In my last post I introduced a series that will attempt to answer the question: what college football conference is the best? I compared the conferences very generally and dove into simple offensive and defensive stats for the conferences as a whole and across different seasons.
The next two posts will specifically address mistakes made by all the teams across the conferences; that is turnovers and penalties. This post will look at turnovers.
The graphic below is showing the average fumbles, interceptions, and total turnovers per game per season. The most recent season being the darkest green (2018-2019) and the latest season being yellow (2000-2001). Additionally, I’ve added the average line across all seasons per conference; basically this is the average of the averages.
In Layman’s terms, every dot shows the average number of fumbles, interceptions, or turnovers per game for that given season.
We see that the highest turnover average in a season was by those schools not in a conference, the independent schools, in the 2002-2003 season with 1.23 fumbles. Navy lead in this category with a whopping 2.1 fumbles a game.
On the other side of things is the Mountain West Conference. In 2016-2017 had only .53 fumbles, narrowly beating out the 2015-2016 SEC who posted only .54 fumbles.
However, when thinking about what conference is the best I think its important to look at them across multiple seasons. When doing so, we see the Big Ten led the way with the fewest fumbles since 2000 with only .74 a game. While the Pac 12 committed the least fumbles on average, when you take into account the Pac 10’s average too they’re at .83 fumbles a game.
Its very clear the independent schools committed the least in 2009-2010 at only .37, but in 2001-2002 they committed the most with 1.33 a game. While Baylor (Big 12) technically committed the most that season at 2.0, Utah State was a close second with 1.9. Interestingly enough, when looking at the averages independent schools still come out on top with .85 interceptions since the 2000-2001 season.
While interceptions and fumbles are important by themselves, its important to also look at total turnovers. For example, a team could be great at throwing the ball and have no interceptions, but if they can’t hold onto the ball while running, that’s something we need to take into account. Turnovers, takes care of this issue by simply adding fumbles and interceptions together.
In 2018-2019 the SEC had the fewest turnovers with only 1.24. The worst was Conference USA which in 2002-2003 committed 2.47 turnovers. On average, the SEC places first with 1.66 turnovers since the 2000-2001 season (again, when combining the Pac 10 and Pac 12 they fall out of the top spot).
Across Fumbles, interceptions, and turnovers our winners are:
Fumbles: Big 10
Of course, what sort of competition would be complete without a ranking system (gold being the best, blue being the worst). For each metric I look at, I’ll rank the conference by where they stand and average them out. From these three, the SEC takes the early lead.