There’s no time to catch your breath in the early college football season, and that’s true especially with Pittsburgh. After a wild finish in the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia last weekend, the Panthers turn around and host Tennessee in Week 2. Below, we’ll look at Tennessee at Pittsburgh odds and what to expect from this game.
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Tennessee at Pittsburgh odds
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Find the entire slate of College Football Week 2 odds here
Tennessee at Pittsburgh Odds Movement
The Volunteers opened as a 6.5-point road favorite in this game. It didn’t take long for the number to reach -7 at Circa Sportsbook (a market originator)– slight perhaps in number but major as far as reaching a key figure in football. The move between 6.5 and 7 points represents a 14-cent jump in probability as 14% of college football games in the past five years have ended with a seven-point gap. I expect other books to see a rise in Tennessee’s number to -7.
If you’re looking to bet Tennessee, hope it stays below that key figure of 7 (current best odds: TEN ). If you’re on the Pitt train, you can either wait and hope the number hits 7.5 (potentially unlikely) or pull the trigger at 7 in case it drops to +6.5 again (current best odds: PIT ).
Sizing Up Pitt’s Offense
Last year, this game at Neyland Stadium established two things: Hendon Hooker as Tennessee’s starter moving forward and Kenny Pickett as a seriously good quarterback. Pickett, of course, is gone and in his place is USC transfer Kedon Slovis. Slovis produced a decent enough box score, but missed multiple open reads– one of which was a walk-in touchdown– and took two disastrous sacks at a critical point of the West Virginia game.
Where Pittsburgh succeeded last week was on the ground against a good West Virginia defensive line. The offensive line got a good push up front and the effort of running back Rodney Hammond Jr. resulted in two crucial scores. While far from a tough test, Tennessee’s defensive front failed to generate much pressure on Ball State, particularly on third down. Pitt appears to have an advantage at the line of scrimmage.
Overall, the Pitt offense was successful against WVU, ranking 24th on the week in dropback success rate (45%). However, Slovis will need to be more confident with his reads and Pat Narduzzi will need to pass the ball a bit more on early downs if they want to keep pace with the Tennessee offense.
In one game under Frank Cignetti Jr., Pitt ran a lot more under-center looks and even two-back formations with more long-developing play action plays than quick tempo routes from the gun. This style contrasts Tennessee’s up-tempo spread offense.
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A quick glance at the box score shows a 59-10 rout by Tennessee against Ball State in Week 1. However, they didn’t turn in a perfect report card when it comes to advanced stats, particularly on defense. They ranked 83rd in EPA margin on defense (0.07), 72nd in EPA per pass defense (0.072), and 87th in EPA per rush defense (0.068).
The Vols were able to run the ball with ease against a smaller Ball State defense, but advantageous starting field position on offense helped balloon their points. On the first possession of the game, Tennessee intercepted a pass at the Ball State 23 and scored one play later.
Hooker was relatively conservative in a relatively conservative offensive game plan, completing 18 passes for 221 yards. This level of underneath passing and quick timing throws may be more beneficial against a Pitt defense that kept the cap on JT Daniels and the WVU passing attack in Week 1 (-0.04 EPA per pass defense, 34th, but 40.4% success rate, 67th).
Cedric Tillman has an opportunity this weekend, as the Pitt defense wasn’t perfect at containing WVU’s Bryce Wheaton (9-97-2). Pitt’s defense was at times victim of lucky bounces and falls, as they forced multiple errant throws from Daniels that somehow landed in an unintended receiver’s arms. They rank 18th nationally in luck, though, thanks to the final pick-six going through the hands of Wheaton.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh Forecast
Numbers seem to indicate that Pitt’s offense ran a clean game and that Slovis was tactical and effective. The game I watched unfold told a different story; he missed multiple open reads, held onto the football way too long at times (resulting in egregious sacks) and it was gaffes made by West Virginia that opened the door for Pitt to win. Ultimately, the “drop” by Wheaton that resulted in the pick-six was the difference in the game.
Cignetti Jr.’s offense is pro style and methodical and reeks of Narduzzi interference. First and second downs were dedicated to loading the box and running the ball. Third downs were telegraphed… it was a really uninspiring offense and frustrating to watch from Pitt’s standpoint. In my opinion, this won’t fly against a more competent offense like Tennessee.
This difference in pace and willingness to push the ball is why I bet Tennessee -6.5. Should the number come back down from -7, that’s the route I would go. Remember though, you’re buying 14 more cents at seven points. For Tennessee backers, bite at 6.5, not 7. For Pitt backers, bite at 7.5.