Can Greg Ward Jr. and the Cougars upset Florida State?
Although both Florida State and Houston had hoped for more from the season around October, a couple unexpected losses eliminated their chances of reaching the College Football Playoff.
”Despite the last-second loss to Georgia Tech and the one against Clemson, Florida State cannot be very disappointed about how its season turned out after losing quarterback Jameis Winston to the NFL.
On the other hand, the Cougars can only wonder what could have happened if they had not lost to UConn on 21 November. While Houston is the underdog in this game, it is necessary to note that they beat all three ranked opponents they faced this season.
Florida State is favored by a touchdown in this game, but Houston could pull off the upset if the Seminoles were unable to stop the Cougars’ running game. While Florida State allowed only 141.8 rushing yards per game, Houston averaged nearly 240 yards on the ground. Run defense has been a strength of this Florida State team as they have eight different defenders with a run defense grade above +5.0. However, the Cougars average 5.6 yards per carry and force a missed tackle on every 5.8 carries. Consequently, the Seminoles tackling will be a large key to stopping the Houston running game.
Players to watch
FSU’s Dalvin Cook
Despite the numerous impressive running backs this season, Cook has been one of the most exciting players at his position. His most impressive attribute was his ability to create explosive plays. He had 32 runs that gained at least 15 yards, which is tied for the most in the nation and he gained 1,021 yards on these runs which is the most in college football. He gained 65.6 percent of his total rushing yards on runs of 15 yards or longer, which is the second highest breakaway percentage in the nation. It is a safe bet to say that Cook will have a long run in the Peach Bowl as well.
FSU’s Derwin James
Although, James played the least snaps among the top 20 safeties, he did earn the second-highest grade among his peers. The fact that James is a freshman makes his performance even more impressive, especially since he graded positively in rushing the passer, in coverage and against the run as well. His pass rushing productivity was the best among all safeties in the nation as he recorded 4 sacks, two hits and 12 hurries on only 45 pass rush snaps. In addition, while he was targeted 29 times, James did not allow a single touchdown this season and opposing quarterbacks have an (NFL) passer rating of 60.7 when targeting him.
Houston’s Greg Ward Jr.
Despite the fact that Navy’s Keenan Reynolds ran for more touchdowns, Ward received actually our highest running grade among quarterbacks. Although, Ward is dangerous on designed run plays, he can be really lethal on pass plays when he decides to take off and scramble. While he averaged 6.9 yards per carry on all attempts, he rushed for 10.7 yards on scrambles. In addition, Ward forced 41 missed tackles on only 150 total attempts and gained 575 of his 1,195 yards after contact.
Houton’s Elandon Roberts
Roberts recorded the second most tackles in college football and while the number of tackles one makes can be misleading sometimes, it has not been in the case of the Houston linebacker. Out of the 107 tackles Roberts made, 73 were stops, good for third most among linebackers. He recorded a stop on 16.5 percent of his run snaps, which led the nation among inside linebackers. Roberts was not only impressive in defending the run but also against the pass, as he defended four, which is tied for fifth most among linebackers.
Greg Ward Jr. is one of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks in college football and he can certainly create problems for the Florida State defense. However, I believe that the Cougars will have a hard time stopping Dalvin Cook and the running back will lead the Seminoles to a win in this bowl game.
Florida State 30, Houston 24