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Turnovers will decide Northwestern-Michigan

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The turnover battle will matter more than ever come Saturday.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Turnovers are one of the most unpredictable factors in football. They're also one of the most critical as will be the case Saturday when Northwestern (3-5) hosts Michigan (4-5).

Teams that win the turnover battle win 73 percent of the time according to Bill Connelly. For both the Cats and the Wolverines this season, make that 100 percent of the time. Northwestern is 3-0 when it wins the turnover battle. Michigan is 4-0.

Northwestern's defense has relied heavily on turnovers all season. During their three-game winning streak the Cats forced 10 turnovers. In their other five contests, all of which were losses, they mustered just four.

Northwestern still has the 33rd best turnover margin in college football, in large part because the Cats rank 13th in giveaways per game. Fortunately for NU, Michigan struggles mightily in that department.

The Wolverines rank 111th in the nation in giveaways and 126th (third-to-last) in turnover margin. And Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner leads the Big Ten with 11 interceptions. If Northwestern can keep Gardner in the pocket and force him into passing situations, odds are he'll turn the ball over again on Saturday.

The Cats have spent all week watching film and honing their game plan for Michigan. But the most decisive factor come Saturday may to a certain extent be out of their control. There's one thing you can't really prepare for. And that's luck.

As has been the case all season, the Cats need to force turnovers to win. But even though Michigan is a turnover-prone team, Northwestern's chances will still depend heavily on how the ball bounces. Better lucky than good. Right?