WHO: No. 9 Florida State (10-2) vs. No. 18 Houston (12-1)
WHAT: The 48th Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
WHERE: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: 12:00 pm ET, Dec. 31 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Florida State’s 2015 season may have been a step back from the national championship bar it set the past few years, but the Seminoles are still back in the New Years Six line-up despite filling plenty of hole son defense and switching quarterbacks this season. Dalvin Cook has been the rock for the Florida State offense this season and he should be the key player for Florida State against Houston in the Peach Bowl. Cook rushed for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. The sophomore has rushed for at least 100 yards in all but three games this season, and one of those was because he was injured. In the season finale against Florida, Cook went for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 194 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Clemson, a game in which he basically put the entire offense on his back in a 23-13 loss.
Florida State’s defense has not been particularly great this year, but they have been good at holding down opponents from scoring too much. The most points allowed in a game was 24 points, (to Miami). Even in their losses, Florida State held Clemson to 23 points and Georgia Tech to 22 points, and Georgia Tech’s game-winning touchdown came on a bizarre special teams play. Simply put, Florida State’s defense is still a challenge even in a perceived down year. They will, however, be put to the test by Houston.
With first-year head coach Tom Herman at the helm, Houston went 12-1 and won its first American athletic Conference championship. The former Ohio State assistant turned in quite the performance as a head coach by turning quarterback Greg Ward Jr. into a massive dual-threat option. Ward led the Cougars with 1,041 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns to go with his 2,590 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. The question is whether or not Ward will be able to do it all against Florida State. This is a bit of a different situation compared to Florida State’s last bout against a non-power conference opponent in a big bowl game. Unlike Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois, Houston’s Ward can do some damage through the air if his offensive line protects him. He also has a top target to throw to with Demarcus Ayers (1,140 yards, six touchdowns). Outside of Clemson, Houston may have the best offense Florida State has faced all season.
THE PREDICTION: Florida State 24, Houston 23