Saturday, Sept. 11; Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
This is the one true toss-up game for Tennessee football that, in many ways, will make or break the season. If the Vols win, then they just have to beat all their non-Power Five schools and the Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks at home, all of which most experts predict them to do anyway, to reach bowl eligibility. A loss, however, will require an upset somewhere.
Here’s the problem for UT. Josh Heupel’s offense won’t have fully taken off yet. You can point to the scoring in the spring game, but that was more about poor defensive play than elite offensive play. Heupel’s spring games withe UCF Knights were all low-scoring.
Speaking of poor defensive play, that’s going to cost the Vols here. Pat Narduzzi’s program doesn’t put up a lot of points, but it’ll be able to break into the 30s against this UT defense early on in the season. The Vols just have too many issues there right now.
Getting back to the other side, Narduzzi’s focus is defense. Combine that with Heupel’s team still learning the ropes offensively early in the year, and it’s likely that Pitt comes in and wins this matchup that’ll honor Johnny Majors. Given the fact that Majors had more success at Pitt, winning a national title there, it makes sense that they get the better end of this game.