In what had the potential to be one of the best bowl matchups in the entire slate, Michigan State and Pitt’s top stars, both the heart and soul of their offenses, have opted out of this one. While their offenses might start slow with second-string players taking the reigns, both coaching staffs and front sevens are still in tack, both units amongst the best in college football.
Let’s look at how things could shake out Thursday night in Atlanta.
- Opening Line: Michigan State +3.5, O/U 63
- Current Line: Michigan State -2.5, O/U 56
- Last meeting: September 15, 2007, Pittsburgh 13, Michigan State 17
Likely the top quarterback taken in April’s NFL Draft, Kenny Pickett has chosen to sit this one out with his draft stock already at an all-time high. Pickett came in under the radar for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns as he guided the Panthers to the ACC Championship and finished third in Heisman voting.
In his place, Nick Patti will step in to lead this Pitt offense, and though he’s only thrown 14 passes this season, he appears to be a guy the entire team is getting behind. Fortunately for Patti, he will be going up against the worst passing defense in college football, which is allowing 338 yards per game coming into this one.
For Michigan State, Kenneth Walker III was the best running back in college football this season, finishing with 1,636.6 rushing yards. A stable of backs in Jordon Simmons and Elijah Collins will be replacing Walker, and the Spartans still have a notable pass game led by Payton Thorne, who can break Kirk Cousins’ single-season record at Michigan State with two touchdowns here.
- Over is 6-0 in Panthers L6 non-ACC games
- Over is 5-0 in Sparants L5 played on natural grass
- Spartans are 6-1 ATS in L7 Bowl games
I expect the Spartan’s losses to be less significant than the loss of Pickett for Pitt and expect them to pull away late in this one led by Thorne and his NFL-bound wide receivers. Though it might turn into a shootout, I think the Spartan’s defense can do enough late to hold on to this one.
Pick: Michigan State -2.5
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