How many times have you heard a coach say, “If we win the turnover battle we’ll win the game”?
Thanks coach. But don't shun those cliche-spewing coaches just yet.
Take a look at last year’s Top 10 (really 11 since North Texas, Purdue and Minnesota all tied for 10th) teams in most turnovers and you can see the overused comment is pretty accurate. Those teams went a combined 51-85, and only two teams finished with winning records.
So as we get closer to the 2010 season let’s take a look at those teams and see if they have done anything to improve their fortunes in the “turnover battle.”
Key Contributor: QB Zac Dysert (16 interceptions, 4 fumbles), RB Thomas Merriweather 3
The RedHawks led the nation in turnovers last year and the 2010 schedule doesn’t bode well for reversing that trend.
Miami opens in Gainesville against a much more athletic Florida team. Mix in the hostile crowd at The Swamp and the turnovers could pile up in the first week of the season. Mid-American Conference rival Ohio University is also on the RedHawks’ schedule, and the Bobcats led the nation with 37 turnovers.
Let’s not forget Miami had the nation’s worst turnover margin and allowed more sacks (59) than any other team. The RedHawks return nine starters on offense, but how that translates into a reduction in turnovers remains to be seen.
Zac Dysert gained valuable experience last year after taking over as the starting QB, so he should cut down on his picks this season.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Extremely high. Miami’s goal is to not finish on top again.
Key Contributors: QB Bryant Moniz (10 interceptions, 1 fumble), QB Greg Alexander (4 fumbles, 4 interceptions)
Hawaii’s quarterbacks were its downfall in the turnover battle. Bryant Moniz and Greg Alexander combined to commit 19 of 33 miscues. Moniz is expected to start in the fall, but he missed a lot of time this spring because of personal problems.
A talented group of receivers, led by Greg Salas (two fumbles), should help Moniz. Senior Alex Green should be the featured running back and he fumbled just two times on 86 carries last year.
The Warriors play a high-risk, high-reward offense that can lead to turnovers, especially against some of the tougher defenses. Hawaii will be challenged with games against USC (Sept. 2), at Army (Sept. 11), at Colorado (Sept. 18), Idaho (Oct. 30) and at Boise State (Nov. 6).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Very high. Hawaii plays a wide open game and interceptions are going to happen.
Key Contributors: QB Cody Hawkins (11 interceptions), QB Tyler Hansen (7 interceptions, 5 fumbles), RB Rodney Stewart (3 fumbles)
The Buffaloes return nine starters on offense and look to start junior Tyler Hansen at quarterback. He’s likely to spark the offense more than Cody Hawkins, but Hansen turned the ball over at a high rate last year.
Hansen has a talented receiving corps with senior Scotty McKnight and juniors Markques Simas and Toney Clemons. Small, but powerful running back Rodney Stewart is tough to bring down and could take a lot of pressure off of Hansen.
Colorado must travel to California (Sept. 11), Missouri (Oct. 9), Oklahoma (Oct. 30), and Nebraska (Nov. 26). The Buffaloes also host Georgia (Oct. 2), and always seem to struggle with Colorado State (Sept. 4).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: High. Hansen is just too inconsistent and if the losses come early this team could quit on Coach Dan Hawkins.
Key Contributors: QB Marshall Lobbestael (8 interceptions, 1 fumble), QB Jeff Tuel (5 interceptions, 4 fumbles), QB Kevin Lopina (2 fumbles)
Do the Cougars still play football? It’s pretty questionable since Paul Wulff took over in 2008.
The Cougars were an equal opportunity turnover team by almost equaling the number interceptions (16) and fumbles (15). WSU’s three quarterbacks accounted for 20 of its 31 turnovers.
Tuel and Lobbestael are usually running for their lives because of poor pass protection so many of the turnovers are not necessarily their fault.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Mark it down. Too many new faces on the offensive line and a team with very little to play for doesn’t translate into great ball control.
Key Contributors: QB Jevan Snead (20 interceptions, 2 fumbles), PR/KR Marshay Green (3 fumbles)
Jevan Snead was one of the nation’s most inconsistent throwers in 2009, yet he felt he should leave early for the NFL. How did that work out? Now sophomore Nathan Stanley is the likely starter despite limited experience.
Star running back Dexter McCluster lost just two fumbles, but he’s moved on to the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs. So now the Rebels will count on junior Brandon Bolden (one fumble) to carry the rushing attack.
Ole Miss gets a break and doesn’t face as many of the SEC’s top defenses as others in the conference. Still, the Rebels must play at Alabama (Oct. 16), at Arkansas (Oct. 23), at Tennessee (Nov. 13) and host LSU (Nov. 20).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Not good. Despite the new faces the absence of Snead should improve the Rebels ball control.
Key Contributors: QB Aaron Opelt (10 interceptions), QB Austin Dantin (4 interceptions, 3 fumbles), WR Eric Page (4 fumbles)
Toledo coaches are still trying to find a starting quarterback and running back, but sophomore Austin Dantin and junior Morgan Williams should get the nod, respectively.
Sophomore wide out Eric Page is the Rockets most athletic offensive player and he’s a threat to return kickoffs and punts.
The Rockets open the season by facing two of the stingiest defenses they will face all season. Toledo hosts Arizona in the opener on Sept. 3 and then travels to Ohio on Sept. 11 to face a Bobcat defense that led the nation in turnovers.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Highly likely. A new quarterback who must grow up quick against tough defenses is not a good recipe for success.
Key Contributors: QB Zac Robinson (12 interceptions, 3 fumbles), RB Kendall Hunter (2 fumbles)
The Cowboys are one of the rare teams to commit more fumbles than interceptions. That’s a testament to the job Zac Robinson did last season at quarterback. He did, however, lead the team in fumbles with three.
OSU has a new offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, and he needs to find a way to rebuild an offense that lost a number of standouts to the NFL. Senior Kendall Hunter is back at running back, but junior Brandon Weeden (a former minor league baseball player) replaces Robinson at quarterback.
The Cowboys get some of the tougher defenses at home (Nebraska, Oklahoma) and they have a few cupcakes (Washington State, Tulsa, Louisiana-Lafayette).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Not likely. The new offensive coordinator guided one of the most exciting offenses in the nation last year at Houston, so he takes chances. But he’ll likely dial it down a bit as everyone adjusts.
Key Contributors: QB Tyson Lee (14 interceptions, 4 fumbles), RB Anthony Dixon (3 fumbles)
Junior Chris Relf (one fumble), a much more athletic option at quarterback than Tyson Lee, is a refreshing option for Coach Dan Mullen. The receiving corps is thin, but the top two (Leon Berry and Chad Bumphis) are solid.
Who will carry the ball for the Bulldogs? Right now it could be junior Robert Elliott (one fumble), junior college transfer Vick Ballard and redshirt freshmen LaDarius Perkins and Montrell Coner. Ballard played well in the spring game and is a tough runner who holds onto the ball well.
That darn SEC schedule with those outstanding defenses can put a lot of pressure on an offense like MSU’s. The Bulldogs go to LSU (Sept. 18), Florida (Oct. 16), Alabama (Nov. 13), and Mississippi (Nov. 27).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Don’t bet against it. Facing those tough defenses on the road is not pleasant.
Key Contributors: QB Taylor Potts (13 interceptions, 3 fumbles), QB Steven Sheffield (4 interceptions, 1 fumble), KR Eric Stephens (3 fumbles), QB Seth Doege (3 fumbles)
First-year coach Tommy Tuberville still has to decide if Taylor Potts or Steven Sheffield will get the starting nod at quarterback. Potts had some big games last year, but Sheffield is a little more mobile and seems to spark the offense.
Senior Baron Batch (one fumble) and sophomore Harrison Jeffers (one fumble) are back at running back, while freshman return specialist Eric Stephens is exciting, but turned it over three times.
With Tuberville at the helm the Red Raiders are likely to be a bit more conservative on offense and he’ll count on his running game more than his predecessor Mike Leach.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Impossible. Tuberville’s Raiders will be much more careful with the ball.
Key Contributors: QB Adam Weber (15 interceptions, 5 fumbles), QB MarQueis Gray (1 interception, 3 fumbles)
The Gophers hope to run the ball with a little more efficiency in 2010 so they can take the pressure off senior quarterback Adam Weber. Now Weber won’t have Eric Decker to throw to this season, but when afforded adequate time he can be accurate.
Minnesota does return nine guys on offense, but the running game needs someone to step up in DeLeon Eskridge and Duane Bennett.
The Gophers have an opportunity to get off on the right track with games against Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota before welcoming Lane Kiffin and USC to TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 18. Minnesota must also contend with five outstanding defenses in conference (at Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, at Michigan State, and Iowa).
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Highly likely. The Gophers are the type of team who should transition out of this category, but that schedule is littered with high-turnover possibilities.
Key Contributors: QB Joey Elliott (13 interceptions, 2 fumbles), WR Aaron Valentin (4 fumbles), RB Ralph Bolden (3 fumbles)
Joey Elliott may have graduated, but the Boilermakers are likely to turn the offense over to an even more prolific turnover artist. Robert Marve, who sat out last season after transferring, threw 13 picks as a red-shirt freshman at Miami, Fla., in 2008.
Junior Ralph Bolden, who coughed it up three times while rushing for 935 yards last season, will likely miss the entire season because of a spring injury. Sophomore Al-Terek McBurse (one fumble) and senior Keith Carlos (one fumble) are the likely replacements. Carlos is being converted from receiver.
The Boilermakers face some tough defenses, including Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Somewhat likely. There are a lot of things stacked against Purdue, but Marve has matured and he may find the Big Ten defenses a smidge slower than those he faced in the ACC.
Key Contributors: QB Riley Dodge (15 interceptions, 5 fumbles), QB Nathan Tune (2 interceptions, 1 fumble)
While eight different Mean Green players turned the ball over in 2009, no one contributed like sophomore QB Riley Dodge. Still Dodge showed promise until a career-threatening injury in the season finale against Arkansas State. Now he has been shifted to receiver because his arm strength has not returned.
That doesn’t bode well for a team looking to cut down on turnovers. The likely starter is senior Nathan Tune.
North Texas plays six teams (Clemson, Middle Tennessee, Kansas State Army, Louisiana-Monroe, and Louisiana-Lafayette that finished in the Top 50 last year in turnovers.
Odds of finishing in the Top 10 again: Absolute lock. With a new quarterback and the horrendous fortunes of Coach Todd Dodge the turnover situation could be even worse.
Western Kentucky — The nation’s worst team usually translates into massive miscues.
Notre Dame — Expect early struggles with Brian Kelly’s offense and a new quarterback.
East Carolina — Talent level is down a little and the loss of Coach Skip Holtz, who bolted for South Florida.
Virginia — The Cavaliers will face a few of the nation’s best defenses, including North Carolina, which may be the best.
Syracuse — The Orange are another year away from really competing.