NCAA Football: Nebraska at Michigan State

Sep 25, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Connor Heyward (11) jumps over Nebraska Cornhuskers safety Marquel Dismuke (9) during the second quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Atlantic Coast Conference champion No. 12 Pittsburgh (11-2) will face No. 10 Michigan State (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — the first New Year’s Six bowl matchup of the 2021 season — as announced by the College Football Playoff selection committee today.

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be played Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and will be nationally televised by ESPN. 

Both teams will be making their first-ever trip to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. This year’s matchup represents the first appearance by a Big Ten team in the Bowl since 2018 (Michigan) and the first from the ACC since 2015 (Florida State). It also marks the first Big Ten vs. ACC matchup in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl since 1988 when NC State and Iowa faced off. 

The Spartans will be making an appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl for the first time since 2015 when they faced Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl, while this will be Pitt’s first appearance in a current New Year’s Six Bowl since the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Pitt 6-0-1, but this will be the first matchup between the two programs since 2007 when the Spartans defeated the Panthers 17-13 in East Lansing.

“We are thrilled to have both Pitt and Michigan State the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for the first time in their storied histories,” said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl CEO and president. “It’s truly an honor to be able to host two programs who have combined for 15 National Championships, more than 1,400 all-time wins and 205 First Team All-Americans.” 

“Both the Panthers and the Spartans have had outstanding seasons and we welcome them both to Atlanta, the Capital of College Football,” said Bob Somers, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl chairman. “It should be a fantastic matchup in prime time as we kick off this season’s New Year’s Six Bowl games.”

Pittsburgh (11-2) enters the game ranked 12th after winning its first-ever ACC Championship and first conference title since 2010 against No. 16 Wake Forest on Saturday. Under Coach Narduzzi, Pitt brings in a high-flying offense that ranks fifth in the nation in total offense (502.9 yards per game) and a stingy run defense that’s sixth in the country at 91.8 yards per game. Pitt on offense ranks top-15 in a variety of categories including second in first downs with 348, third in scoring offense (43 points per game) and sixth in passing offense (350.2 yards per game).

Offensively, Walter Camp finalist and ACC Player of the Year Kenny Pickett has exploded with his favorite target and Biletnikoff Award finalist Jordan Addison. Pickett ranks third in the country in passing touchdowns with 42, fourth in total offense and fifth in passing yards, with 357.2 yards per game and 4,319 passing yards overall. With his two touchdowns passing on Saturday in Charlotte, Pickett ended with 42 on the year overtaking Dan Marino’s all-time school record and taking sole possession of the ACC single-season record. Addison has solidified himself as one of the best pass catchers in all of college football ranking first in the FBS with 17 touchdown receptions and third with 1,479 yards on the year. The Panther defense has created havoc in the backfield all season ranking second in sacks per game (3.92) and fifth in tackles-for-loss per game (7.7). 

Michigan State (10-2) ranks 10th in the College Football Playoff after a successful year under Big Ten Coach of the Year Mel Tucker. The Spartans field a balanced offense led by stars Kenneth Walker III and Jayden Reed. Walker III, a finalist for both the Walter Camp Award and Doak Walker Award, finished the regular season ranked second nationally in both rushing yards (1,636) and rushing yards per game (136.3). He also found the end zone 18 times on the ground this year, which is good enough for eighth in the FBS. Reed has been explosive all over the field for the Spartans ranking 17th in scrimmage yards per game with 130.75 and having two punt return touchdowns, which is tied for first nationally. Reed’s efforts helped him to be named a Hornung Award Finalist as one of the most versatile players in the country. Spartan quarterback Payton Thorne is also 21st in the nation and second in the Big Ten with 24 passing touchdowns.

On defense, Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten and 12th in the FBS in sacks with 3.17 per game. The Spartans are allowing only 119.4 yards per game on the ground, fifth best in the Big Ten and 20th in the FBS. Michigan State has not allowed a player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season. 

Fans wishing to attend this year’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl can purchase tickets through Ticketmaster, home to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl’s official ticket marketplace.

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