Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
No.10 Michigan State and No. 12 Pittsburgh will square of Thursday night in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The Peach Bowl is a New Years Six bowl game and can be seen at 7 PM ET on ESPN.
Michigan State had a surprising season under second-year head coach Mel Tucker. The Spartans welcomed in 19 transfer players and went from a 2-5 team in 2020 to 10-2 in 2021. The Spartans won their first eight games of the season and rose as high as No. 2 in the polls.
Tye Michigan State offense relied heavily on running back Kenneth Walker III this year. The Wake Forest transfer ran for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns this year and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting. Walker has declared for the NFL Draft and will not be playing in this game, so the responsibility falls on guys like Elijah Collins, Harold Joiner, and Jordan Simmons. The passing game is also pretty good behind Payton Thorne and speedy receivers Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed.
Defensively, the Spartans have a decent unit overall but really struggle against the pass. MSU has the absolute worst passing defense in the FBS. That will certainly be a challenge against this Pitt team, so we'll have to see what adjustments they make.
Pitt is coached by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and won the ACC Championship with an 11-2 record. The big reasons for the resurgence were a stout defense and the rise of quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Pickett had a phenomenal 2021 season-- throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns, while earning a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. His rise has vaulted him into first-round consideration in the upcoming NFL Draft, and he has opted to prepare for the NFL instead of playing in this game. That means junior Nick Patti will draw the start at quarterback. Biletnikoff Award winner (nation's best receiver) Jordan Addison will be the one giving the Spartans fits in this game.
The Pitt defense is best at defending the run. The Panthers allow just 91.2 yards per game. However, they break against the pass, and that could lead to big games from Thorne and his receivers for MSU. This could end up being a pretty high-scoring affair.