As we’ve shown you on many occasions, history shows there’s no more important statistic in SEC football than turnover margin. Teams that give the ball away more often lose. Teams that take the ball away more often win. It’s a pretty simple formula for success that traces back nearly a century to the game maxims of legendary Tennessee coach Robert Neyland: “The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.”
The game has changed. That proverb has not.
Below we examine the best and worst in the SEC this season in terms of turnovers. We’ll start with our Bandits statistic. The following chart shows you how many snaps a defense ran, how many times they took the ball away from their opponent, and how many snaps they would need on average to force a turnover.
We are looking at SEC contests only…
Bandits (SEC vs SEC Games Only)
|School (SEC Mark)||Takeaways||Def. Snaps.||Snaps/Takeaway|
|Miss. State (3-5)||19||542||30.1|
|Ole Miss (3-5)||14||583||41.6|
|S. Carolina (6-2)||12||504||42.0|
|Texas A&M (4-4)||9||600||66.7|
Clearly, Vanderbilt’s defense was the best in the league at forcing turnovers. With a so-so offense and the league’s worst rushing offense, turnovers played a nice big role in the Commodores 4-4 SEC mark. Vandy forced a turnover once every 27 plays which equal about 2.5 takeaways per game.
On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas’ defenders rarely gave their offensive mates short fields or momentum with which to work. The Razorbacks recorded less than one takeaway per game in SEC play.
Georgia and Texas A&M — two teams with big offenses — were able to overcome their lack of defensive banditry to post 5-3 and 4-4 records in the league, respectively.
Now let’s turn our attention to those offenses that did the best job of holding onto the football. Once again, we’re looking only at SEC versus SEC numbers here…
Butterfingers (SEC vs SEC Games Only)
|S. Caroilna (6-2)||11||571||51.9|
|Miss. State (3-5)||13||586||45.1|
|Ole Miss (3-5)||14||613||43.8|
|Texas A&M (4-4)||17||590||34.7|
No wonder Missouri will be representing the SEC East in Atlanta this year. In addition to forcing turnovers, to having a good offense and defense, to being physical… the Tigers don’t turn the ball over. Just six giveaways in 566 plays against SEC defenses. That’s a remarkable stat. Some Mizzou fans will look at that number and see a victory in Atlanta. I — the more negative type of fan — would be scared to death that my team was due to put the ball on the turf.
Six turnovers in SEC play? That’s just crazy good.
Interestingly, Arkansas brings up the rear in this category, too. Never taking the ball away and repeatedly coughing it up is how you fall to 0-8 in the SEC.
And in case you’re wondering, here’s how the SEC’s turnover margin statistics look with only the SEC Championship Game left to play…
Turnover Margin (SEC vs SEC Games Only)