Are the Huskers Due for a Turnover Turnaround?
Forcing turnovers and avoiding them are often the result of good habits. Teams that protect the ball are less likely to have it stripped. Quarterbacks that throw the ball accurately and don't stare down receivers will have fewer interceptions. Defensive backs that aren't fooled by play action, that turn and look for the ball, and that can strip the ball can generate turnovers. Still, there are some chancy elements to turnovers as well. For example, both Nebraska and Northwestern avoided interceptions on Saturday simply because the defenders dropped balls that they could have caught. Sometimes a fumble takes a funny hop back to the player who dropped it or rolls harmlessly out of bounds. Might the law of averages say that the Huskers are simply due to win the turnover battle in one of these next games?
When it comes to fumbles under head coach Bo Pelini, things haven't gone NU's way. The Huskers have lost more fumbles than the opposition in every year of the Pelini era and that appears unlikely to change in 2012. Nebraska has intercepted more passes than the opposition in every year under Pelini, except for 2012 (so far). Might that be due to change? Taylor Martinez has thrown four interceptions in 7 games this season. Three of those came at Ohio State and the other at UCLA - both road games. Michigan's Denard Robinson has thrown nine interceptions so far this season. Six of those came on the road, with two at Alabama and four at Notre Dame. In addition, he lost fumbles at Notre Dame and at Purdue. Michigan and Robinson turn the ball over more often on the road and Nebraska and Martinez turn it over less at home.
Nebraska has won 10 straight night games at home. That included a recovery of a Wisconsin fumble, a strip and a pick against Ohio State, a fumble recovery against Fresno State, a pick against Kansas, two picks against South Dakota State, a pick and fumble recovery against Western Kentucky, a pick and fumble recovery against Kansas State, five picks against Oklahoma, a pick and two fumble recoveries against Louisiana Lafayette, and two picks and a fumble recovery against Florida Atlantic. That's at least one turnover in every game and an average of over two a game. Combine that with an average of three turnovers per game on the road for Michigan this year and you'd expect two to three Wolverine turnovers on Saturday.
Rank and File
While Bo Pelini has yet to have a perfect season at home, he has won his last three (and three of four overall) games against ranked teams in Lincoln. That included last year's 24-3 win over ninth-ranked Michigan State last year (where Kirk Cousins was picked off), 2010's 31-17 win over seventh-ranked Missouri (where Gabbert was picked off), and the aforementioned victory over Oklahoma that saw the Huskers pick off the Sooners five times. His teams have gotten up for big games at home and that's included getting turnovers.
If the Huskers don't turnaround their turnover margin, it's hard to foresee a victory over Michigan Saturday. The team that takes care of the ball will have the best chance win the game and the division.