Each week, the RTI team will provide game predictions for Tennessee’s weekly matchup. This week, we move on to Pittsburgh.
Both Tennessee and Pitt enter the early September matchup at Neyland Stadium 1-0 after blowout wins in week one.
Week Two — Tennessee (+3) vs. Pitt
Over/Under — 56.5
Ric Butler: The Johnny Majors classic may not feature two Top 25 opponents, but it should be one of the better matchups in college football this weekend. Heading into this matchup, you have a Tennessee team that is trying to put all the pieces together for the second time. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is a team that oozes experience, mainly from their two best position groups. Pitt’s QB, Kenny Pickett, has been around the sport for a long time. Heupel has faced off against Pickett while he was at UCF, which could benefit the Vols as far as their game plan. But nonetheless, Pickett is an experienced, proven quarterback while Tennessee’s Joe Milton is still trying to establish himself as Tennessee’s undisputed quarterback. I think one of the biggest key factors in this game will be the Vols’ offensive line against Pitt’s defensive line. The Panthers have some linemen who have extreme motors, which could dwindle the amount of time Milton has back in the pocket. Tennessee will need Milton to be on his game in the decision-making department especially, knowing this game could be won in the fourth quarter. Ultimately though, that’s when I see this game being won. In the fourth quarter. You might not have two world-beating teams on the field, but you do have two teams that desperately want this win early in the season. A loss for Tennessee wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially considering the Vols are the underdogs. If Tennessee is going to win, I see Milton needing to get the team to 30 points one way or another. Will Tiyon Evans, Tennessee’s leading rusher from week one, play? Another good question. I didn’t see enough from the passing game to give Tennessee a win in week two, but that’s also because we just didn’t see many second-half passes. Tennessee has the fastest offense in college football after one week, and they will need to keep the pace against Pitt on Saturday.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Tennessee 24
Ryan Schumpert: Tennessee faces the first real test of the Josh Heupel era Saturday when Pat Narduzzi brings his Pitt team to Neyland Stadium. The Vols’ offense is looking to be more consistent after struggling in the passing game eight days ago. They’ll have to improve against a far superior defense, especially along the defensive line. How Tennessee’s offensive line holds up both in the running and the passing game is one of the biggest keys to the game. Heupel’s offense enters the matchup with some uncertainty as both center Cooper Mays and running back Tiyon Evans are questionable to play. On defense, Tennessee secondary faces a real early-season threat. Kenny Pickett is in his fourth season as the Panthers starter and has the best supporting cast of his career this season. Pitt’s running game is far from dynamic and if Tennessee’s defensive line plays as it did a week ago the Vols could make Pitt one-dimensional. Two storylines I’m following on Tennessee’s defense, can they contain Pickett’s legs and can they hold Pitt to field goals in the red zone? Overall, I think Pitt is the better team due to the unknown in Tennessee’s passing game. The Vols playing at home makes it a near toss-up for me but I’m going to ride the veteran visiting team in a tight one.
Prediction: Pitt 28, Tennessee 27