During Miami’s 10-0 start this season, the Hurricanes popularized the flashiest new tradition in college football.
Whenever a player forces a turnover, they run to the sideline and slip on the “Turnover Chain” — a 36-inch, 10-karat gold chain necklace connected to 900 orange and green sapphire stones arranged in a giant “U.”
Needless to say, it’s something the University of Wisconsin won’t want to see Dec. 30 when facing Miami in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium.
"I don’t think we’ll be talking about it in the meetings or anything like that,” UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. "Every team gets turnovers. They just celebrate it a little differently."
Miami, however, creates more than just about any team in the country, especially of late.
The Hurricanes’ 30 takeaways in 12 games this season rank second nationally and are three more than any Power Five Conference team. They forced 21 of those 30 turnovers in their final six regular-season games, including four each in their biggest wins of the year over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Miami’s 17 interceptions tie for 10th nationally, and that number comes from much more than good play in the secondary. The Hurricanes also lead the country in sacks per game at 3.58, and their takeaways are often helped by pressure they apply on opposing quarterbacks.
“I think a lot of their takeaways are kind of team defense takeaways,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. "A lot of the picks, obviously whoever’s getting it is finishing that, but there’s pressure on the quarterback. They’re playing fast and running to the ball."
The Badgers’ defense isn’t too far off Miami’s takeaway pace, as they’ve forced 26 turnovers in 13 games, but UW’s offense has been susceptible to giving the ball away.
Hornibrook threw 15 interceptions this season, 14 of which came in the Badgers’ 10 games against conference opponents, while true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor lost four fumbles.
Only 19 FBS teams have turned the ball over more times than UW’s 23.
“Really, all it is is fundamentals, technique,” UW left tackle Michael Deiter said. "You work it all bowl prep. Ball security, pass protection. All that stuff that goes into keeping the ball in your hands. ... You just have to play smart, play with good technique, especially when you’re playing a defense like this."
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said that UW, while still being careful not to take a timid approach, is emphasizing ball security even more than usual leading up to the Orange Bowl.
The Badgers may not be focused on the Turnover Chain, but they’re certainly cognizant of what it represents.
“I think you absolutely have to,” Rudolph said. “They do a great job of creating turnovers, and they really feed off the momentum of those turnovers.
"You’ve got to play the game. You don’t go in there just to not make a mistake. But I think within that, smart decision-making, fundamentals, ball carriers playing smart — I think as a group, you’ve got to keep emphasizing those things that you need to improve. You keep doing it, but you also know they’ve got to cut it loose and play."