didn’t finish higher. He may have a case after racking up 1,876 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
For Houston, this was their first season under head coach Tom Herman and it can already be deemed a success. For only the second time since 1990, the Cougars finished the year ranked in the top 25. Houston went 3-0 against ranked opponents, including finishing the year with back-to-back wins over no. 15 Navy (52-31) and no. 22 Temple (24-13).
The Cougars offense was led by junior QB Greg Ward Jr., who took a massive leap forward in his third season. Ward threw for 2,590 yards and 16 touchdowns, adding a whopping 1,041 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. Florida St. hasn’t faced a dual-threat quarterback of this caliber since Deshaun Watson ran all over them at Death Valley.
The Cougars have the higher scoring offense (40.2 points per game compared to the Seminoles’ 32.3), but playing the likes of SMU and Tulsa will inflate any team’s numbers. Perhaps the more telling stats are on defense; the Cougars allow 381.3 yards and 20.5 points a game to inferior opponents, while Florida St. gave up just 327.7 yards and 15.8 points playing a tougher ACC schedule. In fact 24 points is the most the Noles have allowed all season, and that came in a win over Miami (29-24).
The teams had two opponents in common this season: both beat Louisville (Florida St. more convincingly at 41-21, while Houston eked out a 34-31 win) and each team hung 59 points on Texas State. (Houston allowed 14 points while Florida St. allowed 16.)
Houston is 3-2 in its last five bowl games and is making its first appearance in the Peach Bowl. Florida State is 4-1 in bowl games under head coach Jimbo Fisher and will be playing the Peach Bowl for the fourth time (going 2-1 in past appearances).
Florida State went 8-4 ATS on the year, including covering the last five. Houston went 8-5 versus the number this year, including 2-0 as an underdog. For each team, the total went UNDER in eight games this season, including five of the last six for Houston.
Pick: Houston +7 and UNDER.
(Photo Credit: Dave Wilkinson (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/])
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