The time of possession battle in football is usually one that favors the winner. If one team has the ball on offense, they mathematically have the advantage to score more. Got it?
That school of thought is changing as quickly as speed offenses take hold of the sport.
As the Arizona Wildcats face the Oregon Ducks this week, Rich Rodriguez's team very well might be seeking a bell curve of sorts against Chip Kelly's crew. The closer the time of possession is against Oregon, the better off for the Wildcats.
You see, the Ducks have the ability to score very quickly, making the TOP battle a bit more unconventional. De'Anthony Thomas and company can put 40-yard screen pass after 40-yard screen pass, and that doesn't take much time. If Matt Scott and the Arizona offense are moving the ball downfield but at a mild rate in comparison, they're going to lose.
Yes, while Arizona too runs the spread, they do it more by tempo and five to 10 yard gains at a time rather than OU's offense that has the potential for a touchdown any distance from the end zone.
In their largest margin of victory of 49 points against Tennesee Tech last week, the Ducks badly lost the TOP 22 minutes to 38 minutes. In its second largest victory through three games, OU defeated Arkansas State by 23 points with a TOP advantage of 33 minutes to 27 minutes.
But in their closest game? The Ducks defeated Fresno State -- the best team they've played -- by 17 points, losing the TOP difference 28 minutes to 32 minutes. This, I believe, is the recipe for success if Arizona wants it to be a game.
And for the record, the Wildcats are 36th in the nation with a 31:46 TOP average to Oregon's 27:25 average that is 96th in the nation.
Here are three situations of how two teams can split the time of possession. In all three situations, we'll assume that the turnover margin is even for the sake of some scientific control. Science.
1) Oregon wins the time of possession battle by a wide margin. This will be an easy win for the Ducks. With the slight possibility Arizona can steal one in Eugene, Ore., giving the Ducks more time with its fast offense means that the Ducks will assuredly score in the bunches and then some. Arizona moves the ball more slowly so this means Oregon is scoring a bunch and the Wildcats can't eat up the clock.
2) Arizona wins the time of possession battle by a wide margin. This is the weird thing against the Ducks, because I think Arizona probably loses in this situation. Keeping the ball out of Oregon's hands is important, of course, but again assuming Arizona doesn't force a bevvy of turnovers (like four or five), this situation actually bodes poorly for Arizona. In short, it means De'Anthony goes Black M
aomba all over the Wildcats, who are trudging in moving the football down the field for scores to keep up with Oregon.
3) The time of possession is within a minute or two. Oregon doesn't make many big plays and the Ducks still put up a good number of points but have to work for them. Arizona has a chance. The Wildcats move majestically as usual and eat up much of the clock. They score on a good percentage of their touches. Oregon will do the same as usual, but the fact that they're eating up clock means the UA defense is making them work for it.
I'm not saying there's any way to control the TOP. There are too many factors to account for. But at the end of the game, the score is probably going to be closer if that TOP is closer.
Oregon is going to score no matter what. So all I've said is this; the Wildcats will probably have to create a good number of turnovers to win. Still, it's a little bit different when discussing the Oregon Ducks and TOP compared to traditional offenses.
What do you think?