No. 10 Michigan State meets No. 12 Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 30.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Pitt (11-2) won the ACC championship under coach Pat Narduzzi this season. The Panthers, however, will be without Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett. The Pitt quarterback opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft. That will have a significant impact on an offense that averaged 43 points per game.
Michigan State (10-2) enjoyed an impressive turnaround under second-year coach Mel Tucker. The Spartans, however, will be without Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III. The standout running back also opted out of the Peach Bowl.
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Make the case for playoff expansion all you want knowing two of college football’s biggest stars are sitting out of a New Year’s Day Six bowl. That makes this matchup even more unpredictable.
With that in mind, here is what you should know about betting on the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl matchup between the Panthers and Spartans:
Michigan State vs. Pitt
- Spread: Michigan State -2.5
- Over/under: 57
- Moneyline: Michigan State -144, Pitt +118
Three trends to know
— Pitt opened as a 3.5-point favorite, but the line moved more because of Pickett’s absence. This is the first time the Panthers have been an underdog this season.
— The Spartans were 3-5 ATS as favorites this season, but they were 3-1 ATS in games where they were favored by single digits. The only loss was Nov. 6 against Purdue.
— A one-score game would favor Michigan State. The Spartans were 4-0 S/U in games decided by seven points or less. The Panthers were 2-2 S/U in the same situation.
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Three things to watch
— How does Pitt’s offense change? Pickett passed for 4,319 yards, 42 TDs and seven interceptions this season and set several school records in the process. The Panthers also will be without offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who resigned to take the same spot at Nebraska. Junior Nick Patti has limited experience the last three seasons, and he should have success finding Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison (1,479 yards, 17 TDs) against the worst pass defense in the FBS (337.7 ypg.).
— Who picks up for Walker? Walker accounted for 1,715 yards from scrimmage this season for the Spartans. That’s 33.2% of the offensive production. Jordan Simmons averaged 4.7 yards per carry in a backup role and figures to see an increased workload. Payton Thorne (2,886 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) figures to air it out more against a Pitt defense that allowed 257.4 passing yards per game.
— Trick plays. Narduzzi is familiar with Michigan State. He was the defensive coordinator for the Spartans from 2007-14. Tucker, like Narduzzi, is an Ohio native with a defensive background. Both led impressive turnarounds this season, and they are without their star players. That means trick plays and breaking tendencies early could be in the works.
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Stat that matters
Both teams were penalized too much this season. The Spartans rank 112th in the FBS with 66.3 penalty yards per game this season. That’s one spot ahead of the Panthers, which averaged 66.5 penalty yards per game. With Pickett and Walker out, the offenses cannot afford to get behind schedule.
Michigan State vs. Pitt prediction
Patti comes into focus in this game. Can he keep the Panthers offense moving if the running game can’t get a push against a tough Spartans’ run defense? Will Thorne light up the Panthers secondary? It’s tough to predict what will happen with the star players out, but the game should be entertaining just the same. The Panthers pull out a wild win in the fourth quarter on a TD catch by Addison. The Spartans’ last-minute drive falls short, and Pitt wins its first New Year’s Day Six bowl.
Final score: Pitt 30, Michigan State 27