The Peach Bowl was lined up to give college football fans one of only two bowl games to feature multiple top-10 2021 Heisman Trophy finishers.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett finished third in the voting after leading the Panthers to an 11-2 finish and an ACC title. Following the end of the season, the Panthers were pitted against Michigan State, which finished the season 10-2, largely due to the production of star running back Kenneth Walker III.
However, when the two teams kick off the 2021 Peach Bowl on Thursday, neither Pickett nor Walker will be on the field handling the pigskin for their teams.
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Why aren’t the two playing on Thursday? Sporting News breaks it down.
Why Kenny Pickett, Kenneth Walker aren’t playing in the 2021 Peach Bowl
Both players were Heisman Trophy finalists for a reason: they are really good.
Not only are Pickett and Walker outstanding talents, but both are expected to be high picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. As such, both players made the decision to sit out the bowl game as they prepare for their futures in the NFL.
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Pickett finished the 2021 season with the fifth-most passing yards among FBS players with 4,319 and the third-most passing touchdowns at 42. He only had seven interceptions and finished the year with a 67.2 completion percentage. Pickett also rushed 97 times for 241 yards and five touchdowns.
Walker had a similarly dominant campaign in the Spartan backfield. He had the second-most rushing yards among FBS players at 1,636 on 263 carries. His 18 rushing touchdowns were the eighth-most. Walker also caught 13 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Sporting News currently has Pickett listed as the No. 21 NFL draft prospect in the 2022 class and Walker listed at No. 46. Pickett is the second-highest ranked quarterback, while Walker is the highest-rated running back.
Pitt QB depth chart
- Kenny Pickett, RS SR
- Nick Patti, RS JR
- Davis Beville, RS SO
- Joey Yellen, RS SO
With Pickett sitting out the bowl game, Nick Patti is in line to take the start at quarterback for the Panthers. Patti has appeared in 11 games for Pitt in his three years with the team and has completed 40-of-62 passes for 458 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He has also rushed 13 times for 47 yards with three scores. He made his lone start in 2019 against Delaware, when he completed 23-of-37 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
Patti was a three-star recruit in the 2018 class, according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, which listed him as the No. 759 national prospect, No. 31 pro-style QB and No. 20 New Jersey player.
After Patti, redshirt sophomore Davis Beville would likely be the next quarterback up as the only other QB to take a snap in 2021.
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Michigan State RB depth chart
- Jordon Simmons, SO
- Elijah Collins, RS JR
- Harold Joiner, RS JR
Without Walker in the backfield, the Spartans will get a close look at sophomore Jordan Simmons, who will likely be counted on to step up into a major role in 2022. During the 2021 campaign, Simmons rushed 54 times for 255 yards. He also caught six passes for 24 yards and a touchdown.
247Sports Composite Rankings graded Simmons as a three-star recruit in the 2020 class, placing him as the No. 609 national player, No. 43 running back and No. 63 player in the state of Georgia.
The next back up for Michigan State would likely be redshirt junior Elijah Collins, who rushed 12 times for 87 yards in 2021. Collins hauled in three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.