Many times in the post-game press conference, you hear coaches say, “You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win a close game like this.” As a fan, that response can seem like a deflection while the coach tries to explain away the finer details of his team’s defeat. But in reality, turnovers are one of the most crucial aspects of the game. It’s also a major reason behind the Sun Devils’ success in 2013.
Let’s take a look at Arizona State’s turnover margin in conference games
ASU sits at 7-1 in the PAC-12 and at the top of the South. In their seven wins against conference opponents, ASU turnover margin is +11. Compare this to Colorado, last place in the South, with a turnover margin of -8.
Top teams in the conference have a consistently better turnover margin than the teams at the bottom. But let’s break it down further.
In eight conference games this season, ASU has averaged 14.3 possessions per game. And of those possessions, ASU scores 47% of the time– nearly half.
Turnovers, Possessions and Points
Through eight Pac-12 games, the Sun Devils are averaging +1.38 turnovers per game. That means that ASU snags 1.38 possessions away from their opponent. And with those extra possessions, ASU is 65% likely to score. They will either put up an additional three points with a FG or an additional seven points with a TD. It’s worth noting that in ASU’s red-zone scoring, they are more than twice as likely to score a touchdown than a field-goal.
This year, five of ASU’s eleven games (two of which were non-conference Wisconsin & Notre Dame) were decided by a total of 11 points. Of those 5 games, ASU has won 4.
The Territorial Turnover
With the Territorial Cup Saturday night, let’s look at UA’s turnover margin:
In eight conference games, the Wildcats have a turnover margin of +1 and a record of 4-4. In their win over Oregon last week, UA committed 0 turnovers and forced 3 against the Ducks top-ranked offense. And even though the Wildcats were out-gained 506 to 482 total yards, their +3 turnover margin was a significant factor in their upset of Oregon.
In the last four years, the Territorial Cup game has been decided by an average of just 3.75 points. If ASU can control the turnover battle as they’ve done successfully all season, they will score a few more valuable points. Points that could decide this game.
The entire state of Arizona has chosen a side in Saturday night’s game. The Sun Devils are looking to close out the season with a critical victory. It would be their 10th Win of the year and more importantly, give the Devils a home-field advantage in the PAC-12 Championship game vs Stanford. The Wildcats desperately want their 8th win for a second year under Rich Rodriguez, which will earn them a better bowl bid.
Winning the turnover battle on Saturday will help the Devils earn the biggest prize of all.
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