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Nick Patti, come on down! The junior quarterback gets the unenviable job of trying to replace Kenny PIckett – the Heisman finalist who announced he won’t play in the bowl game.
Pickett was sensational this year, ranking near the tops of the country with 4,319 yards (fifth) and 42 touchdowns (third). Patti on the other hand threw just 14 passes (12-of-14) for 140 yards and no scores.
However, he does get the benefit of throwing to the man who was named the best receiver in college football this year, sophomore Jordan Addison. The Bilitnekoff winner caught 93 balls for 1,479 yards (15.9 yards per catch) and a ridiculous 17 touchdowns.
The Panthers pass-catching threats don’t end there though. Jared Wayne (46 catches, 654 yards and six touchdowns), Taysir Mack (27 catches, 461 yards and three touchdowns) and Lucas Krull (37 catches, 443 yards and six touchdowns) are all more than capable.
Oh, and did we mention Michigan State’s pass defense is absolutely atrocious? The Spartans ranked dead last against the pass – 130th out of 130 – by an extremely wide margin. The team that was 128th (New Mexico State) gave up 291 yards through the air per game. Duke, at 129th, gave up 311. MSU gave up 338 passing yards per game!
It was so historically bad, that even though MSU’s defense was 18th in the nation against the run, it finished 117th in total defense.
Kenneth Walker should have been a Heisman finalist. Let’s get that straight. The junior back, who won the Doak Walker Award, the Walter Camp Award, and was a unanimous All-American ran 263 times for 1,636 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns, etching himself into MSU history.
The question now, is who will replace him? Expect all three backs – Jordon Simmons, Elijah Collins or Harold Joiner – to get some runs, but it will likely be Simmons who gets the first crack at it. The sophomore ran 54 times this year for 255 yards and had a receiving touchdown as well.
But don’t think this offense is just Walker. It was an explosive unit because of its passing game as well. Quarterback Payton Thorne proved the future is bright in East Lansing. The sophomore threw for 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions and added another 177 rushing yards and four scores.
He should have a full complement of receivers, including his favorite target – his former high school teammate, Jayden Reed. Reed caught 53 passes for a team-high 946 yards and eight touchdowns.
For starters, we look at the coaches. Pat Narduzzi was the former defensive coordinator at MSU when the Spartans were at their peak (they went 36-5 from 2013-15 with Narduzzi’s ‘No Fly Zone’ defense). Then there’s Mel Tucker – who just earned himself a $100 million dollar contract for his 10-2 season.
But as far as players, we look at running back Israel Abanikanda – he ran for 635 yards and seven scores this year and the Panthers have to at least have a slight threat of a rushing game with Pickett not available.
For MSU, the x-factor is Jalen “speedy” Nailor. He missed the final few games with an injury, but the senior is the man who stretches the field for MSU. Nailor caught 31 passes for 587 yards and six touchdowns.
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|Pittsburgh vs Michigan State Information|
|Teams||Pittsburgh Panthers vs Michigan State Spartans|
|Location||Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA|
|Time||Thursday, December 30, 7:00 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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