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Processing the Numbers, Football Edition |
The Big Peach Bowl Preview

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Click here to talk about the 'Noles

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Power Index (FPI) Ratings are courtesy of ESPN
All other statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders, home of the F/+ Combined Ratings for college football.
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) was created by Brian Fremeau; check out his website BCFToys for other goodies.
The S&P+ rating was created by Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.
Hat tips to Addicted to Quack's kalon and FO's 7th Day Adventure column for the inspiration.

But first, a few programming notes.

Like last year, we’ll be bringing you previews for each of the New Year’s Six games with the full Processing the Numbers treatment, including breakdowns of each participant’s schedule and similarity scores between the two teams. As for all of that:

  • For the schedule breakdowns, in the event only one team has an FCS opponent scheduled, the lowest-rated opponent on the other team’s schedule per F/+ rating will be removed to compensate, so a team is not effectively penalized for scheduling a “tougher”[1] opponent.
  • The ranks in the titles of the schedule tables refer to that team's placement in the official CFP committee rankings, NOT the F/+ rankings or any other advanced metric rankings.
  • The designated home team will appear on the left side of The Goods chart, and the table’s arranged from their perspective (i.e., “The Matchup on Offense” refers to when the home team has the ball, etc.).

1 | You can certainly make an argument that some FCS squads are better than lower-tier FBS squads, but this is the most reasonable adjustment method.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

So, what’s next?

The first New Year’s Six game of the 2015 postseason will be the Peach Bowl, which will pit the ACC’s Florida State Seminoles against the AAC’s Houston Cougars, the “Group of 5” representative in this year’s field. The game is on Thursday, December 31st at 11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, and will be televised on ESPN and

The Résumé — Florida State

#9 - Florida State Seminoles
Team F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
CLEMSON 59.0% (2) 26.4 (2) 0.260 (2) 21.3 (6) 41.3 (10) 15.0 (6)
FLORIDA 30.0% (20) 14.6 (17) 0.127 (29) 14.6 (24) 29.4 (61) 14.8 (5)
SOUTH FLORIDA 16.8% (40) 6.5 (49) 0.097 (32) 5.8 (55) 30.6 (53) 24.1 (39)
N.C. STATE 16.5% (41) 11.3 (27) 0.044 (52) 10.0 (36) 34.7 (28) 23.4 (34)
LOUISVILLE 15.2% (43) 10.4 (32) 0.041 (56) 9.6 (39) 31.2 (50) 20.8 (22)
MIAMI 6.4% (61) 6.3 (50) 0.004 (67) 7.4 (49) 33.2 (39) 26.9 (57)
GEORGIA TECH 2.1% (66) 1.8 (69) 0.014 (63) 10.6 (33) 29.6 (59) 27.8 (69)
BOSTON COLL. -0.3% (70) 2.7 (66) -0.018 (74) 1.9 (72) 16.1 (123) 13.4 (3)
SYRACUSE -8.2% (82) 0.6 (72) -0.067 (90) 0.3 (81) 28.9 (65) 28.4 (70)
WAKE FOREST -14.6% (90) -4.2 (88) -0.072 (91) -3.1 (86) 23.2 (102) 27.4 (61)
TEXAS STATE -42.0% (115) -14.0 (112) -0.218 (120) -15.2 (110) 27.5 (79) 41.5 (125)
AVERAGE 7.4% 5.7 0.019 5.7 29.6 24.0

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

  • Average F/+ Opponent: Marshall (F/+ #59)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: Southern Miss (S&P+ #56)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Arkansas State (FEI #62)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Appalachian State (FPI #57)
  • Average Offense: Georgia Tech (OS&P+ #59)
  • Average Defense: Connecticut (DS&P+ #38)
  • Best Win: Florida (F/+ #20)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 1 (Florida)

2015 wasn’t much of a step back for the Seminoles; the only reason they aren’t back in the playoff was the ascendance of Clemson. That loss was expected, but the one to Georgia Tech certainly wasn’t, and that game provided one of the more surprising finishes of the year.[2] It’s unlikely they would have snuck in ahead of Oklahoma without that loss, however, because their schedule really doesn’t stack up with any of the playoff participants’. They only played two teams among the F/+ top-25 (winning one) and had an average opponent F/+ of 7.4%. The defensive slate was pretty tough thanks to three of the top-10 defenses in DS&P+, but the offensive slate was relatively poor outside of Clemson.

2 | One that everyone forgot about after the exploits of Michigan State and Arkansas.

Similarity — Houston
  • Rushing Offense: Syracuse (Rush OS&P+ #47)
  • Passing Offense: South Florida (Pass OS&P+ #49)
  • Rushing Defense: N.C. State (Rush DS&P+ #46)
  • Passing Defense: N.C. State (Pass DS&P+ #82)

Houston’s defensive rankings most closely track those of N.C. State among Florida State’s opponents, which is good news for Seminoles fans. FSU piled up nearly 200 yards on the ground and nearly 300 through the air against the Wolfpack, totaling 479 yards on a stout 6.4 yards per play. South Florida put up just 125 passing yards on 24 attempts against the Seminoles defense, though they are significantly less pass-oriented than the Cougars. Syracuse compiled a respectable 173 yards on the ground in their game against the Seminoles, but it took a whopping 42 carries to get there, which translates to a little over four yards a carry. There are schematic differences to consider, of course, but these are particularly favorable comparisons for the Seminoles.

The Résumé — Houston

#18 - Houston Cougars
Team F/+ S&P+ FEI FPI OS&P+ DS&P+
34.8% (13) 15.4 (15) 0.161 (13) 7.4 (47) 39.2 (15) 23.8 (37)
MEMPHIS 25.5% (27) 9.7 (36) 0.144 (20) 9.0 (43) 38.2 (21) 28.6 (72)
TEMPLE 19.5% (35) 8.9 (39) 0.094 (35) 7.4 (48) 27.7 (76) 18.9 (14)
LOUISVILLE 15.2% (43) 10.4 (32) 0.041 (56) 9.6 (39) 31.2 (50) 20.8 (22)
CINCINNATI 2.4% (65) 0.1 (76) 0.036 (57) 3.5 (65) 34.0 (33) 33.9 (98)
CONNECTICUT -7.0% (80) -4.3 (89) -0.003 (70) -5.8 (91) 19.6 (114) 23.9 (38)
VANDERBILT -8.4% (83) -2.2 (82) -0.037 (80) 2.4 (70) 18.1 (116) 20.4 (19)
TULSA -19.2% (93) -6.4 (95) -0.089 (95) -6.0 (93) 31.0 (51) 37.4 (115)
SMU -33.0% (104) -11.5 (102) -0.158 (107) -14.1 (108) 27.4 (82) 38.9 (119)
TEXAS STATE -42.0% (115) -14.0 (112) -0.218 (120) -15.2 (110) 27.5 (79) 41.5 (125)
TULANE -45.0% (119) -17.7 (119) -0.198 (114) -16.0 (111) 16.5 (122) 34.2 (99)
CENTRAL FLORIDA -58.0% (128) -22.7 (125) -0.262 (128) -19.0 (125) 13.9 (126) 36.5 (112)
AVERAGE -9.6% -2.9 -0.041 -3.1 27.0 29.9

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

  • Average F/+ Opponent: Akron (F/+ #84)
  • Average S&P+ Opponent: Missouri (S&P+ #86)
  • Average FEI Opponent: Iowa State (FEI #82)
  • Average FPI Opponent: Wake Forest (FPI #86)
  • Average Offense: San Jose State (OS&P+ #83)
  • Average Defense: Arizona State (DS&P+ #79)
  • Best Win: Navy (F/+ #13)
  • Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 1 (Navy)

That’s, uh, a really terrible schedule, significantly worse than last year’s Group of 5 representative Boise State. Looking at this it’s immediately apparent how Houston was able to go 12-1 on the season; they are a good team, of course, but their FPI Strength of Record rating of 18th speaks more to the difficulty of going 12-1 against any schedule than anything else. Oddly enough, their only loss came not against the meat of their schedule, but instead a road game at Connecticut, where the Huskies clamped down and allowed only 17 points to the Cougars, 23 points below their average for the year. Like Florida State they notched just the one win against the F/+ top 25, a home win over Navy in their final regular season game. The average F/+ rating of their FBS opponents was easily the lowest of the New Year’s Six field, equivalent to F/+ #84 Akron, with defensive and offensive schedule strengths of comparable S&P+ rank. You’ll note they had two common opponents with FSU; Houston beat Louisville on the road 34-31, while FSU beat them at home 41-21. Both programs played Texas State at home and beat them by roughly equivalent scores.

Similarity — Florida State
  • Rushing Offense: Navy (Rush OS&P+ #5)
  • Passing Offense: Navy (Pass OS&P+ #40)
  • Rushing Defense: Temple (Rush DS&P+ #31)
  • Passing Defense: Temple (Pass DS&P+ #16, but not really)

Easy comparisons here, although the Temple pass defense is about 11 ranks lower than FSU’s in DS&P+, so that one is a bit tenuous. Navy piled up 459 yards of offense on just 56 plays against Houston, good for 8.2 yards a play; the truly interesting part is that only 147 of those yards came on the ground, despite the typical output of Navy’s standard issue service academy triple option attack. Temple’s defense was able to limit the Cougars to 339 yards of total offense at a 5.5 yard per play clip, but Houston accrued 2/3rds of that yardage on the ground at nearly 6 yards a carry. The Seminoles have been stingy on the ground all year, and allowed more than 5 yards a carry to just two opponents: Clemson and Georgia Tech.[3]

3 | Coincidentally, both losses! Hmm…

The Goods

Overall Quality
F/+ 40.6% (9) F/+ 23.4% (32) FLORIDA STATE
FPI 19.8 (10) FPI 9.6 (40) FLORIDA STATE
FEI 0.158 (16) FEI 0.173 (11) PUSH
S&P+ 21.4 (5) S&P+ 6.7 (48) FLORIDA STATE
Home Spread -7.0 FLORIDA STATE

The Matchup on Offense
OFEI 0.53 (27) DFEI 0.49 (27) PUSH
OS&P+ 38.7 (19) DS&P+ 27.8 (68) FLORIDA STATE
Rush OS&P+ 124.6 (9) Rush DS&P+ 106.5 (43) FLORIDA STATE
Pass OS&P+ 114.2 (32) Pass DS&P+ 97.3 (76) FLORIDA STATE
SD OS&P+ 109.6 (38) SD DS&P+ 98.1 (75) FLORIDA STATE
PD OS&P+ 142.6 (6) PD DS&P+ 104.0 (61) FLORIDA STATE
OALY 112.4 (18) DALY 98.6 (70) FLORIDA STATE
OASR 126.0 (38) DASR 87.2 (88) FLORIDA STATE

The Matchup on Defense
DFEI 0.5 (26) OFEI 0.64 (20) PUSH
DS&P+ 17.3 (9) OS&P+ 34.4 (31) FLORIDA STATE
Rush DS&P+ 112.1 (33) Rush OS&P+ 108.2 (41) PUSH
Pass DS&P+ 132.1 (5) Pass OS&P+ 106.0 (48) FLORIDA STATE
SD DS&P+ 122.8 (5) SD OS&P+ 103.3 (55) FLORIDA STATE
PD DS&P+ 118.2 (21) PD OS&P+ 114.2 (38) FLORIDA STATE
DALY 92.6 (93) OALY 104.7 (49) HOUSTON
DASR 111.6 (42) OASR 81.1 (97) FLORIDA STATE

The Matchup on Special Teams
FVE 0.02 (61) FVE 0.18 (6) HOUSTON
STE 0.04 (36) STE 0.05 (29) PUSH
FGE 0.13 (53) FGE -0.09 (85) FLORIDA STATE
KE -0.09 (16) KRE 0.15 (14) PUSH
PE -0.04 (47) PRE 0.07 (43) PUSH
PRE -0.09 (99) PE -0.03 (49) HOUSTON
KRE 0.1 (23) KE -0.07 (19) PUSH

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of December 27th, 2015.

Wondering what all these terms are?

Overall Quality

F/+: The F/+ combined ratings combine FEI and S&P+ into one metric that serves as Football Outsiders' official rankings for college football. For a more detailed discussion of F/+, check out this section of the PTN Football Primer.

FPI: The Football Power Index, an overall team quality metric produced by ESPN. Presented as a scoring margin, FPI weights factors such as offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiencies, as well as turnovers and big plays, and also includes opponent adjustments.

FEI: The Fremeau Efficiency Index, an overall team quality metric that is drive-based and opponent-adjusted. For a more detailed discussion of FEI, check out this section of the PTN Football Primer.

S&P+: Another overall quality metric constructed primarily from a play-by-play perspective, the S&P+ rating underwent big changes prior to the 2015 season. Check out the primer article for more details.

Offensive Metrics

Off. F/+: The offensive component of F/+.

OFEI: The offensive component of FEI.

OS&P+: The offensive component of S&P+.

Rush OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at running the ball.

Pass OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at throwing the ball.

PD: Passing Downs, defined as later downs with medium yardage or more to go (3rd, 4th downs in excess of 5 yards to go), as well as 2nd down with more than 8 yards to go.

SD: Standard Downs, defined as all downs that are not Passing Downs.

SD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.

PD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.

Defensive Metrics

Def. F/+: The defensive component of F/+.

DFEI: The defensive component of FEI.

DS&P+: The defensive component of S&P+.

Rush DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at stopping the run.

Pass DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at defending the pass.

SD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.

PD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.

Special Teams Metrics

FVE: FEI Field Value Efficiency, a measure of how much field position value a team earned against its opponents.

Fremeau Special Teams Efficiency Components - The special teams component of F/+ is based on Brian Fremeau’s Special Teams Efficiency, which is made up of the following five components of special teams play (per FootballOutsiders):
FGEField Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
PREPunt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KREKickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
PEPunt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KEKickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.

Line-Specific Metrics

ASRAdjusted Sack Rate, which is a version of sack rate (defined as sacks / [sacks + passing attempts] ) that has been opponent-adjusted. The metric is scaled based on an average rate of 100; the higher the rate the better. ASR is calculated for both the offense (OASR) and defense (DASR).

ALYAdjusted Line Yards, which is a measure of success in the running game specific to the line. This is accomplished by taking each carry by running backs only and weighting the yardage as follows:

  • Runs for a loss are weighted 120%.
  • Runs for 0-4 yards are unweighted.
  • Runs for 5-10 yards are weighted 50%.
  • Runs for 11 or more yards are not included.

After the weighting process, the runs are further adjusted for game situation and opponent, and then averaged out per carry, resulting in adjusted line yards — a more detailed explanation of the entire process is available here. ALY is calculated for both the offensive line (OASR) and the defensive front seven (DASR).

The Swanson Giddiness Index

Easily the most accurate predictor of success in college football, the Swanson Giddiness Index is a qualitative, completely unsupportable metric that is presented via the tone of that week's image/animated gif of Ron Swanson — beloved Parks and Recreation character and official spirit animal of Processing the Numbers.

Wondering what all of this means? Check out the PTN Primer!

For even more advanced statistics goodness, check out the Advanced Stats Profile Index, the Florida State Profile, and the Houston Profile.

So, what do we know?

Overall Quality

Florida State has a significant, significant advantage on paper heading into this game. Tom Herman’s done a wonderful job in his debut as a head coach, but as we discussed above a lot of Houston’s success was a product of their weak schedule. That’s reflected here in the huge edges for the Seminoles, as the value produced by Houston’s vaunted offensive firepower was reduced tremendously by schedule adjustments.

FEI, however, actually pegs Houston as the better team, which suggests they may be more effective at finishing drives than the Seminoles. Sure enough, Houston finishes first nationally in points per trip inside the 40 on offense with 5.68, a full point above the national average of 4.65. Their defense was not too shabby either, allowing just under 4 points a trip, good for 21st in the country.[4] Florida State was 32nd offensively and 51st defensively, the latter of which was barely under the national average. Vegas sees this as a touchdown victory for the Noles.

4 | They also rate highly in field position metrics, which also tie in strongly to FEI.

When Florida State Has the Ball

As you might expect given the similarity score discussion and the tremendous gulf in the overall quality metrics, Florida State’s offense basically has a shutout here. The one exception is in FEI, which as noted above is particularly high on the Cougars. For the S&P+ components the edges are not particularly close, as the Seminoles have 30 or more ranks on Houston in each, a margin reflected in the line metrics as well.

That last part is particularly important given some key injuries that we’ll get to momentarily, but also because of the presence of running back Dalvin Cook. Cook struggled to stay healthy at times this season, but when he was in the lineup he was the most explosive running back in the country. He averaged 7.9 yards a carry in 211 attempts; Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida was the only ballcarrier to average more with at least 100 rushing attempts.[5] The 183 yards he dropped on Florida is particularly impressive; Derrick Henry put up six more yards against the same defense a week later, but he took 18 more carries to do it. You might recall the latter won the Heisman Trophy this season, and there was a bit of an outcry from certain circles regarding the paucity of attention being paid to Cook during the voting process. They may have a bit of a point, as Cook simply jumps off the tape when you watch Florida play.

5 | He was also not running against the likes of Boston College, Florida, Louisville, and Clemson, all of whom possessed Rush DS&P+ ranks in the top-15.

He’ll have a fascinating contest with recruiting classmate Leonard Fournette next season for running back supremacy, but he has an excellent opportunity to cap his 2015 campaign with another strong effort against the Cougars. With apologies to Navy’s Keenan Reynolds and Houston’s own Greg Ward, Jr., Cook will be by far the most talented runner Houston’s defense has faced this season. That being said, Houston hasn’t given up much on the ground this season, as no team has managed to break 4 yards a carry on them. That equates to a high ranking in the traditional metric of rushing yards per game, but adjusting for opponent strength produces the more modest rankings in the advanced metrics you see above. Expect Cook to break through that barrier, and then some.

You may have noticed this discussion has been suspiciously pass-centric, despite the even greater advantage the Seminoles appear to have in that category. The reason is Everett Golson, who arrived to moderate fanfare as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame only to lose the starting job midway through the season. It’s unclear if he would be the starter for the bowl game or not, but he has been ruled out for the bowl game due to an undisclosed personal issue — as such, it will be junior and presumptive 2016 starter Sean Maguire at the controls for the Peach Bowl.

Maguire started four of the final five games of the season;[6] he played poorly against the elite defenses of Clemson and Florida, but rather capably against Syracuse, N.C. State, and Chattanooga. The full complement of Florida State’s talented wide receiver group will be on hand, so don’t expect too many issues through the air when Cook needs a breather.

6 | Golson started against N.C. State; after two picks in nine attempts he was sent back to the bench.

When Houston Has the Ball

Unfortunately for the Cougars, the metrics indicate it’s more of the same on this side of the ball, with Florida State having edges to varying degrees of significance in most categories. Once again, the Cougars’ excellence at managing field position and finishing drives gives them a slight edge in FEI — FSU picks up everything else except for Adjusted Line Yards, which tilts heavily in favor of Houston. This seems odd in contrast with their relatively high rating in Rush DS&P+, and generally when that specific situation occurs it has to do with an absence of negative plays, as the formula for ALY heavily penalizes an offensive line for allowing a stuff. Sure enough, the Seminoles rank just 90th in stuff rate, suggesting they don’t permit many explosive runs[7] but also don’t pick up many of the stuff bonuses.

7 | A hypothesis bolstered by their solid ranking in defensive rushing IsoPPP.

Looking at the breakdown above and their general offensive footprint, it seems like the path to success for the Cougars will have to come on the ground. The two names to keep an eye on there are senior running back Kenneth Farrow and the aforementioned Ward, a junior and the starting quarterback. Farrow leads the Cougars in carries and is a bit of a plodder at times, but is also a bruiser at 5’10” and 220 pounds. Ward’s considerably leaner and is more of a shifty, speedy type, and actually leads the Cougars in all other rushing categories, including a whopping 19 touchdowns on the season. Factoring in his passing numbers he accounts for the vast majority of the offense on this team.

Passing will be somewhat of a conundrum for the Cougars here, as they face one of the country’s better secondaries in the Seminoles. FSU’s lurked around the top of the recruiting charts for the past several seasons now, and the defense in particular is stocked with highly-touted athletes. The big name is former five-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but over the course of the season true freshman Derwin James has ascended to the starting lineup; you might recall James as a unanimous five-star and the top-rated safety in the country last season. He was one of the jewels of FSU’s 2015 class alongside fellow unanimous five-star Josh Sweat, who’s also worked his way into a starting job as the Seminoles’ “BUCK” linebacker, a hybrid DE/LB position similar to Alabama’s JACK linebacker.

Much like the Tide, the Seminoles’ recruiting has reached the “reloading, not rebuilding” level; guys like P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby, Eddie Goldman, and Mario Edwards all departed last year, but Ramsey, James, Sweat, DeMarcus Walker, and others have taken their place. The reason all these names bear mentioning is the pivotal roles they play in FSU’s staunch pass defense, which is good enough to render the Cougars’ offense one-dimensional. Ramsey is directly involved in pass coverage, of course, but Walker finished second in the ACC with 10.5 sacks; James is second on the team with 3.5. The pass rush isn’t a huge plus for the Seminoles, but pass protection has been a real issue for the Cougars, as they don’t rate out particularly high in Adjusted Sack Rate. In addition to a decent number of sacks taken on the season, Ward’s been a bit fumble-prone this year — he’s put it on the ground nine times, three of which were lost. This is already looking like an uphill climb for the Cougars, so the last thing they need to add to the equation is turnovers.

Special Teams

Both of these programs have great special teams units, with Houston having a slight edge in FEI’s Special Teams Efficiency metric. As noted earlier, they have a tremendous advantage in field positon, largely from their starting field position on offense. Both teams have pretty solid coverage units equating to top-10 marks in defensive starting field position, but Houston’s returners have been significantly more successful than FSU’s this season, particularly on punts. Jesus Wilson has averaged right at 5 yards a return this season, less than half what Houston’s Demarcus Ayers has been averaging. We’ve all seen what a huge field position advantage can do for the underdog, and effective special teams play with be key for Houston’s chances in this one.

Any intangibles to consider?

The Peach Bowl will come to you from the lovely Georgia Dome in Atlanta; as such, the weather is a complete non-factor for the game. Houston and FSU played home-and-homes from 1960 – 1975 and once more in 1978, and Houston leads the all-time series 12-2-2. That was a long, long time ago, of course, and FSU is a vastly different team these days.

Both teams have battled injuries throughout the season, several of which are still a problem heading into the bowl game. Houston lost two starting linemen to season-ending injuries in October; a third, Ben Dew, has dealt with a foot injury all season and is questionable to return for the bowl. Starting guard Colton Freeman is questionable with a stinger; starting cornerback Jeremy Winchester is dealing with an MCL injury, and is also questionable. Farrow should be back for this one after missing the last two games with a foot issue; if he’s unable to go, converted cornerback Brandon Wilson did a fine job against Navy and Temple.

FSU has been absolutely snakebit by injuries this year; heading into the bowl game they’ve lost six players to season-ending injuries, including a day one starter in defensive back Trey Marshall. Reserve WR Ermon Lane has been ruled out with a foot injury; as noted, Everett Golson won’t be on the sidelines for the end of his college career. Right tackle Chad Mavety is dealing with flu-like symptoms but will likely play; if he’s unable to go, his backup, Brock Ruble, is currently listed as questionable with a groin injury, which could get interesting. Starting linebackers Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith are both nursing injuries as well; Northrup is probable, but Smith is questionable, as is his backup Lorenzo Phillips.

The Picks

Houston was thisclose to going undefeated this season, but they’re going home with a second loss on Thursday. Florida State is just way too talented, and I just don’t see Houston having an answer for Dalvin Cook. If everything — and I mean everything, field position, turnovers, everything — breaks their way they have a shot at it, but it’s unlikely that comes to pass.

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