All nine league football coaches were polled by the WAC office and asked, "What is the most important statistic in football and why?"
It was unanimous. All nine coaches answered "turnover margin" first.For those who may be unfamiliar with this trendy statistic, which has only been kept for a few years, it's the difference between turnovers (fumbles and interceptions) gained and lost. Here's what Air Force's Fisher DeBerry had to say about turnover margin.
"No question about it. You have a much better chance of winning when you turn it over less than the other team. It determines more toward the results of football game than anything else."
The one coach who wasn't quite sold on the idea was BYU's LaVell Edwards, who said, "I'd like to say turnover ratio, but we defy all logic."
That's because the Cougars, a top 10 team, rank 101st in the nation in turnover margin at minus 11. Otherwise, the statistic has some bearing on which teams are more successful.
For instance, unbeaten Wyoming ranks 12th in the country and Colorado State, 4-2, is 25th. Struggling UTEP and Air Force are tied for 77th and Hawaii is 103rd.
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ADD KEY STATS: So what are the other key statistics besides turnover margin?
CSU's Earle Bruce and Hawaii's Bob Wagner said missed tackles, although that's not an official stat. Edwards said fewest points allowed on defense is key, while Utah's Ron McBride said "total play on defense."
New Mexico's Mike Sheppard was the most specific, coming up with four key categories. After turnover margin, he listed defense against the rush, net punting and penalties as the most important stats.
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WILD, WILD WAC - Coaches compared it to a pinball or Nintendo game. Defensive players called it a nightmare. Everyone agreed it was wild.
Wyoming's 52-51 victory over San Diego State Saturday produced more than 1,200 yards total offense and set a record for most points by a losing team.
Of course, the old record of 49 points was shared by two WAC teams - Utah, which lost to Air Force 56-49 in 1988 and New Mexico, which lost to Utah 58-49 in 1985.
And a few years back Utah held the record with 48 points scored in a 59-48 loss to Arizona State in 1972.
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SATURDAY'S PICKS: Barring ties, the number of unbeaten teams in the WAC will be cut in half from four to two this week.
Colorado State (4-2, 3-0) at BYU (4-1, 2-0), Noon - The Rams' ball control game plan won't work as well against the Cougars, who can score in a hurry. The Rams should give the Cougs a good game, however . . . BYU 33-23.
New Mexico (2-4, 1-0) at Wyoming (6-0, 3-0), 1 p.m. - The Lobos are a hard team to figure, alternating between brilliant and terrible. The Cowboys were supposed to be great defensively, until giving up 51 points last week . . . Wyoming 36-24.
Air Force (3-3) at Notre Dame (3-1), Noon - It's the old case of bad timing for the Falcons, playing the Irish, who are coming off a rare loss . . . Notre Dame 38-17.
Hawaii (2-2, 1-1) at UTEP (2-4, 0-3), 7 p.m. - The Rainbows seem to be back on track after a rocky start. They're on the road, but it's only UTEP . . . Hawaii 31-15.
San Diego State (2-3) at UCLA (2-3), 8 p.m. - The Aztecs rank 5th in the nation in total offense, 105th in total defense . . . UCLA 42-35.