ESPN+ article: Turnover Luck

Interesting article posted today by Bill Connelly, ESPN staff writer. The analysis tries to quantify the amount of “luck” that went into turnovers by college defenses. While causing fumbles is a skill, who actually recovers the ball is more luck than skill. He cites the example of USC which had a remarkable amount of “turnover luck”. In the first five games of the season, there were 9 fumbles by opposing offenses. USC recovered all nine. If you stretch things out over time, fumble recoveries should be 50-50. Things regress to the mean. Only 8 defenses recovered less than 35% of fumbles in 2022. UH was one of those with a recovery rate of 34.2% (124th in the nation). UH was -6 on expected recoveries. If a turnover is worth 4 to 5 points per analytics, then UH had bad fumble recovery luck that cost us 24-30 points on the season. A couple of key fumble recoveries could have turned an L into a W in several close losses.

Interceptions take a deeper analysis. This study analyzes interception to breakup rate. Passes “defensed” is defined as interceptions and PBUs. Analytics say that 21% of passes defensed are intercepted. I take that to mean that about 1 out of every 5 PBU turns out to be an interception. Some teams had very good “turnover luck” and intercepted almost 33% of passes defended.

In the overall analysis of turnover luck, the article had UH next to last. Number 130 out of 131. Only Rutgers was below UH in turnover luck. Putting it in terms of points per game, bad turnover luck cost UH 3.7 points per game.

So if last year’s team had just average luck regarding turnovers by the defense, how much would our record have improved? 3.7 points per game would have turned 2 overtime losses into wins.

Interesting article.


That is interesting. Thanks for sharing. 2021 felt like one of those years when everything bounced out way. Last year it didn’t. There is certainly something cultural too it though too. I believe an announcer said it during a basketball game. UH always makes 50/50 balls look like 70/30 balls. We need more of that mud in our blood on the football field. Everyone who usually brought that got hurt last year.


Where do we rank on incomprehensible stupidarse penalties?


I remember those David Gibbs led defenses under Levine, the “Jack Boyz.” They made turnovers (interceptions and fumble recoveries) look like an aquired skill! Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart at the safety spots were a couple of ballhawks.


It was. on either tuesday of thursday they had turnover day. Offensive ball handlers had to carry around a football all day while defensive players would try to knock it lose. If a defensive player knocked the ball loose he got to keep it. Balls were turned in at practice that day and score was kept.