1. Pitt’s rush defense vs. Vols’ ability to pick it up
Anybody who knows anything about Pitt under Pat Narduzzi knows that their bread and butter is making big plays with their front seven. That hasn’t changed this year, and it’ll be a key in every game they play in this year.
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Pitt came away with five sacks and six tackles for a loss against the UMASS Minutemen. Four different players had those sacks, and linebacker John Petrishen led the way with two sacks. There are questions about them in the secondary, and they’ll give up big plays, but with that comes a major ability to rush the passer and kill drives.
On the other side, the Vols may have some issues with their pass protection. They did allow three sacks last week and had two quarterback fumbles, one from Joe Milton III and the other from Hendon Hooker, who came in late once the game was in hand.
Add in the fact that Cooper Mays and Tiyon Evans may be banged up, two key players in pass protection, and this could be an issue. However, the Cade Mays and Darnell Wright are still fully healthy, and Milton is a mobile quarterback, having rushed for 44 yards and two touchdowns last week. Jabari Small can block as well.
All of that goes into the ability to pick up an elite pass rush. If Tennessee football can neutralize that, the Vols all of a sudden have the advantage. However, it could become a huge issue for them as well, so watch out for how this unfolds.