The 2021 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl features the 10-2 Michigan State Spartans against the 11-2 Pittsburgh Panthers. Here is the 2021 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Preview.
Michigan State Spartans (10-2)
Michigan State won their first eight games, but lost two of four down the stretch. They defeated five bowl-eligible teams on the season. Their two losses came to Purdue and Ohio State, both of which made bowl games.
The Spartans score 31.9 points per game, tying them for 40th in the country. They rush for 185.6 yards (ranked 43rd) and pass for 245.3 yards per game (ranked 57th).
Payton Thorne has been under center for the Spartans. He has passed for 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 60.8 percent completion. Four pass-catchers have over 200 receiving yards. The leading receiver is Jayden Reed, who has 53 receptions for 946 yards and eight touchdowns. Jalen Nailor has 31 receptions for 587 yards and six touchdowns, while Tre Mosley has hauled in 30 passes for 472 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Connor Heyward has been a nice security blanket with 30 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown.
Kenneth Walker had a great season where he won the Doak Walker Award. He rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. He has decided to sit out this game, so Jordon Simmons will need to step up. He has rushed for 255 yards on the year. Thorne is the team’s third-leading rusher with 177 yards and four touchdowns.
The defense allows 25.7 points per game, ranking 61st in the country. They give up 119.4 rushing yards (ranked 19th) and 337.7 passing yards per game (ranked last). Safety Xavier Henderson leads the team with 94 tackles. Cornerback Ronald Williams has been impressive in the secondary with eight passes defended and one interception. Jacub Panasiuk and Jeff Pietrowski lead the team in sacks with six and 5.5 respectively.
Pittsburgh Panthers (11-2)
Pittsburgh took a real leap forward this season with 11 wins and an ACC Championship. They defeated five bowl-eligible teams, including Clemson and Wake Forest. Their two losses came to Western Michigan and Miami, who both made bowl games.
The Panthers score 43 points per game, ranking third in the country. They pass for 350.2 yards (ranked sixth) and rush for 152.7 yards per game (ranked 72nd).
Kenny Pickett had a fantastic season, which saw him become a Heisman finalist. He has opted out of the bowl game, so Nick Patti will be asked to fill in. He has passed for 140 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions on 85.7 percent completion. The top receiver is Jordan Addison, who won the Biletnikoff Award with 93 receptions for 1,479 yards and 17 touchdowns. Five other pass-catchers have over 200 receiving yards for the Panthers. Jared Wayne has 654 yards and Lucas Krull has been a red-zone target with six touchdowns.
Three running backs have over 200 rushing yards on the season. Israel Abanikanda has the team lead with 635 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Vincent Davis has been solid behind him with 550 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Rounding out the top three is Rodney Hammond Jr. who has 484 rushing yards for five touchdowns.
Their defense allows 23.1 points per game, ranking 41st in the country. They concede 91.8 rushing yards (ranked sixth) and 257.4 passing yards per game (ranked 106th). Linebacker SirVocea Dennis has the team lead in tackles with 76. Erick Hallett has been great at corner for Pittsburgh with seven passes defended and three interceptions. Calijah Kancey leads the team in sacks with seven.
While Pitt will be without Pickett, Michigan State’s pass defense is so bad that they should still be able to take advantage of it. Their offense has been good all season and has raised Pickett’s level of play. It will likely be a close game with Pitt coming out on top.
Pittsburgh Panthers 31 Michigan State Spartans 27
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