The city of Atlanta was not very kind to Florida State this season, but coach Jimbo Fisher is happy to be returning to the city in which his team’s 28-game Atlantic Coast Conference winning streak was snapped.
The Seminoles (10-2) earned a New Year’s Six bowl invite and will face Houston (12-1) in the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl. Florida State finished No. 9 in the College Football Playoff committee rankings.
Kickoff is at noon.
The Seminoles last trip to Atlanta ended with Georgia Tech blocking a 56-yard field-goal attempt by Roberto Aguayo on the game’s final play and returning it for 76 yards for the game winning score and a 22-16 victory.
Although the memory is painful, the play marked a turning point in the season, according to Fisher.
“From that point we could have pouted and felt sorry for ourselves and not done anything,” Fisher said, “or we could have learned from it and [grown]. We did that, and I think that second half of the season we definitely played our best football.”
Florida State finished the season with four wins in five games, its only loss to Clemson, the lone unbeaten team in the nation and the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, in a competitive game on the road.
Houston secured a New Year’s Six bowl by being the highest ranked (No. 18) among the teams from the Group of Five conferences. The Cougars defeated Temple 24-13 Saturday in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
The Cougars were 2-0 against teams from Power Five conferences, defeating ACC member Louisville 34-31 on the road and shutting out Vanderbilt of the SEC 34-0 at home.
First-year coach Tom Herman called the Louisville win in the second week of the season “a turning point,” and the Vanderbilt route a “benchmark.” The next week Florida needed a late field goal to get past Vanderbilt 9-7 at home.
Herman called the Seminoles “the cream of the crop when it comes to college football the past four of five years.
Herman came to Houston from Ohio State where he was as the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes’ national championship team last season. He brought with him the power-spread offense, which is led by dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward, who leads the Cougars in passing and rushing.
Ward has thrown for 2,590 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has run for 1,041 yards in 13 games, 80.1 per game. Ward is the second leading rusher in the country among quarterbacks behind Navy’s Keenan Reynolds.