ES Preview: Peach Bowl vs Narduzzis The Enlightened Spartan: ES Preview: Peach Bowl vs Narduzzis

Thursday, December 30, 2021

ES Preview: Peach Bowl vs Narduzzis

 #10 (10-2/7-2 Michigan State Spartans) vs #12 Pittsburgh Panthers (11-2, ACC Champs)

Thursday, December 30, 2021. 7 pm.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA. TV: ESPN
Weather: Dome doesn’t matter; outside it’ll be 66 & cloudy, 25% chance rain

Sagarin Ratings: MSU #24, Pitt #14
Line Outta Vegas: MSU by 3

Times, up, Fighting Narduzzis. Finally, its time you face a REAL opponent, and not the weak ACC hoopsters on graas.

Welcome to the world of Pat Narduzzi, the former extraordinaire D-Coord for the Spartans, coaching the upstart Pittsburgh Panthers in their best season since an 11-1 record as an independent under legendary coach Jackie Sherrill in 1981.

Damn Good Defensive Genius, was Narduzzi for the No-Fly-Zone Spartans.

ES doesn’t know much about the Fighting Narduzzis, other than their best player, Kenny Pickett, split for the NFL, much like Spartan RB Kenneth Walker III did the same. With both teams not featuring its best player, who does the loss hurt most? Always losing your QB, the field general, hurts more. Plus, MSU running backs Eliajah Collins, Jordan Simmons, and Harold Joiner are still a decent and very capable trio. In addtion, with Jalen Nailor returning at wideout, MSU’s passing game should be high-flying with Thorne to Nailor, Jayden Reed, Tre Mosley… not to mention the oft-used Connor Heyward at TE.

The problem, as usual, will be the Spartan defense: are they capable of giving up less than 300 yards through the air, or be torched in a loss once again? Will it be bend-but-dont-break with the occasionaly, timely turnover for the Spartan D, or the Pittsburgh offense scoring at will through the air?

Let’s see some stats, briefly (significant advantage in bold italics):

CategoryMSU offense (rank)Pitt defense (rank)
Pass Yards245.3 (40th)257.4 (106th)
Passing (C-I-Int-Yds)214-350-2944 (24 tds)273-456-15-3346 (23 tds)
Rush Yards185.6 (42nd)91.8 ypg (6th)
Scoring Offense31.9 (40th)23.1 ppg (39th)
3rd Down Pct.39% (75th)32% (8th)
 MSU defense (rank)Pitt offense (rank)
Pass Yards330.7 (130th)305.2 ypg (5th)
Passing (C-I-Int-Yds)364-556-4052 (26 tds)351-521-7-4553 (43 tds)
Rush Yards118.2 (18th)152.7 ypg (73rd)
Scoring Defense25.7 (57th)43.0 ppg (3rd)
3rd Down Pct.42% (98th)46% (17th)
 MSU (rank)Pitt (rank)
Turnover Margin0.33 (42nd)0.54 (25th)
Net punting42.7 (15th)37.9 (89th)
Punt returns19.3 (3rd)9.6 (46th)

Statistically, Pitt has the advantage from the line of scrimmage, particularly offensively through the air – though the Spartans have more balance between run and pass. MSU, meanwhile, has a huge advantage in lengthening the field and returning punts: this may be the key to the game. If MSU can once again force long drives by Pitt and the bend-but-dont-break defense makes a few timely plays, it should come out the victor. What the stats do NOT show is the quality of opponents: Pitt won the very weak ACC, but has a schedule strength of 78th according to Jeff Sagarin, while Michigan State was third in the tough Big Ten East with a schedule strength of 20th. Should be an entertaining, and tight matchup for tonights’ game.


Freep: Seidel, MSU 35-27; Windsor, MSU 26-23
Pitt POV: Narduzzis 35-17
Athlon: MSU 28-24
Spartan Avenue: MSU 41-27
CFN: Narduzzis, 38-34
The Athletic: MSU staff picks
Irish Breakown: MSU 37-32
LSJ: MSU 34-26
Atlanta Zoo Panda: MSU (video)

ES sez: MSU 40, Fighting Narduzzis 35. Go Big Green TD Machine!