Greg Ward Jr.

AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman

Former Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen transferring to Houston

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Texas A&M’s loss appears to be Houston’s gain. Kyle Allen, who recently decided to leave Texas A&M and pursue other options, appears to be heading to Houston to join the American Athletic Conference champions and quarterback-whisperer Tom Herman. The Houston Chronicle reported the transfer news Tuesday.

Per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will be forced to sit out the 2016 season, but that suits Houston perfectly. Houston brings back dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr. for his senior season next fall. This gives Allen a chance to sit a season and learn the Houston system while sitting out with a redshirt season. Then, in 2017, Allen will likely be primed and ready to take over the offense at Houston. Allen will still have two years of eligibility remaining with him for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Allen, a sophomore in 2015, passed for 2,210 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Aggies this season but opted to leave the program shortly before the bowl game. Texas A&M also lost Kyler Murray, who has just been reported to be heading to Oklahoma in 2016. Texas A&M will be welcoming former Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight to fill the vacancy at quarterback.

At Houston, Ward will continue to be Houston’s starter in 2016 after passing for 2,828 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns. With Ward leading the offense, Houston went 14-1 with the AAC championship and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

The only question left to answer is whether or not Herman will still be the head coach at Houston by the time Allen is projected to get a chance to start in 2017. Herman continues to be an attractive name and another good showing in 2016 will keep him mentioned as a possibility for a number of opportunities to open up in the college football coaching world a year from now.

Houston hangs on for Peach Bowl victory over Florida State

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
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The debut season for Tom Herman as a head coach could not have gone too much better. No. 18 Houston (13-1) capped a dream season with a 38-24 victory over No. 9 Florida State (10-3) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to kickoff the New Years Six on New Year’s Eve. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. passed for 238 yards and a touchdown and ran for two touchdowns and 67 yards in the win, although he was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter. That forced Houston to close out the win with backup quarterback Kyle Postma, who picked up key third down conversion and led the Cougars to a cherry on top touchdown.

Houston’s offense shined against Florida State. The Cougars put together an evenly distributed 452 yards of offense, including 191 rushing yards, and lost the football just once. It was Houston’s defense that really stepped up and took Florida State out early. The Cougars forced five turnovers in the game and shut down talented running back Dalvin Cook in the first half. Cook ended his afternoon with just 33 rushing yards and a touchdown, and he was knocked out in the final two minutes after being popped by two Houston defenders. Florida State’s offensive line could not provide much room to run though, and that continued from start to finish.

Houston also knocked out quarterback Sean Maguire for a brief stretch in the first half, leaving Florida State to play briefly with a third string quarterback (J.J. Cosentino) who did not even appear on the team’s depth chart for the game. Everett Golson was not with the team due to a death in the family). Maguire did pass for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns, but he was under pressure plenty of times and was intercepted four times. Florida State was limited to just 17 first downs in the game.

Houston took a 21-3 lead into halftime and led 24-10 in the fourth quarter when the teams began exchanging touchdowns on the scoreboard. Florida State’s offense appeared to be taking advantage of a tirewd Houston defense, but the Cougars always seemed to have an answer waiting.

At least someone behind Florida State’s Twitter account had a sense of humor. Referencing an earlier loss to Georgia Tech, Florida State made a resolution for the new year:

Of course, one of the College Football Playoff games will be played in the Peach Bowl next year…

(Also, Florida State is scheduled to play Alabama in a season-opening game in Atlanta in 2017, but enough about that…)

Houston was clearly the top Group of Five program this season, and having Herman come to guide the program coming off a national championship as an Ohio State assistant helped the Cougars take a giant step forward as a program. With Herman already lined up to return to Houston in 2016, Houston’s run as a dominant Group of Five program is just getting started. Houston is currently lining up a very talented recruiting class, one that would make even some power conference programs envious.

Florida State will open the 2016 season in Orlando when the Seminoles clash with Ole Miss on a neutral field on September 5. Expect Florida State to still remain one of the top teams in the ACC in 2016 with plenty of talent to work with and perhaps another strong recruiting class being signed. The ACC Atlantic Division could very well be a race between Florida State and Clemson, although Louisville may be in the hunt as well. This may have been a second straight step back for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State (yes, they were undefeated in the regular season in 2014), but the Seminoles will not be likely to continue down a steep decline.

Houston will also open the 2016 season with a bit of a high profile matchup. Houston will kick off the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston against the Oklahoma Sooners, defending Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff participant this season. As with most Group of Five programs, this will be a tremendous opportunity for Houston to assert itself as the top Group of Five program out of the gates, and it figures to be as good an opportunity as any for Ward. to establish himself in the early field of Heisman Trophy candidates.

Everything looking peachy for Houston after dominant first half vs. FSU

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Nothing seemed to go right for Florida State in the first half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Everything seemed to go righ for their opponents, AAC champion Houston. Houston has forced two turnovers and quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has rushed for two touchdowns to help Houston jump out to a 21-3 lead on the Seminoles after one half of play in the Peach Bowl.

The first quarter was a complete mess for Florida State. Run blocking for Dalvin Cook was non existent (10 carries, 11 rushing yards in first half). Kicker Roberto Aguayo missed a 52-yard field goal try. Starting quarterback Sean Maguire was lost (temporarily) to a leg injury, and with Everett Golson not with the team due to a death in the family, that left the Seminoles to go with J.J. Cosentino under center. Cosentino was not even listed on the depth chart for the game. Maguire went to the locker room but returned with his leg wrapped up.

Ward opened the scoring this afternoon with a seven-yard touchdown run at the end of an 11-play drive midway through the first quarter. Houston dug into the bag of tricks for its second touchdown midway through the second quarter when Demarcus Ayers took a handoff off a reverse and chucked it 20 yards to the end zone to a wide open Chance Allen.

Ward rushed for his second touchdown of the game shortly after that after Houston’s defense forced a fumble from Dalvin Cook at the Florida State 16-yard line.

Still one half to play, but Houston appears to have a solid upper hand in Atlanta.

Houston can make New Years reservations as AAC Champs

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A year after helping Ohio State win a national championship, Houston head coach Tom Herman will once again be coaching in one of the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six bowls. The first-year head coach coached No. 19 Houston (12-1, 7-1 AAC) to its first American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday with a home 24-13 victory in the conference championship game against No. 22 Temple (10-3, 7-1 AAC), essentially clinching the spot in the New Years Six reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of Five.

Houston took advantage of an early Temple turnover on the game’s opening possession to pick up an early touchdown, and the up-tempo offensive style of the Cougars combined with the athletic skill at key positions proved to take a toll against Temple. Houston had speed combined with an efficient quarterback and steady hands from receivers all working in its favor. That had been the story of the season for Houston, who might have been undefeated if not for seeing starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. miss playing time in a road game at UConn a couple of weeks ago.

Ward led all players with 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win. Houston was actually out-gained by Temple (385-345), which made Temple’s two turnovers in the first quarter even more important. Houston converted Temple’s game-opening fumble into a quick touchdown, and Temple’s late rally in the fourth quarter was doomed by a fumbled snap on a fourth down play.

Now it just remains to be seen which bowl game Houston will be attending. The Peach Bowl in Atlanta appears to be a possible destination, but a possible matchup against Ohio State in another bowl game would make for a fascinating storyline. That, of course, assumes Ohio State is not picked to play in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes could be a possible pick of the game ahead of the Big Ten championship game loser.

Temple will get a chance to end their season with a win. After being bowl-eligible last season but not selected, the 10-win Owls will miss out on a big bowl game but still represent the AAC in one of the conference’s top bowl destinations. That likely results in a trip to Florida with the St. Petersburg Bowl and Miami Beach Bowl possible destinations. The Boca Raton Bowl could also be in play.

Temple turnovers help Houston take command in AAC Championship

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With a spot in the New Years Six line-up waiting for the champion of the American Athletic Conference, Houston appears to be in a favorable position. The Cougars took advantage of an early Temple turnover and lead the Owls at home 17-3 at halftime of the American athletic Conference Championship Game. A second-quarter 47-yard touchdown run by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. helped pad the lead for the Cougars.

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker made a costly error on the game’s opening drive when he decided to get rid of a football while being taken down, but did so by tossing the ball right into the hands of a waiting Tyus Bowser. Houston’s offense then got to work with it’s up-tempo style, which caused the Owls to use a timeout on a fourth and short as they tried to get in defensive formation. Houston picked up the first down after the timeout and a few plays later pushed into the end zone for the first score of the game. Javin Webb carried the football across the goal line for the first score of the game.

Temple’s second possession started to buyild some momentum and move down the field, although Temple receivers bailed Walker out on a few throws along the way. The promising drive ended with a turnover though when Robby Anderson had the ball knocked loose by Trevon Stewart just inside the Houston 10-yard line. Houston was forced to punt on their possession as the Owls defense started to crack down a bit.