Of the teams who finished in the top 10 of last season's end-of-year AP Poll, nine finished with a positive turnover margin, an average of more than +10 each. No. 2 LSU forced 20 more turnovers than it committed; No. 3 Oklahoma State did even better with 21.
Then there was No. 6 USC, the only top 10 team to not finish on the positive side of the record books. The Trojans turned the ball over 18 times and forced only 17 turnovers for a margin 0f -1, roughly average nationally and horrendous considering their 10-2 record. The other six teams who posted the same margins include the likes of Cal, Ball State and Louisville.
So it's a positive sign, then, that the Trojans forced five turnovers in their Sunday scrimmage at the Coliseum, although it'd be even more positive if it didn't come at the expense of their offensive counterparts. Matt Barkley and Max Wittek each threw two picks and Silas Redd was stripped of the ball, with freshman Scott Starr responsible for two of the interceptions and T.J. McDonald, George Uko and Kevon Seymour all producing one each.
McDonald, who will be a captain this season, said the defenders' play was a direct result of repetitive requests from the Trojans' coaches to focus on playmaking.
"The higher the turnover ratio, the better the team," McDonald said on Sunday. "That's one thing we've been trying to enforce: get turnovers."
USC coach Lane Kiffin said his staff had really made a "big deal" about turnovers since last season, and he added that he believes it's finally paying off in camp.
McDonald said it goes back to the team's dominant offense. Every forced turnover gives Barkley and Co. one more opportunity to score points.
"If we can do that, we can put ourselves in good position, because we know our offense is going to put up points," McDonald said of producing turnovers. "As long as we get the ball in their hands, we're making ourselves a better team."