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Turnover Lucky

This isn't going away. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
This isn't going away. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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I was looking through the Emergency ATVS Blogger Guide, and apparently when PodKATT and Billy are fleeing for the high ground, I am actually expected to create content. This, of course, is grossly unfair, but I am willing to make sure that the LSU fan doesn't go without bloggy goodness during this natural disaster.*

*And seriously. If you live anywhere near the path of Isaac, be safe.

One of the persistent criticisms of LSU football last year was "turnover luck". Heck, even Phil Steele said it: LSU had a huge turnover margin which is the result of luck, and they are bound to regress. Well, yes and no. LSU is not going to post a +20 again, but turnovers are also not entirely luck.

Recovering fumbles is largely luck, not getting turnovers. So, if a team recovers fumbles at a greater than 50% rate, it is reasonable to expect regression back to the mean. You cannot outrun the law of averages. Luckily, Football Study Hall has already done all the legwork on this issue.

LSU recovered 54.2% of fumbles last year which is slightly lucky, but not really. They have further done the math on how much this turnover luck (including possible interception luck) was worth to each team, and LSU's "luck" was worth 1.17 points per game. Which, of course, made all the difference. /endsarcasm

But if LSU is not going to post a +20 again, what is a reasonable expectation? How much regression are we talking about? The reason recovering fumbles are considered luck is because teams wildly fluctuate each season, but other turnover metrics are actually fairly consistent and predictable, suggesting it is a skill.

Last year, LSU forced 30 turnovers and committed 10. Alabama, by contrast, forced 20 and committed 12. One thing jumps out at you: neither team turned the ball over very much. This is by design. We've been pretty loud critics of the LSU offense, which has been designed over the past years to first and foremost, not turn the ball over. Now, this has come at the expense of moving the ball and scoring points, but by God we didn't turn the ball over. LSU will likely see more turnovers committed by the offense, but that is a good thing. It is the cost of yards and points.

LSU's turnovers over the past four seasons (forced/committed/margin):

2011: 30/10/+20
2010: 32/24/+8
2009: 18/14/+4
2008: 19/20/-1

Now, will LSU force as many turnovers this year? Probably not. That is the price of playing freshmen at the second corner position instead of NICKNAME REDACTED. Though I doubt the turnovers will totally dry up. Offensive turnovers will certainly climb to the 15-20 range as the offense takes more chances in an effort to gain more yards.

Yes, the turnover margin will shrink. But if it means the offense is actually throwing the ball and gaining yards, will anyone notice?