FanPost

What wins Big Ten football games? pt 2: Turnovers



Coaches preach taking care of the football.  There are a couple reasons.

The first is that regardless of the relative talent level of the teams in the game, the turnover battle is the easiest thing to control.  Hang onto the football.  Protect the QB's blind side.  Don't make dumb throws.  Be opportunistic when your opponent fails to do the same.  Seems pretty simple.  In theory, it is.  In execution, not so much.

The second is that it matters to winning the game.  Maybe that's the first.  Either way, how much does it matter?

As in the first post, only Big Ten games from 2007-2010 are taken into account.  The numbers for games involving PSU are in parenthesis.

--Win% of team that wins the TO battle: 76.6% (72%)
--Win% of team that wins the TO battle by at least 2 TOs: 83.75% (75%)
--Win% of team that wins the TO battle by at least 3 TOs: 80% (40%)
--When the TO battle is even, the home team (and the away team, logically) is 18-18. 

There have been 9 games (two every year except for 07, when there were three) where a team has lost the TO battle by 3 or more TOs and still won.  Three of those games have been Indiana losses (Wisconsin 08, PSU 09, Iowa 09)  Such is life when you're Indiana football.  Three of those games involved Penn State:

--Penn State d. Iowa, 07
--The Penn State Coaching Staff with Special Guest QB14 MSU d. Penn State, 07
--PSU d. Indiana, 09 (as mentioned above)

Three have been Michigan State wins: PSU 07, Purdue 08, Wisconsin 10.  It's a shame the Land Grant OMG RIVALRY OF DOOM series is on hiatus.  MSU has a reputation as snakebitten and unlucky.  It's just not true.  They're the luckiest SOBs around.  The more I do this, the more I hate Michigan State for real. 

Conclusions and other haphazard observations:

--The turnover battle is huge.  Win the turnover battle by even 1 turnover, and the odds of winning are >3-1.  Win by at least two TOs, and the odds are >4-1.
--Turnovers don't matter as much in Penn State games as they do in other Big Ten games.  Regardless of the TO margin, the team that wins the TO margin in a PSU game is less likely to win than they are in other Big Ten games.
--Poor Indiana
--Even a neutral TO margin neutralizes homefield advantage.  When the TO battle is even, home teams are only .500, as opposed to .555 at large.
--Nine different times a team lost the TO battle by at least 3 TOs and still won.  Only four times did a team ever lose the TO battle by exactly 2 TOs and still win.  Strange.

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