College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Tennessee vs. Pitt: Will Vols Win By a Touchdown or More?
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images. Pictured: M.J. Devonshire & Brandon Hill (Pittsburgh)
- Tennessee becomes the first SEC team to ever travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers.
- Hendon Hooker leads the Vols while the Panthers are replacing Kenny Pickett.
- How is Collin Wilson betting this college football Week 2 game? Read below.
Tennessee vs. Pitt Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Two teams with victories in Week 1 of college football will meet in a rematch of a shootout from last season.
Plenty has changed for both Tennessee and Pittsburgh since the Panthers left Knoxville with a victory. Kenny Pickett no longer runs an uptempo passing attack for the Panthers, while Hendon Hooker was named the starting quarterback after the Volunteers’ Week 2 loss in 2021.
Tennessee hammered Ball State in the season opener, holding the Cardinals scoreless through halftime while gaining 569 total yards in the game. The Volunteers’ defense contributed with plenty of quarterback hurries and tackles for loss.
The same can be said about the Pitt defense after an evening harassing JT Daniels and West Virginia. The Mountaineers had unexpected success against the Pitt defense on both the ground and through the air, which makes this game one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend.
Head coach Josh Heupel was pleased with the results from the Ball State victory. Tennessee converted all three attempts on fourth down while also averaging 5.8 points on nine offensive trips past the 40-yard line.
The Volunteers ran tempo at 20.9 seconds per play and faced little resistance in marching down the field.
Tennessee ran the ball 60% of the time, as Heupel noted that running against the Pitt defense was pivotal.
— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) September 2, 2022
Three separate running backs reached the end zone against Ball State with Jaylen Wright averaging 5.5 yards after contact. The offensive firepower was never in question in the MAC opener, ending with Hooker throwing two touchdowns and 12 different players having a target in the passing game.
The offensive line was solid in providing protection, as the only two pressures recorded came from backup guard and tackle positions.
The Tennessee defense firmed up when Ball State got into scoring position. Despite four drives exceeding the Volunteers’ 40-yard line, the Cardinals averaged just 2.5 points per trip.
Both tackle grading and Success Rate against the rush were good enough to finish in the top 40 after a single week of play, but the defense struggled to create Havoc.
Outside of a Kamal Hadden interception, Tennessee missed 11 tackles and failed to record a sack.
Kamal Hadden's second career interception was also the #Vols second takeaway of the game.
He immediately ran and pointed to someone in the crowd. pic.twitter.com/tn3pglDM0X
— Kellyanne Stitts (@KellyanneStitts) September 2, 2022
The talk in the offseason among Pittsburgh fans revolved around the move to a more run-based attack under new coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. The Panthers elected to run the ball on 61% of snaps with middling success in Cignetti’s debut.
After a single data point against the West Virginia defense, Pitt ranks 92nd in Stuff Rate and 94th in Line Yards. Those numbers will keep the Panthers off schedule when the game plan revolves around the run.
The great news for Pitt is that there were multiple explosive runs from Rodney Hammond Jr.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) September 2, 2022
Both Hammond and Israel Abanikanda had explosive plays catching the ball out of the backfield.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis went 8-for-8 on passes between the hash marks at 10 yards or fewer, mixing in play action on a third of his passing attempts.
A lack of a solid running game kept the Panthers in passing downs for most of the game, but cashing in on drives that went beyond the 40-yard line contributed to the victory in the Backyard Brawl.
Over the summer, a narrative emerged that Pitt would field one of the best defenses in the nation.
West Virginia quickly found success through the air, but surprisingly had freshman running back CJ Donaldson gain 125 yards on just seven carries. Donaldson created four missed tackles and generated an average of 12.5 yards after contact against the Pitt defense.
CJ Donaldson’s TD was MEAN 😤 pic.twitter.com/VJqGEN1k87
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 2, 2022
There are plenty of counting stats for Pitt — eight tackles for loss, three sacks and seven quarterback hurries. The ultimate boom-or-bust defense paid off with a pick-six to seal the game late.
Questions remain heading into this matchup with Tennessee, a team that has the weapons to replicate the West Virginia air attack, along with a few running backs to pound against a Pitt tackling grade of 45th.
Tennessee vs. Pitt Betting Pick
There are plenty of reasons to believe this game will be full of points. The Pitt defense was torched on the ground by West Virginia, while also allowing explosive plays on known passing downs.
The Panthers are one of the most Havoc-minded defenses in the nation, but allowing the Mountaineers to record 22 first downs was not an expected result.
Tennessee did not record a pressure against a Ball State offensive line that lost 40% of experience from last season. The back seven generated a pass breakup and an interception, but the Cardinals spent all four quarters playing in known passing downs.
Specifically, Tennessee was targeted successfully between the hashes.
Ball State quarterback John Paddock completed 19 passes on 24 attempts on plays between the hashmarks. This target zone is the exact zone Cignetti elected to attack with success for Slovis in Week 1.
If Ball State generated 11 missed tackles from gains within the hashmarks, the Pitt offense should have plenty of success, too.
The Action Network projects this game closer to a pick, as an opener of Tennessee -5 quickly took steam to a full touchdown. Both of these teams finished top-10 nationally during Week 1 in converting scoring opportunities into points, indicating an over bet is in play.
Considering Pitt has the schematic advantage on the Tennessee defense, the best play is on the Panthers to cover at home.