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Nothing Matters More Than Turnovers In The SEC

Everyone who’s ever watched a football game knows that turnovers are one of the biggest determining factors in who wins and who loses.  And nowhere is that more true than in the Southeastern Conference.

Missouri and Texas A&M fans, you’re walking into a league where the teams are tightly bunched together and a single dropped ball on gameday can ruin your weekend.  The numbers?  Well, they’re eye-popping.  Plain eye-popping.

We’ve gone back over the past five Southeastern Conference football season and looked at the turnover results in every single SEC versus SEC contest (49 games per year including league title game which equals 245 games overall).  Here a few of the nuggets we found:


* In 2010, 37 of the SEC’s 49 games ended with one team holding an advantage in turnover margin.  The team that was the plus side of turnovers was 32-5 for a winning percentage of 86.4%.

* In 2011, 39 of the SEC’s 49 games ended with one team holding a turnover advantage.  The team that was on the plus side of the turnover battle went 33-6 for a winning percentage of 84.6%.

* In the last two seasons combined — that’s 98 SEC versus SEC games — only 11 times has a team lost the turnover battle and won the game.  That’s a winning percentage of 11.2% if your squad lost the turnover battle during the last two years.


To further break it down, we’ll first look at last year’s numbers and then dig into the 2007-2011 data.  Click to see the full statistics.

2011 SEC Turnovers

  Turnovers Committed in Game   Wins   Losses   Winning %
  0   14   4   77.7
  1   18   7   72.0
  2   9   18   33.3
  3   5   12   29.4
  4 or more   3   8   27.2


The skinny:  Teams turning the ball over no more than once went 32-11 last year in SEC play.  Teams turning the ball over at least twice, finished 17-38.  One turnover can kill you, two are almost always fatal.


2011 SEC Turnover Margin

  Positive Turnover Margin   Wins   Losses   Win %
  Plus 1   16   5   76.1
  Plus 2   10   0   100.0
  Plus 3 or More   7   1   87.5


The skinny:  Teams that held a turnover advantage of +2 or more went 17-1 in SEC contests last year.  Only Mississippi State — which went had a margin of -3 versus Kentucky — managed to win despite their dropsies.


2007-2011 SEC Turnovers

  Turnovers Committed In Game   Wins   Losses   Win %
  0   70   23   75.2
  1   95   61   60.8
  2   49   65   42.9
  3   22   56   28.2
  4 or more   9   40   18.3


The skinny:  The numbers are pretty clear.  The more an SEC team gives the ball away, the more likely that team is to lose.  And drops from one turnover committed to the next are pretty steep.


2007-2011 SEC Turnover Margin

  Positive Turnover Margin   Wins   Losses   Win %
  Plus 1   58   23   71.6
  Plus 2   42   10   80.7
  Plus 3 or more   44   5   89.7


The skinny:  Over the past five seasons in SEC contests only, teams finished +2 or better in a game’s turnover battle were 86-15 for a winning percentage of 85.1%.


Over the course of the 2012 season, we’ll once again hit you with a barrage of statistics, numbers and digits.  We’re nerdy that way.  But no matter what data we might float your way, none will be as telling as the turnover stats you see before you now.

If at teams wants to win in the Southeastern Conference, it cannot turn the ball over.  And the more times it forces its foe to cough up the ball, the more life it squeezes it out of its opponent.

If you keep up with no other stat in the SEC this year, keep an eye on the turnover column.



What does your data support when comparing turnover margins to team rankings or w/l records prior to the contest.  For example, could you adequately compute that if a ranked team played an unranked team or in terms of "favored" team and unranked or non favored team won the turnover battle, did this have a positive effect for the underdog?

When a team like LSU plays a Wofford type you would expect they probably will cause more turnovers against them than if they played a Mississippi State.  But could an over matched MSU use turnover advantage as a direct correlation between obtaining a win when not favored?



I would imagine that most of the games that were won by the team with more turnovers was South Carolina due to the Garcia Experiment.


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