Peach Bowl: Michigan State defense prepares for potent Pitt offense

Michigan State arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Atlanta, Ga. Michigan State will face Pitt in the game on Dec.30, 2021. (Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

Credit: AP

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Michigan State arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 24, 2021, in Atlanta, Ga. Michigan State will face Pitt in the game on Dec.30, 2021. (Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

Credit: AP

PIttsburgh may be without its star quarterback, but there is still a high-powered offense that Michigan State must contend with in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Pittsburgh is ranked fifth in the nation in total offense but will be without Kenny Pickett, who is preparing for the NFL draft. Still, Michigan State will need to slow down quarterback Nick Patti and receiver Jordan Addison, who has 1479 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns on 93 catches this season. No. 10 ranked Michigan State (10-2) will face No.12 ranked Pittsburgh (11-2) 7 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday,

Michigan State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton is making sure he is putting his players in position and not allow explosive plays.

“You know, it’s always hard especially on defense; I think everybody has their own unique issues when you do take such a long break,” Hazelton said of the layoff between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. “But the biggest thing you see (is) the issues with the tackling, the leverage, the full-speed stuff happening. And that’s always a concern.”

Hazelton gave an example.

“A ball gets to the perimeter, is the guy going to be able to stay outside and keep the edge to the defense where you can use your help,” Hazelton said. “Those are the things that we’re really straining the last couple of days and will continue to do until we play because those are the things that you usually have issues with, is just the full-speed tackling, the leverage to the ball, not getting cut back on. If I’m inside, all those things.”

In the Spartans’ regular-season finale against Penn State, they gave up two explosive-play touchowns.

The Michigan State secondary will be tested. They will be led by safeties Xavier Henderson and Darius Snow. Henderson leads the Spartans in tackles (94) while Snow is second (80).

Snow is sophomore and has seen a lot of action this season. Along with 80 tackles, he has one interception and two pass deflections on the season. Hazelton admires Snow’s progression this season and the leadership he brings to the defense.

“He’s a guy that he has an ability that when he makes contact, people go backward,” Hazelton said. “He’s made some good plays for us and he’s done a really good job of learning. He’s a guy that’s sharp enough that you give him something like, ‘hey, when this happens, this is probably going to happen.’ He’s one of those dudes that will be on the field talking about those things and getting other guys on the same page.”

Hazelton is not taking the capabilities of Patti lightly.

“I think that you see a lot of the same things out of him that you saw out of Kenny,” Hazelton said. “He throws a good ball and has a strong arm. And so, we’re really excited about playing him and see how it works.”hers offense.

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