Pitt senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett is skipping tonight’s Peach Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. This leaves QB Nick Patti to make his second career start and his first since 2019. He won’t have the services of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple or WR Taysir Mack, who had 27 receptions for 461 yards and three TDs in eight games.
Pickett threw for 4,319 yards this year, with a 42/7 TD-INT ratio and five rushing TDs. Patti saw limited snaps in five back-up appearances, completing 12-of-14 throws for 140 yards.
The Panthers also saw CB Damarri Mathis opt out after he produced 43 tackles, five passes broken up, two interceptions and one pick-six.
Michigan St. (10-2 straight up, 8-2-2 against the spread) won’t have star RB Kenny Walker, but it is getting star WR Jalen Nailor back. Nailor missed Sparty’s last four games but in the first eight, he had 31 receptions for 587 yards and six TDs.
The Spartans will have their QB Payton Thorne, who threw for 2,886 yards with a 24/9 TD-INT ratio. Motivation won’t be an issue for Mel Tucker’s team, which missed the postseason in 2020.
Add in the fact that the second-year HC was retained with a long-term contract, which eliminated multiple suitors from potentially snatching him out of East Lansing, and Tucker’s bunch appears to have a big motivational edge in this matchup.
The Panthers were 60/1 longshots to win the ACC. They got that done and have every right to be extremely proud of their accomplishments.
However, without Pickett and other pieces like Whipple, Mack and Mathis, this isn’t the version of the squad we saw at the ACC Championship Game. I’m a big fan of the Spartans -3 in this game.
If your number is 3.5, I’d play it safe and buy the half-point to the key number of three (assuming your book isn’t forcing you to pay a price North of -130). I’m not against a small play on Sparty -1.5 in the first half, either.
Since Nov. 17, my documented picks on VegasInsider have cashed at a 31-18 clip (63.3%) for 15.10 units of profit (I hit an Alabama +230 money-line play vs. UGA, a +125 ML play on UL-Lafayette vs. App St., +135 ML play on Kentucky at Louisville and a +280 ML winner on Missouri vs. Florida).