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2021 produced a magical 10-win season for Michigan State, but the Spartans will be without their biggest star when they take on Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30. Running back Kenneth Walker announced on Twitter that he will skip the bowl game and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.

"It has been a true honor to represent Michigan State University and wear the Green and White," Walker wrote. "I am beyond grateful to coach [Mel] Tucker and the entire staff for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to shine under their leadership."

Walker, a once-unheralded transfer from Wake Forest, finished the season with 1,636 yards rushing -- good for No. 2 nationally -- 18 rushing touchdowns and averaged 6.22 yards per carry for a Spartans team that was in the thick of the College Football Playoff race until late November. His best game came on Oct. 30th when he scored five rushing touchdowns in a dramatic 37-33 over rival Michigan. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and received 18 first place votes.

"I would like to thank God, my family, teammates fans and all of my coaches over the years for helping me become the player and man I am today," he wrote. "I will forever be a spartan dawg."

Michigan State and Pitt will tee it up on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. ET in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

Striking while the iron's hot

It's great to see a college football player live out their dream. That's exactly what Walker is doing. He was a relative unknown heading into the 2021 season, but played his way into a top-tier draft pick. Walker is the fourth-ranked running back prospect in the latest CBS Sports NFL Draft prospect rankings behind only Isaiah Spiller, Breece Hall and Kyren Williams. That's impressive company for the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder from Arlington, Texas. 

Walker's rise to superstardom has opened the eyes of NFL scouts who see him as a well-rounded back who can take the punishment between the tackles, but who is also dangerous enough in space to be used in a variety of ways. Though he wasn't extensively used as a pass-catcher in 2021 -- he had 13 grabs for 89 yards and a touchdown -- that part of his game is in his wheelhouse. 

Transfer portal success story

The transfer portal is the population of a medium-sized city at this point, and it has become one of the most polarizing topics in American sports. No matter which side of the debate you land on, it's easy to point to Walker as a portal success story. He had 579 rushing yards in each of his two seasons at Wake Forest and may have split carries with Christian Beal-Smith in 2021. 

He found greener (pun intended) pastures in East Lansing, which clearly was a better spot to showcase his skills as a North-South, one-cut runner. 

Will every player in the transfer portal have the same kind of success? Of course not. In fact, the majority might fade into oblivion when all is said and done. But it's refreshing to see Walker's decision pay off for him personally without impacting his former team, which played its way into the ACC Championship Game before losing to Pitt.

What about the bowl game?

There's still one more game for the Spartans and Walker's decision has impacted an offense that clicks when the running game is established. Can it establish it with him? There isn't an experienced option behind him that has shouldered the load this year. 

Jordon Simmons is the top running back behind Walker, but he only had 255 yards on the season. What's more, 121 of those yards came in Week 2 vs. Youngstown State. Simmons might be able to handle the pressure of the Peach Bowl, but he hasn't had a chance to prove it yet. That is concerning considering Pitt will try to make this a shootout with Kenny Pickett picking apart the porous Spartans pass defense. And as the Panthers' defense showed in the ACC Championship Game vs. Wake Forest, it's capable of winning up front in the trenches. 

The Spartans are 1.5-point favorites right now. It wouldn't be surprising in the least bit to see that line flip now that Walker's intentions are known.