The Daily Fizz: T.O.P. should matter to Arizona

Casey Sapio - USA Today Images

Time of possession is no big deal, right? Well, maybe it should be to a team like Arizona.

I hear it and read about it all the time. Time of possession is a worthless statistic. Perhaps it is, but maybe it is a true reflection of a team’s overall performance. Naysayers will point to hundreds of games where the winning team actually possesses the football less than the losing team. Of course, it does happen, particularly with today’s bountiful assortment of quick-strike schemes where an offense can go 80 yards for a score in four plays or less. Other factors impacting T.O.P. include turnovers, penalties, really bad offenses, really bad defenses, and just plain old mistakes that are commonplace in a sport where 22 players on the field are battering each other while carrying or chasing an oblong leather ball.

While I agree that winning T.O.P. does not always translate to victory, I am suggesting that a team like Arizona learns to gain a deeper appreciation of valuing the amount of time their offense is on the field.

In Week 0’s road loss at Hawaii, Arizona had the ball for a lowly 22 minutes and four seconds to rank in the bottom quadrant of FBS teams through the first two weeks of the season. Sure, Arizona scored 38 points and had more than 500 yards of total offense. However, imagine the production if Arizona’s offense had been on the field for even half of the game? Further, since we are playing make believe here, imagine if Arizona’s defense did not force six turnovers against the Rainbow Warriors? On one hand, Arizona could have easily defeated Hawaii had they maintained possession longer. On the other hand, Hawaii could have easily torched the Wildcats had they valued the ball more.

Regardless, when you have a defense as porous as Arizona’s (595 yards allowed to rank #121 among all FBS teams this week), it seems logical to think that the less time Arizona’s defense is on the field, the better. The problem is T.O.P. is not the sole responsibility of the defense. Sure, Arizona’s defense needs to get off the field at a higher clip, but the offense also needs to stay on the field at a higher rate.

Quick touchdowns aside (fans, players and coaches accept those moments), Arizona’s offense produced a measly eight total yards of offense to trail Hawaii 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats actually opened the game with three consecutive three-and-outs on offense, which paved the way for a 13 minutes and 20 second deficit in T.O.P. by halftime. Honestly, that is unacceptable when you consider that Hawaii’s offense was in possession for almost an extra quarter of football. At that point, the teams had only played two quarters!! I can hardly calculate this, let alone comprehend it.

Believe it or not, even with elite athletes in prime condition, athletes do get tired. If you are shaking your head right now, you have literally never played a sport or worked yourself to exhaustion doing anything beyond throwing back cold ones. Add to this the fact it is more taxing to play defense than offense and you have a recipe for disaster.

I grant the reality that teams can win with their defense on the field. Heck, the late Dick Tomey’s Arizona teams preferred to have their dominant defense on the field. However, even the Alabama’s of the world know they are in trouble more often than not when T.O.P. is lopsidedly favoring the opponent.

In my humble opinion, Arizona does not need to win T.O.P.

The Wildcats do, however, need to find a happy medium where time of possession is more balanced to not only allow their own defense to rest, but to apply pressure on the opposing defense by forcing them to defend more snaps. Arizona’s offense is good enough to wear down teams. Arizona’s defense is not good enough to be on the field for 37+ minutes a night like they were in Hawaii. 

Comments (4)
No. 1-4
Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan

Editor

@Anthony22

Nice add. WK, Anthony has changed my mind to some degree. My point was the longer your defense is on the field the worse it is.

Wineknow
Wineknow
  1. Absolutely GREAT and very nuanced point Gary. GOD I missed you! (and Brad).
  2. Steve, I do not understand why you think it would be difficult to reverse. Here is what I see. The other team scores first. So we are down by 7. We run onto the field, no huddle and snap the ball as soon as the team is set- with sometimes 15 or 18 or 20 seconds left on the clock. Incomplete. On second down we line up quickly and snap the ball and rush for 3 yards. On third down we 'hurry up' and throw another incomplete pass. We have had possessions that have lasted a total of less than 1 minute. What if we simply let the clock run down? We're obviously not fooling any defense. And that extra minute is another minute THEY cannot score. As it is, we have to punt, and our defense returns to the field.
Anthony22
Anthony22

TOP isn't as important now as it was 20 yrs ago. Now with the pace of play and teams not running offensive philosophy based on running the ball. The stat that is mostly overlooked is first downs. The less first downs achieved the less the team is moving the ball. When you're productive with the ball then you're winning games. The less first downs your defense gives up the more your defense is on the field. Three and outs are another stat that matters. If you're offense is not moving it your losing. We saw that in the Hawaii game in the first qtr. Ex

Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan

Editor

Good points, and agreed. This is a trend that will difficult to reverse. Note, TOP last year for Arizona, average per game was 28 minutes per game vs 32 for opponents (rounded amounts). Four minutes less per game means a lot more time for your defense to be on the field.



Gary Randazzo
EditorGary Randazzo
New Comment
3
Brad Allis
EditorBrad Allis
New Comment
4
Brad Allis
EditorBrad Allis
Gary Randazzo
EditorGary Randazzo
New Comment
2
Brad Allis
EditorBrad Allis
New Comment
1
Brad Allis
EditorBrad Allis
New Comment
1