Well, I have a feisty son who didn’t take my advice to dress as Perry the Platypus (“Phineas & Ferb” is the best show on television), but he got enough candy for Daddy anyway, which brings me to another children’s show. Remember “Sesame Street” and the whole bit about “one of these things is not like the others”? Check out the following list of schools and tell me which is not like the others.
1) Oklahoma State (8-0)
2) Louisiana State (8-0)
3) Cincinnati (6-1)
4) Toledo (5-3)
5) Arizona State (6-2)
6) Boise State (7-0)
7) San Diego State (4-3)
8) Kansas State (7-1)
8) Maryland (2-6)
10) Rutgers (5-3)
10) Wyoming (5-2)
No, these are not rankings of the best school newspapers, though Maryland has a very impressive one. And, no, these are not rankings of the best party schools, though you can have a rip-roaring good time in Tempe, Ariz., or Laramie, Wyo. What these rankings represent are the nation’s leaders in turnover margin. Only one team with a losing record ranks among the top 10 — Maryland, which is tied with Kansas State for eighth.
Turnover margin is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for a successful season. It is unusual for a team that excels so much in turnover margin to be struggling so mightily overall. The fact that Maryland thrives in this area yet has just two wins overall speaks volumes about how much the Terrapins are struggling in other areas, notably rushing defense (Maryland ranks 118th out of 120 FBS teams) and special teams play (Maryland also ranks 118th in kickoff return defense). It also speaks to how costly poor tackling and dropped passes can be despite excelling in turnover margin. And the Terrapins have sure had a heaping helping of both poor tackling and dropped passes though eight games.
Taking a closer look at the numbers, Maryland is one of only two FBS teams — Wisconsin the other — that has lost just one fumble this season. So the Terrapins should be applauded for ball security. But the fact that they secure the ball so well and find themselves needing to win the next four games just to reach a bowl game says a lot about the wide array of on-field issues that confront them.
In short, it is hard to be this good in turnover margin and this bad overall, but the Terrapins have accomplished the improbable.
— On another note, did you see what Virginia defensive tackle Nick Jenkins said about former Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen? Maryland’s team is a wounded animal right now. Why an opponent would run the risk of rousing that animal to fight with the zeal that was absent in its last game is beyond me.
— If you missed it, Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog goes over Maryland AD Kevin Anderson’s letter to fans, pleading with them to go to Saturday’s game against the Cavaliers.