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Tennessee vs. West Virginia: Rocky Top Talk Staff Predictions

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Can Tennessee upend No. 17 West Virginia in its 2018 season opener?

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee begins the 2018 season looking to extend its streak of 10 consecutive non-conference wins when it takes on West Virginia this weekend in the Belk College Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C.

Here are the predictions from the RTT staff:

Conner Knapp: Tennessee 28, West Virginia 24

Why not?

It’s a new era. I think West Virginia, while certainly a good team, is coming in a bit overrated. Honestly, I just want to believe. Maybe Tennessee gets shelled, but I really think the Vols have the talent on defense to keep WVU in check. If Tennessee can get to 28 points, I’ll take my chances.

Terry Lambert: West Virginia 38, Tennessee 30

I want to pull the trigger on the upset, but I just can’t quite get there. I think the Vols will have their shots to win this one, but inexperience at cornerback and no proven pass rush is just too much for me to ignore.

Tennessee should be able to run the ball, hopefully keeping Will Grier off the field. I’m just not sold that they’re going to be able to get the stops when they need them.

Evan Winter: Tennessee 31, West Virginia 30

Call it preseason optimism, call it insanity - whatever. The Vols win this game.

I have complete faith that Jeremy Pruitt and this coaching staff will be able to maximize the talent on this roster and with a whole offseason to prepare for the Mountaineers - all bets are off.

Even though it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen, Tennessee will pound the ball and come up with enough pressure to force Will Grier and the WVU offense into a couple of crucial mistakes that turn the tide in favor of the Vols.

Pruitt and UT start the season off on a high note with a big upset on Saturday.

Noah Taylor: West Virginia 41, Tennessee 28

West Virginia is capable of scoring a lot, but I think Tennessee will be able to hang with the Mountaineers-for most of the game.

I have this one close going into the fourth quarter, but West Virginia will score a pair of touchdowns late to put it away. Still, in a game that close, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room for error and I could still see it going either way. If Jeremy Pruitt has the defense performing at a high level (pressure on Grier, forcing them to turn to the ground game), a mistake or two by West Virginia could go a long way in Tennessee getting a big upset in week one.

I’m going with the Mountaineers, but I would not be surprised with a different result that favors the Vols.

Austin Burlage: West Virginia 34, Tennessee 24

My heart says Tennessee has a shot — a really good shot — to win this game. On paper the Vols match up extremely well. In terms of athletes, Tennessee absolutely has the players to compete with West Virginia.

But my gut says this game simply comes too early in the season. If Tennessee and West Virginia were to meet in a bowl game I think it would be Vols by double digits. This isn’t just a new scheme Tennessee is breaking in, though. It is an entirely new philosophy as a football program, a total reverse of the way things have been done from a football standpoint in recent memory.

The Mountaineers are a well oiled machine offensively. And, although their defense was largely poor a season ago, they will be familiar with their system and return many experienced players. Tennessee will compete, and I expect the improvement between 2017 and 2018 to be evident. At the end of this one I’ll just be happy if the talking points don’t revolve around the Tennessee sideline hoisting a trash can in the air for four hours.