Peach Bowl 2021 predictions for Michigan State football vs. Pitt Panthers matchup in Atlanta, Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN).
The Spartans (10-2) are favored by 2½ over Pittsburgh (11-2) in a game where both teams are missing their best player: MSU running back Kenneth Walker III and Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett both declared for the 2022 NFL draft and have opted to forego participation in this game.
INSIDE THE PEACH BOWL: Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh scouting report, keys
This looked like a horrible matchup for the Spartans when the bowl matchups came out. MSU’s bad pass defense — and that’s putting it mildly — going up against Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. But the Spartans got great news with Pickett decided to skip this game and head to the NFL. Unfortunately for MSU, so did Kenneth Walker III. But the Spartans should get several players back from injury. Which sets everything up for Payton Thorne to have a great day. The pick: Michigan State 35, Pittsburgh 27
Who would you rather lose? Your Heisman caliber QB or running back? I thought so. As good as Kenneth Walker III was for the Spartans, Payton Thorne and MSU’s receivers should be able to move the ball and put up points. Pitt has to replace the guy who did everything in Kenny Pickett. Of course, his replacement, Nick Patti, will still be throwing against MSU’s secondary. So … let’s call it a tossup with coach Mel Tucker’s side finding magic at the end one more time. The pick: Michigan State 26, Pittsburgh 23
Life without Kenneth Walker III will begin Thursday. What will it look like now that the Doak Walker Award winner is skipping the bowl game? That will be the most interesting question in a game that will set the stage for Michigan State’s 2022 season. Expect Payton Thorne and his talented receiving corps to carry the load against a Pitt team whose firepower is reduced after Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett also opted out. Success just may not come as easily for them — or anyone else — in a matchup that invites intrigue because the stars are missing. The pick: Michigan State 27, Pittsburgh 21
The Spartans’ veteran offensive line absorbs a significant test from coach Pat Narduzzi’s front seven, which gives Payton Thorne a chance to shine and maximize the dynamic duo of Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor. MSU’s defense does just enough to slow down Pitt receiver Jordan Addison, and Matt Coghlin contributes two critical field goals in his swan song as a Spartan. The pick: Michigan State 27, Pittsburgh 23
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Peach Bowl 2021: Michigan State football predictions vs. Pitt Panthers