It’s officially bowl season in the college football campaign as teams are rewarded for their efforts in the regular season. While Pittsburgh and Michigan State had goals of making the college football playoffs, they’ll square off against each other in the Peach Bowl on the second-to-last day of the year.
Pittsburgh finished with an 11-2 record after they defeated Wake Forest in the ACC title game. Meanwhile, Michigan State would conclude the year with a 10-2 record as they fell short of having an opportunity to play in the Big Ten Championship versus either Michigan or Iowa.
Who will emerge victorious between Pittsburgh and Michigan State? Keep reading below to discover my predictions and best bets for the Peach Bowl.
All NCAAF gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and updated as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 30.
Pittsburgh vs Michigan State Prediction
It wouldn’t be bowl season in the college football world if we didn’t have players considering their choice to sit in the bowl games. There are guys that are expected to enter the NFL, so why would they risk jeopardizing their future by playing in what is essentially an exhibition game?
Kenny Pickett has elected to sit out the Peach Bowl in favor of preparing himself for the 2022 NFL Draft. Pickett, the Heisman-hopeful quarterback at Pittsburgh, was able to conclude the season with 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
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Regardless of who plays at quarterback, how will the Spartans combat the Panthers’ passing attack? Michigan State is likely going to lean on Kenneth Walker, who could also be a candidate to sit out the bowl game if he wants to take more time to prepare for the NFL.
Walker led the nation with 1,646 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Despite his efforts on the ground, Walker did not finish as a Heisman finalist, but that shouldn’t take away from just how remarkable he was during this season.
The Panthers possessed a strong run defense during the regular season, limiting teams to 91.2 rushing yards per game (sixth-best in the country). Under the assumption that Pickett and Walker play, I still believe Michigan State can sneak out with a victory in the Peach Bowl in Mel Tucker‘s first bowl game as the head coach of the Spartans.
Peach Bowl Prediction: Michigan State 34, Pittsburgh 30
Peach Bowl Best Bets
CFB Betting Record: 13-5-0
Best Bet: Michigan State -3.5 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
When the Peach Bowl was announced between Pittsburgh and Michigan State, the Panthers were considered the favorites. However, with the uncertainty surrounding Pickett’s decision to play, the line has moved constantly, with the Spartans now being the slight favorites.
This isn’t a typical Pat Narduzzi Pittsburgh team that is reliant on stifling defense. As a matter of fact, the pass defense of Pittsburgh was a liability as they allowed 257.4 passing yards per game (25th worst in the nation).
While Michigan State would love to have Walker available, they are capable of creating big plays through the air. Payton Thorne, the sophomore quarterback of the Spartans, had 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions this season.
This could be a high-scoring game that comes down to who makes the game-altering play. Outside of their two losses to Ohio State and Purdue, Michigan State made plenty of crucial plays during the season to put themselves in prime position to win games.
The Spartans are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games and finished the year with an 8-3-1 record against the spread.
Best Bet: Over 56 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Scoring hasn’t been an issue for Pittsburgh this season, with the Panthers producing the third-most points per game (43) in the country. While Michigan State wasn’t putting 40-plus points up per game, they recorded a modest 31.9 points per game, which was 40th in the nation.
The total has gone over in 14 of Pittsburgh’s last 20 games as the Panthers hit the over in eight of their 13 games this season. On the other side of the field, Michigan has achieved the over in four of their last five, with the Spartans reaching the over in seven of their 12 games this year.
Thanks for reading our Peach Bowl Predictions & Best Bets! For more CFB betting tips, check out our CFB Pick of the Day.