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Sunday, December 9, 2012

A smarter look at turnovers

The average fumble costs the offense -3.28 points and the average interception -2.93 points, but not all fumbles and interceptions are created equal. A turnover on 3rd and 20 is less costly than on 1st and 10, or at midfield versus the red zone. A long return can make a relatively harmless turnover into a killer, while a long pick on 4th down can actually be a positive play for the offense.

Using the NEPA logic, we can calculate the point impact of every turnover this season. Briefly, we look at the points we can expect a team and their opponent to score based on their down, distance, spot and time remaining before the play to that after the play. -TO is the total point impact of turnovers for each team this season and -TO/TO is the average point impact per turnover.

It should be no surprise that Kansas State is on top. Alabama is 5th, but McCarron and crew would like the -8.8 against Texas A&M back (and -6.3 against Georgia almost cost them as well). That Louisville and West Virginia score so high is a real testament to Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater.

At the other end, Hawaii, Western Michigan, Tulane and Idaho have cost themselves more than 100 points. Idaho averaged a remarkable -10 per game this season; seeing as how they were outscored by 27 points per game this season, though, those 10 points probably would not have saved their season.

Thanks to cfbstats for the data. 


  1. Awesome data. Any chance you can get def. TO data as well, and then combine into a net TO effect per team?

    1. It's like you read my mind. Now that the regular season is over I've got to start spreading these things out more, but next comes defense, then -TO margin, and then some individual games.