Peach Bowl Pick

188
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Peach Bowl

Houston

vs.

Florida State

12/31/15

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is the first of the New Year’s Six bowls, and a precursor to the College Football Playoff later in the day. Houston had a perfect season in its sights, but without its starting quarterback, couldn’t pull it off. Florida State finished with an underwhelming 10-2 record and never really was considered as one of the best in the nation. The Seminoles are a -7 point favorite (at 5 Dimes Sportsbook) at the Georgia Dome.

Florida State had 10 wins, but didn’t really have a super impressive win all season. They started 5-0 with a 29-24 win over Miami, but then surprisingly lost to Georgia Tech a couple weeks later. Even with the loss at Clemson, the Seminoles still finished the year with five straight covers, concluded by a dominant 27-2 win against Florida.

In like opponents, Houston won at Louisville 34-31, and FSU beat the Cardinals 41-21 at home.

Playing in the AAC was a bit different for Houston, but they still beat all of the best teams in the conference. OUtside of the loss to UConn without Greg Ward at quarterback, the Cougars last Four wins were against bowl teams (Cincy, Memphis, Navy, Temple). They closed the season with a nice 24-13 win over the Owls in the AAC title Game.

That said, the Cougars didn’t really blow out any of those teams, beating Cincy by three points and Memphis by just one. That was because their pass defense got exploited against the better quarterbacks in the conference. Houston happens to be one of the worst in the country at defending the pass and gave up 265 yards per Game through the air.

It’s not like FSU has a great passing Game, but Sean Maguire can air it out in this offense, although he hasn’t had to do that much. But since getting the starting call five Games ago, Maguire has held onto the job with eight TDs and two INTs in those Games. He struggled against Clemson and Florida (both on the road), but beat up on lesser ACC defenses. Maguire has a stable of wide receivers with Kermit Whitfield, Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson all having at least 50 receptions. But that’s not where this Florida State offense starts.

Running back Dalvin Cook is what makes everything happen for the Seminoles. He piled up 1,658 yards and 18 TDs while running for 7.9 yards per carry on the year. Even though Houston has solid numbers against the run, they haven’t seen a guy like Cook run behind this type of offensive line yet. If the Cougars can’t stop Cook, they’ll be in trouble because their pass defense will likely have its own problems against Maguire.

The other end is where Houston has to step up. Florida State doesn’t have a weakness in a specific area, allowing 15.8 points per Game. In fact, they never gave up more than 24 points all season, including giving up just 23 to high-scoring Clemson.

since it’s expected the Seminoles will score, Houston will have to ride quarterback Greg Ward. He runs the show with 16 passing TDs and 5 INTs, completing 68.1% of his passes with Demarcus Ayers (89 receptions, 1,140 yards, 6 TDs) as his top target. But that’s not where Ward excels most. He leads the Cougars with 1,041 rushing yards and 19 more touchdowns. Running back Kenneth Farrow looks set to play after missing the last couple Games due to an ankle injury.

Florida State is favored by a touchdown and has won nine of its 10 Games by at least seven points. If Ward can’t move the ball, this could be another large win for the Seminoles, who have covered in Four straight vs. teams with winning records.

The Cougars took down Pitt in last year’s bowl and are motivated to take down another ACC team, this time in a much bigger one in the Peach Bowl. The Seminoles aren’t unstoppable, but it will take a big effort from Ward for Houston to have a shot.

Our Pick – For the record, Our model has the Seminoles winning this one by anywhere from 9 to 16 points. But this is a spot where we’ll go against Our model.

Both teams come in with impressive yards per point numbers with Houston sporting a 12 on offense and a 18.6 on defense while the Seminoles weigh in with a 13.1 on offense and a 20.8 on defense. When we look at ypp numbers, we have to consider Schedule strength. At first glance, one would assume that Houston played a drastically weaker Schedule than FSU, however, that’s really not the case. The difference is less than a field goal.

Add in Houston likely being the more motivated of the two and we think all the ingredients are there for an entertaining Bowl Game with Houston very much in the Game.

Also note the UNDER 55.5 also worth a look.

Houston +7 and UNDER 55.5

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