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Looking to Houston, FSU has contained mobile quarterbacks quite well

The 'Noles have done nicely against running QBs this year-- which bodes promisingly for a showdown with the Cougars' Greg Ward, Jr.

FSU's Josh Sweat takes down UF's Treon Harris
FSU's Josh Sweat takes down UF's Treon Harris
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State defense figured to be a strong point this season, despite losing four players from last year's squad to the NFL Draft. And, frankly, the Seminoles have exceeded even those lofty expectations, finishing the year as the No. 5 scoring defense in the country. A particular strong point of the FSU defense has been its proficiency against running quarterbacks, whom the 'Noles have faced on more occasions than not in the 2015 season.

A stout defense against mobile QBs is especially critical heading into Florida State's Peach Bowl matchup with the Houston Cougars, as the latter feature explosive signal-caller Greg Ward, Jr. Just how impressive has Ward been this season? In a word, very.

In addition to throwing for 2,590 yards, including 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, Ward has shown a propensity for gouging opponents' defenses on the ground, as he's rushed for 1,041 yards on only 178 attempts, an average of 5.85 yards per carry. Ward has 19 scores on he ground-- some perspective? FSU's Dalvin Cook has 18. Among quarterbacks, only Navy's Keenan Reynolds -- who runs an option attack -- has totaled more rushing yards from the QB position (barely, at 1,093), and his 4.97 YPC average is almost a full-yard short of Ward's.

But as was mentioned earlier, agile quarterbacks have largely been kept in check by the Florida State defense this season-- and it's not exactly across a small sample size, either. In total, the Seminoles have faced nine FBS QBs who are currently their teams' first or second-most productive rusher. Two of those quarterbacks, Boston College's Jeff Smith and Louisville's Lamar Jackson, are their respective team's leading rusher, and they mustered a scant 50 yards on 21 carries against FSU, an average of just 2.38 YPC, with no rushing scores.

Across the nine QBs FSU has faced that are either their team's leading or second-leading rusher, the 'Noles have allowed only 405 yards on 112 totes, for an average of 3.61 YPC. And only Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas and Syracuse's Eric Dungey have carried a ball into the end zone against Florida State (Dungey did so twice).

The reason for the Seminoles' success against running quarterbacks this season can largely be attributed to the assignment-sound defense the 'Noles have played, a mantra established before this season ever began. I asked numerous FSU defenders, along with defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and first-year defensive-ends coach Brad Lawing, about how the 2015 Florida State defense could be better than last season's squad that finished 50th, nationally, and the same response came back time and again-- and it always involved doing one's job. Taking care of home. Trusting one's teammates to make the play, without the need to get out of position or try to appear on the weekend highlight reel by taking someone's head off.

Simply put, the 2015 FSU defense has aimed to succeed as a unit, not as individuals. And that strategy has paid massive dividends with regard to containing, capturing -- and, nevertheless, punishing -- opposing QBs.