Setting the Tone
With a big week 1 for Pitt against their backyard rival WV, it’s clear to say Pitt has some momentum coming into this game. Tennessee Vols performed well against Ball State (As expected), without giving up much of their playbook. After a close 41-34 victory for Pitt last year, this game is not just a new rivalry game, but a tone setter for the rest of the season.
Hooker and Slovis might have a field day. Hooker who was still very new at the starting position threw for 188 and 2 TDs against Pitt. He’s only gotten better since that 2nd week start. Kedon Slovis, the USC transfer enters his senior season as a panther. Throwing for 308 and a TD in his first game with the team, both sides have something to worry about. History could repeat itself to be another shootout, and I think that’s what both sides want.
The Run game could prove the difference for Tennessee. With their up-tempo offense, and multiple explosive backs, they ran over 200 in week 1. Pitt on the other hand struggled against West Virginia on the ground. Out of their 384 yards only 76 was in the run department, not as balanced compared to the Vols 351/218 split. Another area that should worry Pitt fans is their O-line. Along with the slow run game, pass protection was a struggle. 5 sacks were allowed against WV, an area the Vols could exploit.
As I said earlier, Pitt gave up multiple sacks against WV, but they could get away with it this week. Tennessee could not generate a sack against Ball State, something that should be expected from an SEC D-line. Now the real advantage the panthers have is their defense. With a top-10 rated D-line in the country, Pitt had multiple forced fumbles, and 3 sacks to their name. Also, an INT from the secondary when it mattered the most. Finally, if you watched week 1 or any home Pitt game last season, you know how much that crowd can play apart on Saturday.
Why this Game is Huge
This is a rivalry game with season setting momentum. Many analysts have Pitt making a run for the ACC, as they did last year. On the other side, you have Tennessee with a second-year head coach in Josh Heupel, looking to have a break-out season. The Vols hope to switch the tone this year against Florida, and a win on the road against a ranked Pitt team, is just the momentum they need.