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Want To Win An SEC Football Game? Take Care Of The Football

You have to run the football in the SEC.

Or maybe you have to play defense to win in the SEC.

No.  You’ve got to stress the kicking game to survive in the SEC.

Forget all of the old adages, statistics point to something else that’s much more important than ground games, defenses or special teams units — Turnovers.  With a capital T.


Zipping through the 2010 SEC stats we found that no single stat is more closely related to winning and losing than turnover margin.  And going back over the past four seasons, the results are all very similar.

“Oh, sure,” you’re saying.  “Everyone knows turnovers are important.”  True enough.  But did you know they’re 32-5 important?

That’s right.  During the 2010 season, there were 49 SEC games played (including the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta).  On 12 occasions out of those 49 games the two teams turned the ball over the exact same number of times, meaning no team won the turnover battle.

In the remaining 37 games, one team did hold an advantage in the turnover battle.  And the team that won the turnover battle won 32 of those games.

32-5.  That’s about as telling as you can get.

Below are the turnover numbers from this year’s 49 in-conference games.  You can see the direct correlation between offensive ball security and winning… as well as offensive giveaways and losing.


2010 SEC In-Conference Games Only

Turnovers Committed
Wins
Losses
Winning Pct.
0
15
3
.833
1
18
9
.666
2
12
16
.428
3
3
12
.200
4 or more
1
9
.100



Pretty clear stuff.  In 2010, if an SEC team did not turn the ball over it had an 83% chance of winning its game.  The more the ball was turned over, the worse a team’s chances for winning became… all the way down to the teams who turned the ball over four or more times in one game.  Those squads recorded just one win in 10 mistake-filled contests.  (LSU turned the ball over 4 times against Tennessee but still managed to win thanks to the Vols having 13 men on the field on the game’s next-to-last play.)

Now let’s look at how important forcing turnovers can be.  The numbers below show the records associated with teams that finished Plus-1, Plus-2, and Plus-3 or more in turnover margin in their games.


2010 SEC In-Conference Games Only

Turnover Advantage
Wins
Losses
Winning Pct.
Plus 1
13
4
.764
Plus 2
7
0
1.000
Plus 3 or more
12
1
.923



As you can see, teams that finished Plus-1 in the turnover department went 13-4 in 2010.  Teams that finished Plus-2 in turnover margin won all seven of their contests.  Those teams that finished a game Plus-3 or more won 12 of 13 games. 

Looking at it another way, in the 20 games in which one team lost the turnover battle by two or more turnovers… the team coughing up the football lost 19 out of 20 contests.


Here’s yet another way to look at it — in 2010, just five times in 49 SEC games did a team win the turnover battle and lose the game:


Vanderbilt was +1 vs South Carolina… and lost

Vanderbilt was +1 vs Tennessee… and lost

Georgia was +1 vs Auburn… and lost

Ole Miss was +1 vs Mississippi State… and lost

Tennessee was +4 vs LSU… and lost


Out of 37 SEC games in which one team held an advantage in the turnover battle, only once did a team with more than a Plus-2 advantage not win.

That’s astounding.  Win the turnover battle in an SEC game and you’re sitting very, very pretty.

These numbers were so surprising that we wanted to see if this was just a one-season aberration.  Turns out… not really.

We looked at all 49 in-conference SEC games from 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.  Below are the results, first looking at the importance of avoiding offensive giveaways.


2007-2010 SEC In-Conference Games Only

Turnovers Committed
Wins
Losses
Winning Pct.
0
56
19
.746
1
77
54
.587
2
40
47
.459
3
17
44
.278
4 or more
6
32
.157



Over the past four seasons, turnover-free teams have won about 75% of their SEC games.  One turnover results in a pretty big drop in winning percentage.  Two turnovers and a team is likely to lose.  Three turnovers spell doom.  Four or more spell near certain death. 

Now let’s look at how important forcing turnovers has been.


2007-2010 SEC In-Conference Games Only

Turnover Advantage
Wins
Losses
Winning Pct.
Plus 1
42
18
.700
Plus 2
32
10
.761
Plus 3 or more
37
4
.902



Those are some incredible numbers.  Over the past four seasons, only four times has a team finished Plus-3 or more in turnovers in a game and lost that contest.  It happens just once per year on average.  Once every 49 games. 

Turnovers mean everything.

So next fall, when you sit down to watch your favorite team, be very fearful of turnovers.  In SEC play they’re downright deadly.

Here’s a handy reminder of just how important turnovers can be:


* If your team doesn’t turn the ball over, you’ve got a 75% chance of winning. 

* If your team turns it over once, you’re down to a 58% chance of winning.

* If your team turns it over twice, you’re likely to lose the game.

* And if your team turns the ball over three or more times, your chances of winning the game are way down around 23%.


We all know that turnovers matter.  But in the SEC, they’re darn near more important than any other facet of the game.

We’re talking 32-5 important.

 


1 comments
Wood
Wood

Wow. That is pretty crazy. Sounds very important in any football game.

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