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NC State football needs more help from the turnover gods in 2019

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What do they call these things again? Fumbal? Fumblé?

Florida State v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

The number of turnovers forced by a college football team from year to year can vary wildly because defenses don’t control all that much in this department—not as much as one would think, anyway. A school’s turnover total in one season—or turnover margin—is not predictive for the next.

Dave Huxtable’s NC State defenses would have you believe otherwise, however. Since he became defensive coordinator, the Wolfpack has been remarkably consistent in the raw number of turnovers it has forced from one season to the next. It’s weird.

Huxtable’s NC State Defenses

Season TOs Forced (rk) TO Margin (rk)
Season TOs Forced (rk) TO Margin (rk)
2013 21 (60) 0 (61)
2014 20 (65) 0.38 (38)
2015 22 (43) 0.69 (15)
2016 22 (47) 0.15 (49)
2017 21 (44) 0.62 (22)
2018 19 (72) 0.08 (57)

“Turnovers forced” is a misleading phrase to some extent, of course: sometimes your defense merely accepts a turnover after your opponent done messes up right proper on nobody’s account but their own. There’s a significant amount of blind luck involved, which can alter individual games and shift the outlook for better or worse on an entire season. Just as you can ride good fortune to a breakout win total—if not necessarily a breakout performance—so you can ride the bad luck down the drain.

Despite the modest takeaway numbers from Huxtable’s defenses, NC State has yet to finish with a negative turnover margin under Dave Doeren, which is impressive. The Pack has been fortunate to have experienced quarterbacks for most of that time (not to mention good pass protection), which has helped limit big mistakes on that side.

So State has been able to have successful seasons overall thanks to maintaining that balance, but I wonder now as we head into 2019 with a first-year starter at quarterback if we might expect the offense to be a little more, uh, giving. Maybe I fret more about the quarterback situation than I should, maybe I’m imagining an unlikely worst-case scenario in the process.

Still, it would help a lot if the defense could, just to be safe, find a way to provide the offense with more margin for error. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that the defense truly controls in that regard. There is some control, mind you, and Huxtable would be wise to explore changes he could make in order to maximize it, given the circumstances. But luck may play a bigger role in 2019 than it has in the last several years.