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:
2007 to current – 954 teams. Turnovers forced/game. 1) OSU 2011 – 3.4 946) OSU 2012 – 0.8
— Oklahoma State Stats (@OSUStats) October 18, 2012
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…
For the first time in the Big 12 era, #okstate has held 3 straight conference opponents under 20 points.
— Gavin Lang (@glang1) October 28, 2012
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 forced[2. This would be up against seasons of 44 | 34 | 30 | 25 | 19 | 26 | 28 turnovers forced in the Gundy era.]. 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.