in Football

Regression To The Mean

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Photo Attribution: US Presswire

Remember when OKC Dave wrote this post in the preseason about how consistent OSU has been in creating turnovers season after season?

One of the three biggest storylines, and rightfully so, pushed by the media in the first half of the season was some variation of the following:

“Oklahoma State defense can’t create turnovers at same clip as last year, will have to win some other way.”

On one hand, they had a point. Gundy teams are 35-4 when they win the turnover battle and 11-21 when they don’t. So, yes, turnovers mean something and the narrative thus far has not been pretty. In fact, at one point earlier this year it was historically not pretty:

Here’s the thing though, OSU has kept winning despite its inability to create turnovers. Its defense has been pretty solid in Big 12 play. Case in point…

And here’s where our little regression to the mean theory comes into play. Basically there are two ways this OSU season can finish…

1. OSU can keep its current pace (1.12 turnovers forced per game) and finish the season with 15(!) turnovers forced1. This would be an historical feat given that footnote.

2. OSU can bump the pace (let’s arbitrarily and conservatively say 2 turnovers forced per game) to end with a total of 19 (which would be tied for the lowest total under Gundy).

Two turnovers a game the rest of the way sounds like at least a 2-2 record and potentially 3-1. I’ll take that all day.

It’s not like the defense forgot how to play. In fact, it is currently ahead of last year’s team in yards per play surrendered (5.05 vs. 5.45). You could probably talk me into the fact that the defense has gotten significantly better really.

And here’s why something like this is so encouraging — because the toughest stretch of the season is coming up, OSU will need to force turnovers against Tech and OU in a way it didn’t need to against Savannah State.

So you can choose historically inept or regression to the mean. I think I know what I’m picking.

  1. This would be up against seasons of 44 | 34 | 30 | 25 | 19 | 26 | 28 turnovers forced in the Gundy era.
  • @okc_dave

    By the way, that widely circulated tweet about turnovers should read “2005 to current”. My mistake, but it makes it even more incredible. The number of teams is correct.

  • Austin

    I do not understand your obsession with “regression to the mean”. What is so absurd about keeping the same pace in turnovers?

    • http://pistolsfiringblog.com Kyle Porter

      Not sure that I’m “obsessed” with it, just saying that if what’s been happening continues, it would be pretty historic.