I’ve mentioned previously that this is a somewhat overlooked statistical area. Georgia’s turnover margin fell from +11 in 2005 to -1 in 2006. Georgia’s win total fell from 10 in 2005 to 9 in 2006; in the same time period, the Dawgs went from winning the SECCG to finishing 4-4 in the conference. I don’t think those matters are completely unrelated.
Over at USC Trojan Football Analysis, he’s got more to say on this topic, certainly with a good bit more detail than I can muster. Writing about the fallout from a decline in turnover margin at Southern Cal that’s similar to Georgia’s, he notes the following:
The 2003 squad was among the nation’s leaders in turnover margin at +20 for the season. This give the Trojans an additional 20 drives on offense and took away 20 drives from the opposition which is a huge total. The 2006 squad was a good defensive team but produced no where near the same level of turnovers. In fact the team was a mere +4 for the season in this category.
Head coach Pete Carroll always comments on the importance of this key category in football and yet I doubt most fans or commentators really grasp its significance. What is the value of a +20 turnover margin? I can extrapolate using some historic data. For starters the average field position for USC after forcing a turnover the past few years has been the opponents 40 yard line. From inside the 40 yard line the USC offense is very aggressive and tends to score about 70% of the time with three quarters of those scores being touchdowns and the rest being field goals. 70% x 20 extra drives results in 14 more scores per season. Converting this to points (.75 x 7 x 14) + (.25 x 3 x 14) = 84 points per season. Turning this into a per game number requires simply dividing 84/13 = 6.5 points per game. Tacking this onto the 30.5 points per game in 2006 results in an average of 37.0 points per game. The average points scored for USC since 2001 is 37 points per game since Pete Carroll arrived. Fix the turnover shortfall in 2007 and the offense will produce the average number of points in past seasons.
The fans will always clamor for more big plays especially in the passing department but my guess is that the coaches are far more interested in instructing proper technique and forcing more turnovers in 2007 than last year… [Emphasis added.]
Let’s hope that’s the mantra this year in Athens, too.