The Pittsburgh Panthers who won the ACC championship in 2021, their first outright conference championship in program history will take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Peach Bowl. The Panthers last played in a New Year’s Day bowl on January 1, 2005, losing 35-7 to Utah in the Fiesta Bowl. The Spartans will be playing in their first New Year’s Six game since 2015; they lost the Cotton Bowl 38-0 to Alabama on December 31, 2015.
Pittsburgh Vs. Michigan State Betting Odds
Pittsburgh Betting Odds
Pittsburgh is a 2.5-point underdog to Michigan State in their first Peach Bowl appearance. The Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi is extremely familiar with Spartans’ football as he made his name as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator from 2007-2014. The Panthers are 5-0 against the spread in their last five games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game; Pittsburgh scored 45 points against Wake Forest in the ACC Championship game. In their last five games following a straight up win of more than 20 points the Panthers are 5-0 against the spread.
Running a modernized “Air Raid” offense, Kenny Pickett was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2021, finishing third for the award. In his senior season, Pickett had a Joe Burrow-esque season, throwing for 4,319 yards (fifth in the nation), 42 touchdowns (third in the FBS), completing 67.2% of his passes with a 165.3 quarterback rating. The 2021 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year averaged 332.2 passing yards per game this season. He’s also the Pittsburgh career leader in touchdown passes with 81. Pickett has opted out of the bowl game as he gets ready for the next level. Head coach Pat Narduzzi announced that Nick Patti will start in the bowl game. Patti has appeared in 12 games for Pittsburgh over the last three seasons. In his appearances, he has thrown for 458 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Jordan Addison is the Panthers leading receiver. The sophomore, who won the Biletnikoff Award; as the most outstanding wide receiver in the country, was the most prolific receiver in the ACC. This season, he has 93 receptions for 1,479 yards and an incredible 18 touchdowns overall (17 receiving and one rushing): averaging 113.8 receiving yards per game. Addison finished the regular season with seven games of at least 100 yards receiving and five multi-touchdown contests. With the struggles of the Michigan State secondary, Addison who is averaging 15.9 yards a reception, could be an absolute nightmare for them to cover. The Panthers have a dangerous duo at tight end in Lucas Krull and Freshman All-American Gavin Bartholomew. The two have combined for 64 catches for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Pittsburgh is averaging 154.3 rushing yards per game, ranking them 72nd in the country. Israel Abanikanda is the leading rusher for Pittsburgh with 635 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Panthers are allowing 349.2 total yards of offense to their opponents ranking them 40th in the FBS. Pittsburgh is allowing 23.1 points per game which is 43rd in the FBS. Defensive lineman Habakkuk Baldonado leads the Panthers in sacks with nine. Additionally, he has 24 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss this season.
Michigan State Betting Odds
Michigan State is a 2.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh. The Spartans are 3-0-1 against the spread in their last four non-conference games. Michigan State is 6-1 against the spread in their last seven bowl games; they beat Wake Forest 27-21 in the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl, their last bowl appearance. Since beating the Michigan Wolverines at the end of October, 37-33, the Spartans have gone 2-2 in their last four games, scoring an average of 26.5 points per game.
The Michigan State offense is averaging 431.9 total yards of offense per game, ranking them 40th in the nation and scoring 31.9 points per game.
Kenneth Walker III was the engine that made the Michigan State offense go, but unfortunately, he opted out of the bowl game. The Wake Forest transfer led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,636 yards (second in the nation). He accounted for 19 touchdowns on the season (18 rushing and one receiving); his 18 rushing touchdowns were second in the Big Ten. After the regular season concluded, Walker III won the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award, awarded to the best running back in college football. True freshman, Jordon Simmons is second on the team in rushing with 219 yards, he’ll be an option to replace Walker III in the lineup. Elijah Collins could be another player, Mel Tucker inserts into the lineup. He ran for 988 yards in 2019 but battled COVID-19 last season. He appeared in four games this season, rushing for 87 yards.
In 12 games this season, Payton Thorne has thrown for 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions, completing 60.8% of his passes with a 150.3 quarterback rating. Thorne has thrown nine touchdown passes in his last four games.
Jayden Reed, Thorne’s main target, who transferred from Western Michigan two seasons ago, leads the Spartans in all receiving categories this season. He has 53 catches for 946 yards and eight touchdowns: averaging 17.8 yards per reception. In his two seasons at Michigan State, he has 86 catches for 1,353 yards and 11 touchdowns: averaging 71.2 receiving yards per game.
Michigan State is allowing 455.8 total yards of offense to their opponents ranking them 117th in the FBS. They’re allowing 25.7 points per game which is 61st in the FBS. The Spartans Achilles heel this season is their pass defense. They’ve allowed 4,052 passing yards in 2021, the most in the country, giving up an average of 337.7 passing yards per game. Lucky for Michigan State that Kenny Pickett decided to begin his training for the 2022 NFL Draft early.
Pittsburgh Vs. Michigan State Picks & Prediction
Michigan State has their starting quarterback (Payton Thorne) which makes all the difference in this matchup with Pittsburgh. With Pickett opting out, the Panthers passing game will fail to take advantage of the Spartans secondary. I like Michigan State in this game to win 28-21.