All head coaches will say that winning the turnover battle is important in every game. But that holds particularly true for Pitt in their next game against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Hokies continue to disrupt offenses and have forced 11 turnovers on the season, ranking near the top of the FBS. Virginia Tech has also limited its own miscues, helping the program to a +1.75 per game advantage over its opponents. That, too, ranks among the nation's best. Six of the 11 turnovers have been interceptions and that's even without standout cornerback Kendall Fuller recording any yet.
As I said in the preview, Fuller missed the team's last game this weekend with a knee sprain. The team doesn't need him to force turnovers as stated above, but he is a big factor on the field and will make things even more difficult if he's able to play.
The Panthers, on the other hand, haven't been nearly as effective in either department as their counterparts. On the year, they have forced only two turnovers - one fumble recovery and one interception. They also haven't taken care of the ball as well with five turnovers of their own, leading to a -1.0 per game average.
I've previously written about the interception concerns I have of starter Nathan Peterman. Peterman, who recovered nicely against Iowa in the team's last game, still threw two early picks. He has been named the starter going forward and against a team that thrives on forcing mistakes, is really the key for Pitt. Peterman is going to need to be cautious but still must remain aggressive enough to make plays. It's a fine balance.
Winning the turnover battle on Saturday is also key because I expect another close game. Pitt won by only five last year and should this be another one-score game, even a single turnover could make all the difference.
Pitt has gotten by so far despite not forcing many turnovers and as we've seen, they can have some success without them. And, for the record, I think they will still have a chance to beat Virginia Tech without doing that on Saturday. But if the Panthers are unable to cause turnovers or make big special teams plays (which, admittedly, they have this season), they will need to take care of the ball - and the Hokies' opponents have struggled to do that this season.