Michigan State, Pitt are without biggest stars in Peach Bowl

No. 13 Pittsburgh (11-2, Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. No. 11 Michigan State (10-2, Big Ten), Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)

Line: Michigan State favored by 2 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

Series record: Michigan State leads 6-0-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Coming off its first ACC championship, Pitt aims to become the second 12-win team in school history. The Panthers finished 12-0 in 1976 and won the national championship. Michigan State is looking for its sixth 11-win season and to cap a dramatic turnaround under second-year coach Mel Tucker from a 2-5 pandemic-shortened 2020 finish.

KEY MATCHUP

Pitt WR Jordan Addison vs. Michigan State secondary: The Panthers won’t have QB Kenny Pickett, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting before opting out of the bowl game, but they have Addison, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. Meanwhile, the Spartans rank last in the nation in pass defense, allowing 337.7 yards per game through the air. Addison leads the nation with 17 touchdown catches. Addison says he has confidence in Nick Patti, who will start for Pickett.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Michigan State: QB Payton Thorne. Following the decision by RB Kenneth Walker to skip the game and prepare for the NFL draft, there will be more pressure on Thorne, a first-year starter. Thorne has passed for 2,886 yards and 24 touchdowns, one away from matching the Spartans’ season record of 25 by Kirk Cousins in 2011.

Pitt: Patti will be making only his second career start and his first since 2019. He saw only limited playing time this season, completing 12 of 14 passes for 140 yards. His only previous start came in a 17-14 win over Delaware on Sept. 28, 2019, when he completed 23 of 37 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

FACTS AND FIGURES

The Peach Bowl will be the site of a College Football Playoff semifinal next season. … The teams last met on Sept. 15, 2007, when the Spartans took a 17-13 win. This is the first time the teams have played in a bowl. … Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was Michigan State’s defensive coordinator from 2007-14. … The Spartans were No. 10 in the CFP ranking, their highest since finishing No. 3 in 2015. Pitt’s No. 12 CFP final ranking was its highest. … Tucker was named Big Ten coach of the year. … Addison could set school records for receptions and receiving yards in a season. His 93 catches are four away from the record, and his 1,479 yards are 194 away from the best in school history.

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