Houston has a tough task against FSU RB Dalvin Cook in Peach Bowl

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Houston (12-1) vs. Florida State (10-2)
Atlanta
Dec. 31, 2015

Houston is hoping to play better against Florida State than the last Group of Five opponent that took on the Seminoles in a prestigious bowl.

In 2013, Northern Illinois was soundly defeated 31-10 by a Florida State team that had better athletes across the board. Houston doesn’t want to suffer the same fate.

Unlike that NIU team, Houston has played its share of tough teams, including ranked Memphis, Navy and Temple programs. But it’s hard to ignore the plethora of talent Florida State has on its roster starting with running back Dalvin Cook.

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Cook probably should have earned a trip to the Heisman ceremony in New York after leading the ACC with 1,658 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. The scariest part about those numbers is that many of them came while Cook was either injured or recovering from injury. Cook comes into this game, however, fresh after more than a month to prepare and presents an even more difficult matchup now than he did at the end of the regular season.

Cook is the engine that makes the Florida State offense go. If he’s not producing, the Seminoles tend to idle, especially with Sean Maguire under center.

Houston’s is an aggressive defense and might take its chances with stacking the box since Maguire didn’t exactly light it up in the passing game this season. Maguire, who started the last five games, completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,128 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

Houston’s rushing defense allowed 116 yards per game this season, but it allowed an average of 153.3 during the last four games. It’s also allowing just 20.4 points per game and has held five teams 14 points or fewer this season.

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 05:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars rushes with the ball in the first half against the Temple Owls during the AAC Championship game at TDECU Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 05: Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars rushes with the ball in the first half against the Temple Owls during the AAC Championship game at TDECU Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Offensively, Houston is led by star quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who enters the game second to only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds in rushing yards (1,034) and rushing touchdowns (19) by a quarterback. Ward’s also a pretty prolific passer completing 68.1 percent for 2,590 yards, 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Ward will have a tremendous challenge against a Seminoles defense that allows 185.8 passing yards per game and just 15.8 points per game.

If Houston wins, it will be the second AAC program to win a major bowl game. Central Florida defeated Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl in 2013.

Picks

Graham: I want to pick Houston because of the whole underdog thing, but Florida State has too much talent. FSU 28, Houston 10.

Nick: The Tom Herman hype train won't have any brakes if the Cougars win. But Florida State is the best defense Houston has seen all season. Florida State 30-27.

Sam: Houston has been one of this season’s best stories, but the Cougars haven’t seen a player like Dalvin Cook. The FSU running back has been dealing with nagging injuries all season. He’ll be at full strength in this one. Look out. Florida State 31, Houston 24..

For more Florida State news, visit Warchant.com.

For more Houston news, visit CougarsDen.com.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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