Turnovers are a critical factor in the seasonal success of football programs. For the most part, excellent teams have excellent single-season turnover margins (USC +21, Texas +7, West Virginia +14) and poor teams have poor single-season turnover margins (Temple -8, Oregon State -14, Illinois -11, Oklahoma State -15). But what do multiple season turnover trends tell us? What are those trends and what can we ascribe to the coaches and teams that created these outputs?
To dig a little deeper into this information, I made an Excel chart of BCS conference teams and Independents, recording their turnover margins dating from the present back to 1998. That's eight seasons worth of data. The information was collected from my two most recent Phil Steele College Football Previews and also this year's official NCAA statistics database.
The data is available for download from CFR's "Files" section (under "Hard Data" and titled "TurnoversBCS". I will also offer modest analysis of the data in the coming days on here. I will mostly focus on coaching regimes and their turnover output. Please keep in mind that the story of turnovers is a complex one, but the data presented is fairly simple: team name, and turnover margin in any given year. However, I think there are trends and patterns that emerge from the data that are worth exploring.
To whet your appetite, take a gander at the following:
- Nebraska and California had perhaps the wildest turnover swings in recent memory, going from +23 to -13 in the 2003 and 2004 seasons and from -18 to +18 in the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
- No coach has come close to the turnover success of USC's Pete Carroll, who has boasted turnover margins of +16, +18, +20, +19 and +21 in his five seasons at Troy.
- Say what you want about the man, but Tennessee's Phil Fulmer has a grasp on how to control turnovers. Until last year's -7 effort, he had at least seven consecutive seasons of positive turnover margins (+16,+3,+3,+5,+2,+3 and +6). Call him Carroll-lite.
- Virginia is the only program to have recorded neutral or positive turnover margins all eight seasons! Credit goes to coaches Al Groh (2001+) and George Welsh.