The great turnover effect

Written by OKC Dave
Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

OKC Dave makes his return to PFB after a multimonth hiatus.[1. It’s kind of like Keith Olbermann but with less scorched earth and it didn’t take 15 years.]

Kyle brought up something interesting on the Pistols Firing podcast earlier this week. He was talking about how OSU’s turnover margin has ebbed and flowed over the years and how easily that can impact a team’s win total.

I decided to take a look at what turnovers do to teams in the Big 12. I gathered turnover margin stats for the last four seasons in the Big 12 — conference games only. Then I compared those figures against each team’s conference win total for the same seasons.

Let’s look at the results:

It’s not shocking to see that on average, a higher per-game turnover margin leads to more wins. The relationship is fairly strong, but obviously there are many other factors that go into winning percentage. The R squared (coefficient of determination) for the trendline is 43%, meaning that turnovers “explain” 43% of the win total data in this model.

The trendline in the chart above gives us a formula that tells us how many wins a team with a turnover margin of “x” should achieve given the historical data:

Let’s look at how OSU has performed in this measure over the past four seasons. Remember, these are conference-only stats:

The projected wins are based solely on the team’s turnover margin for the conference season. In each case, we have outperformed what we “should have” won based on the turnover margin formula.

Back to Kyle’s question in the podcast…we won’t repeat 2011’s amazing number, but hopefully our turnover margin returns to a normal level next season. Let’s take our 4-year average turnover margin of +0.69. If we can get back to that neighborhood, we can expect to win around 5.1 games…in other words, we will add 1.3 projected wins over last year’s mark simply by getting back to normal in turnover margin.

By the way, you know how coaches talk about how good teams overcome turnovers? It’s true. In the four years covered in this analysis, only three schools overachieved their projected wins in all four years: OU, Texas, and OSU.

Finally, here’s the top 10 and bottom 10 in turnover margin over the last four Big 12 seasons:

Top 10

1) 2012 Kansas State +2.11
2) 2011 Oklahoma State +1.89
3) 2011 Kansas State +1.44
4) 2009 Texas +1.38
5) 2009 Iowa State +1.00
6) 2009 Kansas State +0.75
7) 2010 Missouri +0.62
7) 2010 Oklahoma State +0.62
9) 2012 Iowa State +0.56
10) 2010 Iowa State +0.50

Bottom 10

36) 2011 Texas A&M -0.67
37) 2012 Kansas -0.78
38) 2010 Kansas -0.88
38) 2010 Texas Tech -0.88
40) 2011 Oklahoma -0.89
40) 2011 Texas -0.89
42) 2009 Kansas -1.00
43) 2012 Texas Tech -1.11
44) 2009 Baylor -1.25
45) 2010 Texas -1.50

  • kevin

    This is THE KEY to the season. We all pretty much know what this team is capable of defensively and offensively. But TURNOVERS will make the difference. Limit them on Offense and create them on Defense. If our TOM avg +1.0, we will be golden. if its negative at all, we will be lucky to make the Alamo bowl.

  • Matt Amilian

    That’s good stuff. Agree that the 2011 season isn’t something we should expect often, but we need to live in that 1-1.5 range.

    Which team is the blue dot at -0.25 margin and 90% win percentage?

    • David Hudson

      That would be the 2012 Oklahoma Sooners, at -0.22 TO margin and an 8-1 record. Based on the formula, they “should have” won 4.1 conference games.

  • OU in 2006 being the great exception, although you didn’t go back that far. I LOVE these kinds of posts. Directly and simply relatable stats. Several folks asked me about # of turnovers related to speed of the offense. I didn’t have the energy (or the time) to take a larger look at that, but my basic findings said no, in fact offensive plays per TO looked to be down for OSU. Would have to obviously do way more research to see how that played out across college football in general.

  • If you notice in the photo heading, Gilbert is CHASING in coverage. Let’s hope he isn’t doing much of that this season…

    • Kyle Porter

      I haven’t come across a lot of photos from last season in which Gilbert wasn’t chasing in coverage.