Monday, January 9, 2012
Protect the darn ball!
By ESPN.com staff
You must protect the football. It's a football cliche that is a statement of fact when it comes to winning games, but also for winning national championships.
The Pac-12 played seven bowl games. It won two. The two it won -- Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Utah in the Sun Bowl -- it was even with turnovers. Four of the five it lost, it lost the turnover battle. The exception? Arizona State won the turnover battle 3-2 with Boise State. The Sun Devils, as their fans well-know, are always weird.
The bottom five teams in the Pac-12 in turnover margin each finished the pre-bowl season with losing records (we say pre-bowl rather than "regular" to include UCLA). The top seven had winning records, other than the Sun Devils, who were .500. The only team with a winning record that finished with a negative turnover margin was USC, but that was due in large part to a stunning lack of takeaways instead of protecting the football. The Trojans 18 turnovers this season was tied for second-fewest in the conference; their 17 takeaways was tied for second-fewest also.
Guess who's No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin this season? LSU, the nation's No. 1 team. Alabama, which plays the Tigers tonight for the national championship, is No. 25.
No national champion in the BCS Era has had a negative turnover margin.
The worst ranking for a BCS national champion in turnover margin was 39th, which was LSU in 2003. But most folks view USC as the "true" national champion that year -- no one really believes that LSU team would have beaten USC, even LSU fans -- and the Trojans ranked No. 2 in turnover margin.
Oh, stop it LSU fans, you know it's true.
Five BCS national champions ranked in the top-five in turnover margin.
Look at the teams at the top of this list and the teams at the bottom. Notice anything?
Anyone want to bet $1 that the team with fewer turnovers between LSU and Alabama wins tonight?