By: Patrick Damp/KDKA-TV
ATLANTA (KDKA) – The ACC Champions Panthers are ready and so are the 10-2 Spartans for the 2021 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
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This is our time.
This is our moment.
— Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (@CFAPeachBowl) December 29, 2021
However, without two headlining talents suiting up for this one, it could be an interesting night in Atlanta.
Pickett Prepares For Draft
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett put together one of, if not the best, seasons by a Panthers quarterback. So much so, he found himself in New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the award given to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division I Football.
With Pickett’s sights set on the NFL Draft, the man under center won’t be playing in tonight’s game.
— Kenny Pickett (@kennypickett10) December 17, 2021
Pickett is still in Atlanta with the team and will play a role for the Panthers on the sidelines during the game.
Last week, Panthers Head Coach Pat Narduzzi announced that Nick Patti will be the starting quarterback for the Peach Bowl.
“Right now, Nick is the guy, and he deserves to be the guy,” Narduzzi said during the press availability.
Patti has made 16 appearances for the Panthers over three years, throwing for 458 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception.
Continuing Without Kenneth
The Panthers won’t be the only team missing a key piece to their offense.
Michigan State will be without their star running back Kenneth Walker III.
Walker was dominant in Michigan State’s backfield, running for the second-most rushing yards among FBS players with 1,636 in 236 carries. He scored 18 rushing touchdowns and added a receiving touchdown for good measure.
He was the Walter Camp Player of the Year and named the Doak Walker Award winner as the country’s best running back.
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— 𝒦ℰ𝒩𝒩ℰ𝒯ℋ 𝒲𝒜ℒ𝒦ℰℛ ℐℐℐ🤍 (@Kenneth_Walker9) December 16, 2021
While the Panthers will call on redshirt junior quarterback Nick Patti, the Spartans are hoping to get a look at their future.
Taking Walker’s place as the featured back will be sophomore Jordan Simmons.
In limited time this year, Simmons rushed for 255 yards, caught six passes, and a receiving touchdown.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Ken,” coach Mel Tucker said. “You really can’t do that, but we have other players obviously on our roster at that position that are going to be next man up. They’re going to step up and get the job done and we have a plan for that and I feel really good about our run game.”
While the Panthers won’t have their Heisman-nominated quarterback, they will still have the top wide receiver in college football.
Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison will still be on the offense tonight.
The sophomore wide receiver won the award with 17 touchdowns, the most in the nation.
That’s good news for the Panthers, but bad news for the Spartans, who had the worst pass defense in FBS, finishing 130th out of 130, allowing 337.7 passing yards per game.
Even with Addison still available, Pitt will have tight end coach Tim Salem serving as offensive coordinator following the unexpected resignation of Mark Whipple.
Whipple was then hired as the offensive coordinator for Nebraska.
The Blue & Gold
The Panthers will go with the classic white jerseys, yellow helmets, and yellow pants.
Pitt’s @CFAPeachBowl Uniform
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) December 29, 2021
On the other side, the Spartans are suiting up in their green jerseys, green helmets, and white pants.
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— Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (@CFAPeachBowl) December 28, 2021
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. tonight and the game can be seen on ESPN and listened to on the Panthers Radio Network on 93.7 The Fan.