OSU’s defense drew lots of attention last year for generating turnovers…lots of them. The attention was well-deserved…they recovered 20 fumbles and picked off 24 passes. 44 takeaways is the most by any team in the last five years of college football, and their 3.4 takeaways per game were also the highest amount by any team in that time period. Think about that for a moment. That’s the best among 598 defensive units.
Taking a closer peek inside the numbers, 1.5 fumble recoveries per game is the 4th most of any defense in the last five years. 1.8 INTs per game is the 5th most of any defense in the same time period. So they were effective at taking the ball away on the ground and in the air.
OSU is one of only two programs (Kent St…yep) that has increased the number of takeaways per game in each of the last four years:
2007: 1.5 takeaways per game – 101st in the NCAA
2008: 1.9 – 47th
2009: 2.3 – 11th
2010: 2.6 – 4th
2011: 3.4 – 1st
OSU is the only school in the top 15 in this category in each of the last three years.
Now, obviously the improvement can’t continue as a reversion to the mean must set in at some point. The NCAA average for takeaways per game is 1.8, so last year’s team was almost twice as effective at getting turnovers as the average NCAA team. I would say there is almost no chance the 2012 squad can produce the same kinds of numbers as they did last year (prove me wrong, guys!).
There isn’t much of a correlation (12% for you math nerds) between a team’s takeaways-per-game stat from one year to the next. So if you are trying to predict how good a team will be at generating turnovers it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to look at last year’s figure. That said, does the extra emphasis OSU’s coaching staff place on turnovers keep us at the top of the list in this stat? Is it a fluke/luck? Probably a little bit of both, but I’ll be keeping a close on eye on this in the coming season.