Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee Odds, Prediction: Will Vols Compete With Panthers? (Saturday, Sept. 11)
Leon Halip/Getty Images. Pictured: Kenny Pickett.
- Josh Heupel's Tennessee team faces a tough early test against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
- Both teams convincingly beat inferior opposition in Week 1, but it's the Panthers who have multiple edges in this matchup.
- Keg taps into this matchup and delivers his pick for the game below.
Pitt vs. Tennessee Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The ACC desperately needs a statement win after an embarrassing Week 1 for most of the conference.
This Week 2 matchup between Pittsburgh and Tennessee is a much bigger game for the Panthers than the Volunteers.
Pitt wants to show it can compete with the big names of the ACC, while Tennessee is still trying to figure things out. When you look at quarterback Joe Milton’s issues on the deep ball, along with the confusion that currently reigns on Tennessee defense, there are lots of reasons to believe Pitt will be just too much.
It will be the first time the two schools will meet in a football game since 1983, with Pittsburgh having won the first two matchups. However, it will be the third game in four seasons between first-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi.
Pitt enters its seventh season under head coach Pat Narduzzi and is coming off a 51-7 win over UMass. After winning eight games or less in the past three seasons, Narduzzi is still trying to take the next step with Pitt. To do that, this is a game that the Panthers have to find a way to win
Pitt has the clear edge at quarterback with Kenny Pickett, who completed 27 of 37 passes last week for 272 yards and a touchdown. He also has experience against Heupel at UCF and Tennessee’s defensive coordinator Tim Banks during his time at Penn State.
The Panthers also have one of the best skill-position players on the field with wide receiver Jordan Addison, whose name I expect to hear frequently on Saturday.
The Pittsburgh defense is Narduzzi’s superior unit.
After losing key players from 2020, the Panthers posted five sacks and allowed just 42 rushing yards last week. UMass was never going to be an issue defensively, but Pitt did need to prove it could continue the playmaking in the backfield.
The point seems to have been established, but again, this was against UMass. John Petrishen led the Panthers with six total tackles, including a pair of sacks.
Last season, the Panthers had one of the best rushing defenses in college football, holding teams to 2.8 yards per carry. They continued that trend against Massachusetts last week, holding the Minutemen to only 1.6 yards per rush.
In Heupel’s debut, the Vols won by more than one score in their season opener for the first time since 2015, when they beat the same Bowling Green program 59-30. And while I said this is a bigger game for Pitt than Tennessee, if Heupel can pull off the upset, he is sure to get all of Rocky Top onboard.
All four UT coaches after Phillip Fulmer and before Heupel lost their first game against a Power Five team. No coach during that time got their first Power Five win at Tennessee Before Week 6.
Milton wasn’t sharp in Week 1, but he ran for 44 yards and two scores. We can’t ignore that it was against Bowling Green, but it was a good start for the Heupel Era.
Tennessee did win by 28 points last week, but it was far from ideal.
Milton completed only 11-of-23 passes, and he’ll be bothered by the Pitt pass rush this week.
Like against Bowling Green, I expect the Vols coaching staff will take the pressure off its quarterback by running. Tennessee ran the ball 64 times as a team and passed it just 24 last week.
It found success on the ground against Bowling Green, but I don’t expect that to continue this week against Pitt.
First-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks, who spent the last five years at Penn State as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, has his own history with Pitt. Banks faced the Panthers four times, winning the final three meetings in which Pitt scored only 30 combined.
Against Banks, Pickett completed 35 of 51 passes for 372 yards in 2019, but he didn’t throw a touchdown against the Penn State defense.
The Vols secondary will have their hands full with six receivers who all caught more than 20 passes in 2020, but it shouldn’t have to worry about the Panthers’ running game.
Pitt vs. Tennessee Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Pitt and Tennessee match up statistically:
Pitt Offense vs. Tennessee Defense
Tennessee Offense vs. Pitt Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Data via College Football Data (CFBD) and FootballOutsiders; SP+ projection per ESPN.
Heupel and Tennessee football just have too much to work on right now before they’re ready to face Pitt. The Vols have a good QB in Milton, but I have to see more from Tennessee before backing it long-term.
Pickett is a difference-maker for this Panthers team. I also trust Pitt to be a bit more consistent on defense than I do Tennessee.
Pitt vs. Tennessee Betting Pick
I’m taking Pittsburgh -3 (-110) at BetMGM and would recommend staying on this crucial number if you can.
To remain at -3, I would take it up to (-130), and I don’t mind taking it up to 5.5 (-110). It wouldn’t change my play, but it’s important to get the best number you can, especially at a key number like 3.
Pick: Pitt -3 (-110)
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