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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Football

Four things to watch out for in the Peach Bowl


Junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was an explosive force on the field, rushing 17 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has been a key to the Houston offense this season, but the Florida State offense is looking to put up some points as well. | File photo/The Cougar

The Cougars are preparing for their biggest game of the year against Florida State University in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl — their reward for a 12-1 season and an American Athletic Conference championship.

And while UH may be in the midst of one of their greatest seasons in recent history, they face stiff competition against FSU. Here are the four things to watch for in Atlanta.

Can the Cougars continue with their momentum?

For most of the season, UH had been riding high.

From starting the season off on the right foot with a big win over Tennessee Technical University to a 10-game winning streak under first-year head coach Tom Herman, all the way to the team’s first conference championship since 2006, the Cougars have been rolling.

When the Cougars kick off against FSU, however, it will have been 26 days since their last game action in the AAC Championship game against Temple University.

A big part of the Cougars success in their last two games was their ability to roll with their momentum, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

In their season finale, UH stifled a sparkling Navy running attack, and walked away with a 52-31 win.

They carried that into the game against Temple, where the defense again stood tall, including forcing two key first-half turnovers.

But with over three weeks to sit and wait for their next game, it’s very realistic that it might take the team a bit of time to get back into that same grove they had at the end of the year, but that’s where the preparation of Herman and the coaching staff plays a big role.

High-powered offenses looking to light it up

The story of this game will be the two potent offenses which will be sharing the field in Atlanta.

Combined, the teams averaged 72.9 points per game and 911.8 yards per game, including 420.4 yards per game rushing.

The teams are projected to combine for 56 points in the Peach Bowl, with the Seminoles favored by seven.

This season, all but two of FSU’s wins have come by double digits, including six wins by at least 20 points, while the Cougars have nine wins by double digits and seven by 20 or more points.

FSU’s only two loses this year came to Georgia Tech University on a last-second blocked field goal which was returned for a touchdown, while the other came at the hands of the undefeated and top-ranked Clemson University Tigers by a score of 23-13.

When the two teams hit the field in the Georgia Dome, expect sparks to fly.

Seminoles without part-time starting quarterback

FSU made the trip to Atlanta without former starting quarterback Everett Golson, who reportedly stayed home for personal reasons.

However, the Seminoles won’t be expecting any drop-off in production from the signal-caller position.

Quarterback Sean Maguire is presumed to be the starter, something he’s not unfamiliar with. Maguire started four games this season for the Seminoles, as well as playing in seven games.

This season, Maguire has passed for 1,128 years on 145 passing attempts, with a 62.1 percent completion percentage.

He has also tallied nine passing touchdowns to just two interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 145.1 on the season.

Maguire is a junior with playing experience in each of his last two seasons, but he showed maturity when on the field in relief of Golson this year and will be a tough test for the Cougars defense to handle.

FSU’s dynamic running back to test UH front seven

The strength of the Seminole’s offense this year has come primarily from the running back position, specifically standout sophomore Dalvin Cook.

This season alone, Cook has accounted for 1,658 rushing yards on 211 carries for an average of 7.9 yards per carry.

Cook has recorded 18 rushing touchdowns this season, 10 more than last season. Cook has also rushed for over 1,000 yards in both of his season’s on-campus at FSU.

This season, the rushing defense has been the bright spot for UH against their opponents, as the Cougars have the 12th best rushing defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Cougars are holding opponents to an average of just 116 yards per game, which equals 3.30 yards per carry for their opponents, holding the opposition to 15 total rushing touchdowns.

But UH hasn’t faced a running back like Cook, who is easily one of the top five running backs in the entire country, or an offensive line as big and strong as the Seminoles have.

If the Cougars can manage to contain Cook, they will give themselves a great chance to pull the upset over FSU.

While the Cougars are considered the underdog, they seem to relish the role. After their win in the AAC Championship over Navy, the Cougars moved up just one spot in the College Football Playoff Rankings, a sign of disrespect to some of the players.

But like the rest of this season, UH will be looking to prove everyone wrong and continue one of the historically best seasons in their history when they square off with Florida State on New Year’s Eve at 11 a.m. in the Peach Bowl.

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