Can OSU Keep Causing Turnovers?

OKC Dave —  July 26, 2012 — 14 Comments

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media DayPhoto Attribution: US Presswire

OSU’s defense drew lots of attention last year for generating turnovers…lots of them. The attention was well-deserved…they recovered 20 fumbles and picked off 24 passes. 44 takeaways is the most by any team in the last five years of college football, and their 3.4 takeaways per game were also the highest amount by any team in that time period. Think about that for a moment. That’s the best among 598 defensive units.

Taking a closer peek inside the numbers, 1.5 fumble recoveries per game is the 4th most of any defense in the last five years. 1.8 INTs per game is the 5th most of any defense in the same time period. So they were effective at taking the ball away on the ground and in the air.

OSU is one of only two programs (Kent St…yep) that has increased the number of takeaways per game in each of the last four years:

2007: 1.5 takeaways per game – 101st in the NCAA
2008: 1.9 – 47th
2009: 2.3 – 11th
2010: 2.6 – 4th
2011: 3.4 – 1st

OSU is the only school in the top 15 in this category in each of the last three years.

Now, obviously the improvement can’t continue as a reversion to the mean must set in at some point. The NCAA average for takeaways per game is 1.8, so last year’s team was almost twice as effective at getting turnovers as the average NCAA team. I would say there is almost no chance the 2012 squad can produce the same kinds of numbers as they did last year (prove me wrong, guys!).

There isn’t much of a correlation (12% for you math nerds) between a team’s takeaways-per-game stat from one year to the next. So if you are trying to predict how good a team will be at generating turnovers it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to look at last year’s figure. That said, does the extra emphasis OSU’s coaching staff place on turnovers keep us at the top of the list in this stat? Is it a fluke/luck? Probably a little bit of both, but I’ll be keeping a close on eye on this in the coming season.

  • tomg

    They did an amazing job last year, but they also got about twice as many chances as many teams.  It also doesn’t hurt when the other team is forced to keep up or catch up with the explosive offense.  

  • Kevin

    There is some skill to it. They practice it quite a bit and team speed means getting to the point of attack faster, before ball security is established or while the ball is in the air. Tip drills are crucial to get that feel for it in the game too. But it’s true, you can’t count on turnovers. I even think Gundy said as much last season. They know they can do it, but there is never a guarantee that you will force them. Being in the right place at the right time is what it takes…and lady luck. I expect them to do it again this year, but here is my caveat. I believe that our defense will force 3 and outs more often, leaving the opposing offense on the field for less time and shorter drives which will decrease the number of turnovers generated. Great article.

  • @clintosu

    Dave-
    The OSU defense has infamously faced an incredible number of plays the last few season, sometimes over 100 game. Thus, they have more “opportunities” to cause turnovers than other defense. What does our turnover/play ratio look like compared to other top defenses?

    Additionally, I’d like to think the offense helped cause some of the interceptions: As the offense racked up points early and often, teams were forced to abandon the run and go to the pass, even if that wasn’t their strength (James Franklin & Missouri come to mind).  Can the offense continue to put pressure on the opposing team to pass more than they are comfortable with?

    Always enjoy your work Dave and look forward to the pre-season survey!

    • @clintosu

       Had some free time over lunch to dig in on my own question:

      OSU Defense faced 1089 plays last season (541 pass vs 548 rush.. incredible balance!)
      OSU Defense intercepted 24 passes out of 541 opportunities, or 4.4% (1 out of 22 pass attempts)
      OSU Defense recovered 20 fumbles out of 1089 plays, or 1.8% (1 out of 55 plays)
      In total, 44 turnovers out of 1089 plays, or a turnover caused 4.04% of plays.

      In comparison:
      Alabama faced only 720 plays (334 pass vs 386 rush)
      Alabama intercepted 13 passes out of 334 opportunities, or 3.9%
      Alabama recovered 7 fumbles out of 720 plays, or 0.9%
      Overall, 20 turnovers out of 720 plays, or a turnover caused 2.78% of plays.

      Quickly now because I’d like to keep my job:
      OSU – 44 TO out of 1089 plays, 4.04%
      Bama – 20 TO out of 720 plays, 2.78%
      LSU – 30 TO out of 897 plays, 3.34%
      Oklahoma -  27 TO out of 949 plays, 2.85%
      Texas – 26 TO out of 947 plays, 2.75%

      In conclusion, not only did we face a ridiculous number of plays, we forced turnovers at a ridiculous rate.

      • @okc_dave

        Wow, you did some good work there.

        Here’s what I came up with. Turnovers as a % of defensive plays:

        2007: 2.0% (98th in the NCAA)
        2008: 2.7% (63rd)
        2009: 3.3% (21st)
        2010: 3.2% (26th)
        2011: 4.0% (3rd)

        The NCAA average is 2.6%. The highest by any defense in this time period is 4.5% by NC State in 2011. The lowest is Marshall in 2007 at 0.8% (7 turnovers in 871 plays).

        • Kevin

          Wow. Great stuff

      • Osuaggie (Ray)

        …Alabama and LSU are way too easy to pick on….your defensive statistics always look great when half the teams you play don’t know how to put the ball in the endzone….which makes what the Pokes accomplished over the last couple of years really amazing….

      • Cowboy-KS

        Nice work Clint!

  • Osuaggie (Ray)

    Another interesting statistical tidbit:  Our defense did not have a single player in 2011 ranked in the NCAA Top 20 in fumbles recovered or interceptions made.  No rock stars, just the best team in the NCAA last year in turnover margin. I don’t think it’s a fluke or luck; I believe it’s a 110% team focus.  Remember, they practice stripping the ball, they practice keeping a ball alive on passes….

  • Kevin

    New Paypal donation feature is up and working! Awesome. Just pitched in for August! You guys should do the same.

    • Pistols Guy

      Appreciate it, Kevin.

  • G-Block

    Nice article, Dave.

    What is the adage regarding “luck”? It is found where preparation and opportunity meet. You may not recall, but OSU was fairly average in creating turnovers until Pete Carroll came to observe a practice. Coach Gundy asked what could be improved & the answer was to focus more on creating turnovers. That season was a couple of years ago. Now look at the difference making it a priority brings.

  • Cowboy-KS

    Soft zone, fast hard hitting players gives da Boys the opportunity to choose how they hit. Remember all those years when our players were getting stood up and stripped?
    Boys are simply too fast and strong. Watch those helmets on ball tackles. Lbs know our Ss and CBs have got thier backs. Turn overs will continue. And the soft zone D will continue to drive me nuts :-)

    • PJ

      Lord help me with that dad-gummed soft zone. I found myself CONSTANTLY yelling at the TV, my friends who were around me, and at no one in particular about giving a receiver a 10 yard cushion. I am glad I am not a D Coordinator. I know Coach Young is a BAMF at what he does, but it still drives me nuts. Hope we keep up the T/O ratio and great read there OKC_Dave!

      And Pistols; good on-ya for bringing in knowledgeable guys and gals to contribute. My $ contribution will come to an OSU Blog near you after the next paycheck! And knowing is half the batttle, GI Jooooooooe! (haha, i am in a great mood today)