Tennessee vs. Pitt Betting Odds, Expert Picks & Predictions: Debating This College Football Line
Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A Tennessee Volunteers football helmet.
- No. 17 Pittsburgh faces off against No. 24 Tennessee in a Week 2 college football non-conference duel.
- The Vols are the first SEC team to ever visit Pitt.
- Our two experts debate this spread below.
Tennessee vs. Pitt Odds
-110 / -110
-110 / -110
When Tennessee and Pitt met a year ago in a fun, high-scoring contest, Pitt came away with a 41-34 victory.
Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for one, Meanwhile, Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison caught six passes and a score.
Well, both of the Panthers’ best players are gone. On the flip side, Tennessee started Joe Milton in that game for some reason. Milton has a cannon arm and was as consistent as they come. If his receiver was 50 yards away, he threw it 50 yards. If his receiver was 15 yards away, he threw it 50 yards.
Hendon Hooker came in midway through the second quarter, and the offense immediately looked different. He threw for 188 yards with two touchdowns and a pick while averaging nine yards per pass.
Hooker finished the year with 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The offense totally changed once he took over and finished seventh in the country in scoring.
Tennessee got torched through the air last season but was better against the run. It held Pitt to just 96 yards rushing on 45 carries last season — just 2.1 yards per carry. Pat Narduzzi spent all offseason talking about how much he wanted to run the ball more, yet his team managed just 2.0 yards per carry against West Virginia in Week 1.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis has struggled in big moments throughout his career, throwing eight interceptions last season to 11 touchdowns. In his career he has 49 big-time throws, with 47 turnover-worthy plays.
West Virginia had every opportunity to win that game last week and probably should have. Tennessee is a much better team than the Mountaineers. The Vols are much improved over the team Pitt saw last season, while the Panthers will take a step back without Pickett and Addison.
Mike may try to convince you that Pitt’s win over West Virginia was lucky. Sure, Pitt outscored West Virginia despite producing three fewer drives past the 40-yard-line. The only reason it won was because of a tipped pick-six, right?
Let’s not get carried away.
Look at this roster. It’s stacked. Fifteen starters return in total, including three of the top four tacklers and the top three running backs. All five offensive linemen return with a whopping 145 career starts. First-team All-ACC tackle Calijah Kancey leads a defensive line that returns five players who combined for 26 sacks.
Pitt’s Havoc numbers against West Virginia were sky high. It was actually a little unlucky in that fashion, recovering just one fumble despite forcing three.
The only question on this Pitt roster was at quarterback. Kedon Slovis responded by going 16-for-24 for an absurd 13.7 yards per attempt. He threw one just touchdown, but running back Rodney Hammond helped out with two scores and 130 yards on the ground.
There’s a lot to like about this Tennessee team. But let’s be real, catching a touchdown at home with this stacked of a Panthers roster is too good to pass up.
It also helps that Tennessee is 0-3 straight up all-time in this series and 1-4 SU in its last five true road openers.
Ianniello: The Pitt team is stacked? The Panthers rank just 45th on the team talent composite, per 247Sports. This roster has zero five-star recruits and just eight four-stars — the same amount as Northwestern.
The Vols rank 19th in the team talent composite. They have two five-stars and 24 four-star recruits on their roster.
One of those five stars is transfer Bru McCoy, who caught three passes for 14 yards in his Tennessee debut. He will be paired with leading receiver Cedric Tillman, who totaled 1,081 yards and ranked eighth in the country with 12 touchdowns last year
Leading rusher Jabari Small is back, as are four offensive line starters.
The Vols also return their top three leading tacklers, led by stud linebacker Jeremy Banks. He had 128 total tackles and also led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
If we want to talk about Week 1 this much, how about Tennessee blasting Ball State, 59-10? The Vols threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns. They averaged 10 yards per pass. On the ground, the added 218 yards and five scores.
Nine different plays recorded a carry, and 10 different players hauled in a pass. They averaged 6.6 yards per play, had a 58% Success Rate, and scored seven touchdowns and a field goal on eight drives past BSU’s 40-yard line.
This team is already clicking on all cylinders and will be able to hit the ground running from the moment this game kicks off in Pittsburgh.
McGrath: Tennessee’s defense did get shredded through the air last season (112th in Success Rate in passing downs). It was “better” against the run but still didn’t crack the top 50 in Success Rate on rushing plays.
There’s returning production, but this Tennessee defense is still unproven. It was nice that it beat down on Ball State, but the Cardinals are no measuring stick. Plus, there are issues with its defensive performance.
Ball State shredded Tennessee across the middle of the field with John Paddock going 19-for-24 in between the hash marks. Ball State generated 11 missed tackles within those hashmarks. Tennessee didn’t produce a single pressure against Ball State.
Read that again:
“Tennessee didn’t produce a single pressure against Ball State.”
The Vols are in for a wake-up call.
Pitt posted 6.2 Points Per Opportunity against West Virginia while producing plenty of explosive plays. It also generated 21 Havoc plays.
Hooker is a hell of a quarterback, but I’m not so confident he’ll cruise to a seven-point victory on the road against a formidable front seven while trying to out-do his own defense.
Ianniello: Tennessee’s defense is certainly nothing to write home about. But I’m not as sold on the Pittsburgh defense as Tanner is.
Sure, it held JT Daniels (who I’m not sure is even good) pretty much in check. Although, if that final pass was just three inches higher, he leads West Virginia to a win.
But the concerning thing was the Panthers’ run defense. Freshman running back CJ Donaldson rushed for 125 yards on just seven carries against this Pitt defense. As a team, the Mountaineers averaged 5.8 carries with 190 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
That was the Panthers’ strength on defense last year, so if they’re going to get gashed on the ground, that’s going to cause trouble.
With Hooker’s ability to use his legs to escape the pocket and pick up yards, he can negate Pitt’s pash rush. And if the Panthers continue to give up explosive running plays, Hooker will torch them with his arm and his legs.
In last year’s matchup the two quarterbacks combined for 103 yards, each posting runs for more than 20 yards.
McGrath: Bringing up a Week 1 “blasting” of a Ball State team that has a win total of 4.5 in the MAC is a worthless point. But OK.
And there are issues with Tennessee’s offensive performance, too. Hooker threw the ball 25 times, but the team had just a 25% Success Rate on passing downs in the first half. I’d expect Hooker to be in a few more third-and-longs against Pitt’s front seven than against Ball State’s front seven.
Plus, let’s not forget how much Ball State lost on defense. The Cardinals returned just one of their top six tacklers from last season. Yet, you’re bragging about your precious 6.6 yards per play? Give me a break.
Pitt battling West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl means the 2022 Panthers are already more battle-tested than the Volunteers, anyways. The Panthers are far more ready to hit the ground running than the Volunteers are.
Ianniello: Bet Tennessee -6.5
Don’t expect to see the same energy and packed house we saw last week at the return of the Backyard Brawl. That was a rivalry game.
Despite having an ACC Championship-winning team last year, Pitt averaged just 45,365 fans last season, filling just 66% of
Heinz Field Acrisure Stadium capacity.
This game has a total of 65 points — one of the highest on the slate. Give me the better coach, the better offense and the better quarterback as Tennessee goes into the Steel City and exacts its revenge.
McGrath: Bet Panthers -3.5
It’s simply too many points.
It’s simple. Collin Wilson projects this spread as a pick’em. Our Action PRO model makes this Tennessee -3. The hype for Tennessee is too high, and a blowout win over Ball State means nothing.
Look at the returning production for Pitt. Look at having home-field advantage. And look at the Week 1 track record. I don’t see Tennessee waltzing to a double-digit victory. At minimum, this game will be a fight.
I’ll take the home dog catching nearly a touchdown.