No, not Oliver Luck.  Turnover luck.

I spent a morning pulling TOM data on the last five years to see if there was a pattern or edge I could find that I could use for predicting future team win behavior. Here are the bullets I found that I will post on and feature in the 2015 digital preview magazines coming out soon.

  1. The greater the turnover margin, positive and negative, the more likely and greater the regular season win change in the forthcoming season

  2. Turnover margin is very random.  Few teams can sustain a high or lower level of annual TOM.

  3. Each team is ranked and patterned into predictive pools of trends.  Teams with high and low TOMs the previous season have very high likelihoods of regular season win total changes.

As for his second point, check out the chart in this post from Bartoo:

… It always makes me laugh when someone calling a game ‘predicts’ anything about the winner and the turnover battle.  We all know winning the turnover battle wins a lot of football games.  Each coaching staff emphasizes it and coaches the hell out of the turnover battle.  Offense and defense.

However, it is not so easy to predict.  The results over the last 5 years are all over the board.  There are a lot of teams with top coaching staffs at the top of the five year rankings, but it is difficult to have great results every year.

The teams in light green are the eight FBS teams that have had a positive TO margin each of the last five seasons.  The teams in light red, those are the eight that have had a negative TO margin each of the last five years.  The other 107 teams have had a mix of results.

The Oregon Ducks, the no. 1 ranked team in five year TO margin is the only team to have a double digit TO margin in four of the last five years.  Northern Illinois and Georgia are the only other teams to hit positive double digits three of the last five seasons.  [Emphasis added.]

You’ve only got eight teams out of 120 that have managed positive turnover margin in each of the last five seasons and eight that have done the same on the negative side.  That strikes me as evidence that there’s some degree of randomness in the system.

And Georgia would have joined that first group, but for the disaster that was 2013, with its green defense and Aaron Murray having to carry the offense on his shoulders much of the season.  Given what we’ve had to say about the coaching brain trust over the last five years, how much of that would you attribute to coaching and how much to statistical noise?



Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

24 responses to “Luck

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    So you give up 351 yards rushing, but win the turnover battle….hmmm


  2. Russ

    My head tells me it’s random but my heart tells me we can influence it. I do think a defense can focus more on stripping the ball but after it’s out, then it is pretty much random.


    • I think I linked to something of Bill’s before that indicated the odds are more in favor of a defensive recovery of a strip behind the line of scrimmage than one downfield. Which makes sense, when you think about it.


      • Bulldawg165

        I thought that article said that the farther away from the LOS a fumble occurs, the more likely it is to be recovered by the defense/opposing team.


    • 202dawg

      Stripping the ball is a great focus (after you’ve stopped forward progress). The gang tackling can be a good thing, I just hate seeing it fail to the tune of a big pickup. Risk/Reward…


    • Krautdawg

      “Luck favors the prepared.” I see three ways you can move TOM in your favor:

      1) You can’t control where the ball bounces, but you can keep it from bouncing. I.e. you work on NOT turning it over. The fewer times the ball leaves your hands, the better your chances are for a positive TOM. Maintaining possession can be practiced.

      2) You can’t control where the ball bounces, but you can get it on the ground. Stripping techniques will give you more chances to land on a stray ball. Again, these can be drilled.

      3) Limiting big plays and forcing the other team to execute the length of the field can, over time, create pressure leading to TOs. This is more strategy than technique, but it requires mastering fundamentals and communication.

      I definitely see Richt emphasizing (1) and (3), and we’ll see what Pruitt decides to do regarding (2).


  3. AusDawg85

    This issue has been well vetted already at GTP. Reliable running backs fumbling at the goal line is poor coaching by Richt. A DB stripping the ball and returning it for a TD is luck. /#realists

    Being serious…it does seem like our positive turnovers save our bacon, while negative turnovers almost always lead to a certain loss. We don’t seem to be able to fight through adversity as well as we need too. Just a feeling, no game-by-game statistics to back that up, and hard to prove the theory anyway. Turnovers certainly have cause & effect on game outcomes, but not with 100% correlation so it’s hard to measure the ultimate impact beyond “win more with them”.


  4. This luck conversation is really a rorschach test for how you feel about Richt’s coaching. I lean toward the stance that he has had some bad runs of luck over the past few years. Others believe that had he coached better, this bad luck would not of happened. Could he of coached better and swayed the hand of lady luck? Perhaps. Yes perhaps. I’ll leave it at that.


  5. Uglydawg

    When we think of turnovers, we think of mistakes or heroics by players in “skilled” positions…running backs (fumbling), QB’s (interceptions and maybe some fumbles), recievers, (fumbles)…and defensive backs (intercepting) and everyone else…(recovering fumbles).
    What we may not think of is the importance of pass blocking..which limits scrambling (fumbles) and tipped balls and balls thrown poorly to avoid a sack.
    This is where the offensive linemen have a hand in avoiding or causing fumbles…and of course the opposite holds true with defensive linemen and linebackers (see “David Pollock and Corey Jenkins endzone embrace, 2008 UGA vs USCe).
    Just making sure the back-up center has plent of snap-time with the starting QB is one way to avoid turnovers. Also “knock-down” drills (and this isn’t troll bait). Coaching defensive backs to go for the break-up first and the interception second is important, but will effect the ratio negatively…but I’d rather have a db that breaks up every pass than one that gets the occasional interception at the cost of giving the other team completions and yards that might have been avoided with a breakup or solid tackle.
    I see blocked punts and kicks…and failed fourth down plays , as effective turnovers. (admittedly not an original thought). Usually not “luck” but very determined effort by defenses.
    But it doesn’t take a “study” to know that a turnover is bad for one team and good for the other….or that they effect the outcome of a game and season.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cojones

    Even with data, hardheads still won’t admit they were incorrect. It takes away from their protestations when they are correct. They just can’t see that a grudging “OK” means it is for public consumption, never dreaming that most of us see that their minds are unconvinced. Ah, well. They are still UGA cfb fans. I can continue to like them for that and ignore their wrongheadedness.

    Anyone want a brownie topped with a strawberry for breakfast? With a cup of hot “choclett”?


  7. A10Penny

    How much of UGA’s performance was Murray, Mason and Gurley? Their ball security was outstanding. IMO, we should expect regression from the new starting QB at the very least regardless of coaching.


    • Merk

      There will be regression, however, if the run game can function at close to the same level we should be pretty good. The D should only be better, with Pruitt having more than 5 DBs to play with this year and returning all 3 of our most effective pass Rushers. Also tilt in the fact that we will be facing SC(new QB & RB), bama(new QB & no standout WR), 3 cupcakes, and only one true difficult stretch of Bama at home, Tenn on road, and Missouri at home.
      This should have the makings for a great season if our QB can manage not to make too many mistakes, which should not be an issue as long as we do not get down more than 1-2 scores.


  8. Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.


  9. AusDawg85

    Is it just me, or do you also see an increasing trend in the D aggressively trying to strip the ball? Sure, that’s always been and element of the game, and starting in junior high you were taught to hold up the runner while others tried to punch the ball out. But more and more watching televised games, you really see the strip effort more than good solid tackling. I wonder if this is being taught based on metrics, or the XBox generation wanting to make the “big” play versus a focus on the fundamentals.

    If I were an offensive skill player today, I would wear plastic arm guards like the baseball players have gone to for taking hits by the pitcher just to protect myself from all that scratching and clawing.


    • Uglydawg

      AusDawg…I have stated on here before that the blatent “roundhouse” swing at the ball should be a personal foul penalty. There was a player whose forearm was injured this year from just such a swing. I think it’s low-class and should be a foul.
      For those who thinks it’s OK, then I say let it be legal only when the ball acutally comes out…for instance..”There is no penalty because the ball was fumbled from the punch” or “There is a fifteen yard penalty for swinging at the ball which remained secure”.
      Several times I’ve seen players catch up to a runner and take the big swing out of desperation. It’s got to hurt .
      If the plastic arm guard is legal, that is a good idea.
      ..But I doubt I can be convinced that swinging a fist at a football is good sportsmanship..


    • Cojones

      Piling on: I think the refs wait for that wrestling activity much longer than necessary after the play is over (forward progress has been stopped) more so than past years. Agree with you both that it is out of hand. If we were victimized as Tech was at the goal line and after the play was over last year, we would play it over and over to a stop watch counting the seconds after the stop , the wrestling and tearing the ball out after the player was stopped and probably downed, then running downfield for a TD, we would still be shouting invectives at the ref.


      • Macallanlover

        +3, agree with each of you. I hate the wild swings allowed by defensive players to dislodge the ball, and feel the wrestling for the ball should be whistled long before it occurs on the field these days. It should require a “football” move, or hit, to result in a fumble.


  10. Mayor

    No!! Not OLIVER LUCK!! There. FTFY.


  11. James

    So I know these guys are smart, but you’d think they’d be smart enough to recognize that turnover margin is a combination of two completely independent events. Of course it’s random when you’re looking at it as a single number. I suspect forced turnovers is very random given you’re playing a different team each week, but you don’t need science to know that some schools have QBs and systems that are more prone to interceptions than others.