Michigan State vs. Pitt Odds & Picks: Bet Panthers in the Peach Bowl Even Without Kenny Pickett

Michigan State vs. Pitt Odds & Picks: Bet Panthers in the Peach Bowl Even Without Kenny Pickett article feature image

Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Pitt Panthers wide receiver Jared Wayne (5) and Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10).

Michigan State vs. Pitt Odds

Thursday, Dec. 30
7 p.m. ET
Michigan State Odds
-110o / -110u
Pitt Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Peach Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 30 · Atlanta, GA

ACC champion Pittsburgh looks to finish its season strong without its star quarterback when it takes on Michigan State in the Peach Bowl on Thursday.

Pitt had an incredible season, winning the ACC Coastal with an 11-2 record. However, it's in a period of transition at the moment, as offensive coordinator Mark Whipple abruptly left for Nebraska and Heisman finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of the bowl game.

That means junior quarterback Nick Patti will be taking the snaps on Thursday.

Michigan State had a fantastic second season under Mel Tucker, so much so that the school gave him a 10-year extension to stay in East Lansing. However, the Spartans did not finish the season on the best of notes, getting blown out by Ohio State, 56-7.

Star running back Kenneth Walker III has already opted out of the bowl game, so we'll see how effective the Spartans are offensively without him.

Michigan State Spartans

Spartans Offense

The loss of Walker cannot be overstated, especially for this game.

Walker averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per carry on the ground and handled close to 60% of Michigan State's rushing attempts. Backup running back Jordon Simmons saw limited action, mostly in garbage time, so getting thrusted into the spotlight to face a top-20 rush defense is certainly going to be a massive challenge.

Putting the game in quarterback Payton Thorne's hands is not the recipe for victory for the Spartans. The last two games of the season against Ohio State and Penn State were two of his worst, as he put up a PFF Passing grade below 60 with three turnover-worthy plays and zero big-time throws.

#Huskers@HussleInSilence Picks off Payton Thorne for the INT! RADIO – HUSKER SPORTS #Spartanspic.twitter.com/QF0fDzwJYY

— @DaltonEastNE (@DaltonEastNE) September 26, 2021

The biggest thing about Thorne and the Michigan State offense, as a whole, is it needs explosive plays to be successful. Thorne's passing grade on throws over 20+ yards is 92.0, but it drops below 73 on anything under 20 yards.

Pitt's secondary has been good at preventing big plays in the passing game, ranking 36th in passing explosiveness allowed. So, it could be a tough day for Michigan State offensively.

Spartans Defense

Michigan State's defensive numbers have been solid against bad opponents, but against Michigan, Ohio State, and Purdue, it allowed over seven yards a play.

Additionally, opponents run an average of 86.2 plays per game against the Spartans, which is the highest average in the country.

Pretty much all of Michigan State's problems have come in its secondary. The Spartans are allowing 7.4 yards per attempt, rank 106th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and 87th in terms of a coverage grade, per PFF.

Even though Pickett isn't playing, defending one of the best wide receivers in college football in Jordan Addison is going to be difficult.

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Pittsburgh Panthers

Panthers Offense

It's tough making the quick transition after both the offensive coordinator and star quarterback leave before a bowl game.

Patti now has been thrusted into a big-time moment after attempting only 14 passes this season and 62 in his career. He has made one start in his career, back in 2019 against FCS foe Delaware, going 23-of-37 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. However, it's been a long time since he's seen meaningful action.

However, Patti will have the Biletnikoff winner Addison, who will be a major problem for a poor Michigan State secondary.

Addison put up crazy numbers this season with 1,479 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns. His 87.6 PFF receiving grade was ninth-best in college football for receivers who had over 100 targets, so he will make Patti's job a little easier.

Jordan Addison: 1,031 receiving yards against press coverage this season

Most in College Football👑 pic.twitter.com/SGGxg2Pagq

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 28, 2021

Pittsburgh's rushing attack has been pretty average this season, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt and ranking 50th in Rushing Success Rate.

It has a trio of running backs who all have over 90 carries each this season, and are all averaging over 4.0 yards per carry. So, look for Patti to lean on his running game.

Panthers Defense

Pittsburgh has been solid defensively this season, allowing only 5.1 yards per play and ranking 33rd in Success Rate Allowed, which is pretty impressive considering it has faced four offenses inside the top 35 in EPA/Play.

Pitt's front seven has been dominating opposing rushing attacks, allowing only 2.7 yards per carry, which is the fifth-best mark in college football.

The Panthers are also top-20 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Defensive Line Yards, and EPA/Rush allowed. So, they should be able to shut down a Michigan State rushing attack without Walker.

Pittsburgh also has done a fantastic job of putting pressure on the quarterback, ranking 43rd in terms of pass-rushing grade and eighth in Havoc. Thorne's adjusted completion percentage drops 20 points when he's under pressure, so Pitt should be able to force Thorne into a lot of risky throws.

Michigan State vs. Pitt Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Michigan State and Pitt match up statistically:

Michigan State Offense vs. Pitt Defense
Rush Success4517
Line Yards759
Pass Success3756
Pass Blocking**3043
Big Play3839
Finishing Drives6968
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pitt Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
Rush Success5058
Line Yards5831
Pass Success6106
Pass Blocking**2528
Big Play983
Finishing Drives1238
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling10341
Middle 8511
SP+ Special Teams11535
Plays per Minute4321
Rush Rate55.9% (59)48.6% (104)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Michigan State vs. Pitt Betting Pick

It's very hard to handicap Pitt without Pickett, especially considering his backup has seen little-to-no action over the past two seasons. With that being said, it's still a good matchup for the Panthers, especially with Walker out for Michigan State.

I'll back the Panthers at +3.

Pick: Pitt +3

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