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The Johnny Majors Classic: (24)Tennessee at (17)Pittsburgh

By: The All Vol Call in Show Staff


Graphic | John Dunn

If you were to ask Tennessee football fans and Pittsburgh football fans what they thought about Johnny Majors, you would likely be met with responses of reverence and respect. Majors is legendary for both schools. He was an All-American in 1956, and a two-time winner of the Southeastern Conference Most Valuable Player award, in 1955 and 1956. He finished second to Paul Hornung in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1956.

After playing one season in the Canadian Football League, Majors became a college assistant coach. He served as the head coach at Iowa State University (1968–1972), the University of Pittsburgh (1973–1976, 1993–1996), and Tennessee (1977–1992), compiling a career college football record of 185–137–10. His 1976 Pittsburgh squad won a national championship after capping a 12–0 season with a victory in the Sugar Bowl. Majors was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987.

Although Majors passed away on June 3, 2020 in Knoxville, TN, he left behind a legacy of respect, admiration, and reverence. He will never be forgotten.

John Dunn (Founder, Managing Editor, Host)

Pittsburgh was tested mightily in week-one by the West Virginia Mountaineers. Although the Panthers claimed victory, the Mountaineers laid out a blueprint for success against the Pittsburgh defense. A potent mixture of running and passing seemed to be a recipe for success against the Panthers. WVU quarterback J.T. Daniels threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns and was picked-off once. Running back CJ Donaldson erupted for 125 yards on seven carries with one touchdown. The Mountaineers also lost a fumble and accrued 11 penalties for 72 yards while converting half of their third down attempts.

The Panthers struggled to convert on third down, converting less than half of their third down attempts against West Virginia. The Volunteers struggled with third down defense in the 2021 campaign, especially against mobile quarterbacks. Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis is not a mobile quarterback but has the arm talent to find some success through the air. Slovis threw completed 66% of his passes last week for 308 yards, but only one touchdown. He threw no picks.

The blueprint to victory was laid by West Virginia, they just didn't execute in the second half. Tennessee will need to be multi-dimensional on offense, while having a 'bend, but don't break' attitude on defense. Hendon Hooker, with one of the most talented wide receiver groups in the country, could have a monstrous day against Pittsburgh. Along with the potential for success through the air, the Vols have the opportunity to expose the Pittsburgh rush defense the same way West Virginia did. Hooker is a playmaker with his legs as well as with his arm. If Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright, or any of Tennessee's other backs can get going on the ground, it will open the passing offense, allowing the Vols to play up to their lethal capability. It all comes down to execution. I think Heupel has these guys ready to go, and Pittsburgh is in for a long day in Acrisure Satdium.

Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Pittsburgh - 28

Trey Smith (Senior Editor)

While Tennessee was handling Ball State, Pittsburgh put West Virginia away late in the game thanks to quarterback Kedon Slovis’ 2nd-half performance. Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi has been adamant about having a ground and pound identity all off-season. However, Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will take some deep shots in order to help get their ground game going.

Slovis has talent, but he’s no Kenny Pickett, and Pitt won’t have a receiver of Jordan Allison’s caliber to look to in the passing game. Hendon Hooker will continue to build on his confidence and poise within Josh Heupel’s offense. Tyler Baron and Byron Young will be able to tee-off on Pitt’s O-line and get just enough pressure on Slovis to make a difference.

Tennessee will pull away at the hands of Hooker’s keen decision making, and the Vols offense’s ability to wear down Pitt’s defense. The Tennessee defense will likely be on the field for the majority of the game. That being said, Kamal Hadden, Warren Burrell and company will make just enough plays to get the ball back in the hands of the Vols’ potent offense. Tennessee is 6-0 under Heupel when holding opponents to under 27 points, and just 1-6 when allowing 30 or more points.

Prediction: Tennessee - 34 | Pittsburgh - 28

Dallas Bowlin (Senior Staff Writer)

Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis looked very impressive in their season opener against West Virginia, throwing for 308 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions. The Tennessee defense will have to find a way to get pressure on Slovis. Against Ball State, they were unable to record a quarterback sack, but did get pressure on the quarterback. If the Vols' defense can find a way to create havoc in the backfield, and Hendon Hooker continues his solid play, Tennessee wins a close one.

Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Pittsburgh - 42

William Allen (Senior Staff Writer)

The most compelling fourth quarter comeback win of week one was Pitt vs West Virginia in the 105th edition of the Backyard Brawl. The game quickly became an instant classic as Pitt cornerback M.J. Devonshire intercepted a tipped ball and scored with 2:58 remaining in the game.

Pat Narduzzi’s answer for the departure of quarterback Kenny Pickett is USC transfer Kedon Slovis. Pitt can’t start slow against Tennessee, as they rank seventh-best in scoring offense and 22nd-best in scoring defense. Tennessee dismantled MAC opponent Ball State last week and looks ready for the second matchup at Pitt as a 6.5-point favorite. Quarterback Hendon Hooker is a top five SEC quarterback, and the Tennessee defense is ready for the big stage in the Johnny Majors Classic.

Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Pitt - 31

Zack Troutt (Junior Staff Writer)

This will be the first big test for the Volunteers this young season. The Vols are coming off a dominant victory over Ball State and are looking to carry that momentum over into this week vs. Pitt. The Panthers are also coming off a week-one victory as they beat West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl. Pitt's offense starts with their running game, setting up the play action. One of the better things the Vol's defense is good at is stopping the run.

If they can put Pitt in 3rd-and-long situations all night, I don't have the confidence in Pitt's QB, Kedon Slovis, to consistently get them out of trouble. Pitt's defensive line, on paper, is solid but was exposed last week against West Virgina. I see Hooker and company exploiting them even more. I'm not saying this will be a blow out, but the Vols will be in control the entire game.

Prediction: Tennessee - 42 | Pittsburgh - 24

Joe Davis (Junior Staff Writer)

Pitt comes into this game 1-0 after surviving a back-and-forth rivalry game with West Virginia. On paper, Tennessee is more talented all-around than the Panthers, but Pittsburgh has a veteran roster that will definitely keep them in this game. Tennessee needs to protect the ball and execute their offense cleanly to win the game. I think this is exactly what Hendon Hooker does best. Look for the Vols to sweat this one out and move to 2-0.

Prediction: Tennessee - 38 | Pitt - 34

Zac Strickland (Junior Staff Writer)

For the second straight season, the Vols face their first true test of the year in the Johnny Majors Classic against the Pittsburgh Panthers. For Tennessee, this game will be a barometer not only for how they stack up against another solid Power 5 opponent, but also for how far they’ve come since last season, in which they lost a tough 41-34 contest in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee in that game played pedestrian defense, gave up sacks, turnovers and missed wide open touchdowns on offense, had the starting QB and top two running backs knocked out with injury, and got an awful ball spot near the goal line, and still the Vols were in it till the final whistle. The loss aged very well, as Pitt went on to win 11 games and an ACC championship lead by Heisman nominee QB Kenny Pickett and All-American WR Jordan Addison. In addition, the Vols had a silver lining to take away from that game, which was the emergence of Hendon Hooker as a capable playmaker and leader of the Tennessee offense.

This year, both teams have the same identity but with some new faces. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi still runs his pro-style offense with a heavy dose of passing, but Pickett and Addison are gone to the NFL and Southern Cal, respectively. The Panthers are hoping USC transfer Kedon Slovis can be an adequate replacement for Pickett, and he showed well in their 38-31 win over West Virginia, throwing for 308 yards and a TD. At the skill positions, Pitt has some solid players but have yet to find a true breakout playmaker. The defensive front is the strength of this Panthers team and is one of the biggest reasons Pitt beat Tennessee last year. DL’s Calijah Kancey and Habakkuk Baldonado combined for 16 sacks last season, and LB SirVocea Dennis recorded 87 tackles and four sacks.

The Panthers are a well-coached team and certainly are more than capable of winning again and completing the sweep against Tennessee. However, in many ways, it appears the shoe is on the other foot this year. The Vols seem to be entering this game with more continuity at key positions, while Pitt is searching for replacements here in the early part of the season. Pickett and Addison in particular are likely going to be impossible to fully replace for the Panthers. They should find some success through the air against Tennessee, but expect the Vols to use a balanced attack, as WV did en route to 31 points, and be highly effective in doing so. It won’t be easy, but Tennessee shows resolve and leaves Pittsburgh with a hard-fought victory to move to 2-0.

Prediction: Tennessee - 38 | Pittsburgh - 28

Darrell Winstead (Junior Staff Writer)

Last season Pitt won 41-34 in a shootout in Knoxville. A lot has changed in a year, and this is a big game for both teams. The Vols roll into town with QB Hendon Hooker as their starter and are coming fresh off a 59-10 win in their opener. Pitt is also coming off a victory, but a much closer one, 38-31 over West Virginia. Both teams come into the matchup ranked, Pittsburgh #17 and Tennessee #24. The Vols got off to a fast start, but they are still questions about the defense. The Panthers have a new starting QB as well in USC transfer Kendon Slovis. Pitt has a solid defense line and will look to keep the Vols high powered offense in check.

Prediction: Tennessee - 44 | Pittsburgh - 34


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