Hang On To The Ball

Turnovers second most important stat in football

June 11, 2008

By Trev Alberts

Special to CSTV.com


Trev Alberts is a football analyst for CBS College Sports and CSTV.com.

You've got college football questions and CBS College Sports football analyst Trev Alberts has answers and opinions. Each week Alberts will be answering questions and queries on the world of college football. So if you've got a question for Trev? Just ask him.


Who do you think will get to a bowl game quicker, North Carolina or Michigan? - Jeff Lowen, Del.


Have the expectations been lowered at Michigan or what? I think both of those teams are going to be in bowl games this season. It's pretty easy to point out that you have to be fairly mediocre nowadays to make a bowl game and bowl games don't carry quite the weight that it once did. But that's beside the point.


I think that certainly Michigan could be expected to take a small step backwards with the new coaching staff and system. But at the same time I still think we should remember that this is Michigan we're talking about.  They still have a number of talented players who know what it means to win and know what the expectations are. Michigan's going to be in a bowl game.


I think the exciting thing for Tar Heels fans is that over the past few years you can just see them, little by little, doing the right things that winning teams do on a regular basis. Even in their losses last year, they were extremely competitive. They're building a culture of expectations. This year will be the first year that maybe they not only expect to win, but they start to have some of the younger players step up and compete and contribute to wins. I can tell you I've just been waiting and watching with great anticipation because I think an awful lot of Butch Davis. It's only a matter of time before North Carolina becomes a dominant player in the ACC.


How come it seems like there too many rules in place to protect the offense? Every rules change is made to benefit the offense. It's like the NCAA doesn't want to see any 10-7, defensive battles anymore. They just want offense. - Sean M., Calif.


There's probably some truth to that. This is a game that's based around the clients and research seems to show that college football's constituents want high scoring offenses that are fun to watch and produce made for TV highlights.


As a former defensive player, I can tell you that some of the best games I played in, or watched as a fan, were 10-7 games because you knew that one play could be the deciding factor. You get sort of a sense in some of these modern offenses that if you're down 21 points deep in the third quarter that the game's not over. So there's a positive aspect to the evolution, but in my mind, a 10-7 game could be one of the best you ever watch or play in. I think a 10-7 game can be just as fun and dynamic to watch as a 62-58 shootout. It just depends on your perspective.


I understand why, though, the rules are made the way they are. It's just the way football has evolved. But I think defenses and defensive players, in general, have gotten better. And as a former defensive player, I take it as a compliment that rules changes are being implemented to help offenses. If you're consistently changing rules to help the defenses compete then I wouldn't feel so good.


Besides points, what the most important statistic in the box score? - Andrew Preistner


I think that turnovers are so telling because you can look at a lot of box scores and let's say the final score is 28-21. And typically the first thing you'll look for is yards and something will really jump out at you like, "oh my goodness, so and so had 520 yards of total offense and lost." But that doesn't nearly tell the story.


Turnovers are huge. They're momentum changers. To me, you can forget all the yards and all the other stuff and if one team has a significant advantage in that department - let's say one team has three turnovers and other team doesn't have any - then nine times out of 10 the team that wins that battle is going to win the game.


The other thing that goes with turnovers is penalties. Turnovers are often the indicator of a well-played, clean game. If you don't have turnovers, you can go down to the penalty department and often times that can tell a story.

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