An often quoted statement from coaches and analysts is that a team will win 80% of the time when coming out on top of the turnover battle. We usually remember the games in which a pivotal interception or forced fumble either drowned all hope of a win, or inversely sealed the deal in a critical moment. So that number sounds right. Keep your offense from making mistakes and giving up easy field position and create extra opportunities by taking the ball away on defense. Well for Arkansas under Bret Bielema turnover roulette has not been that simple.
Arkansas over the last three seasons has been an anomaly in this category. They have only won 10 out of 15 games in which they were ahead in TO margin. (67%)
To further confound the idea, the Razorbacks have won twice while losing the turnover battle. Before the overtime win against Auburn the last time they captured a W while in the negative in turnovers was 2013 vs Samford. Compare that to Clemson who won six games last season where they had a negative TO margin.
Furthermore over the last three season Arkansas went 2/12 in games that they lost in the TO category. It would be safe to say that turnovers are the kryponite of any team, but in particular a pro style melt the clock system.
Also over that 38 game span Arkansas was even in the turnover margin 11 times and won 6 of those games.
So what gives?
|2015||Result||Fum. Gain||Int. Gain||Total Gain||Fum. Lost||Int. Lost||Total Lost||Margin|
|+ Toledo||L 12-16||0||0||0||0||1||1||-1|
|Texas Tech||L 24-35||0||2||2||1||1||2||0|
|+ Texas A&M||L 21-28||0||0||0||1||1||2||-2|
|@ 22 Tennessee||W 24-20||1||0||1||0||0||0||+1|
|@ 1 Alabama||L 14-27||0||2||2||0||1||1||+1|
|@ 10 Mississippi||W 53-52||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|@ 16 LSU||W 31-14||1||1||2||1||1||2||0|
|Mississippi St.||L 50-51||2||1||3||0||0||0||+3|
|+ Kansas St.||W 45-23||0||1||1||0||1||1||0|
|2014||Result||Fum. Gain||Int. Gain||Total Gain||Fum. Lost||Int. Lost||Total Lost||Margin|
|@ 22 Auburn||L 21-45||1||0||1||0||1||1||0|
|Nicholls St.||W 73-7||0||1||1||0||1||1||0|
|@ Texas Tech||W 49-28||1||2||3||2||0||2||+1|
|Northern Ill.||W 52-14||1||0||1||0||0||0||+1|
|+ Texas A&M||L 28-35||0||1||1||1||0||1||0|
|4 Alabama||L 13-14||2||0||2||2||1||3||-1|
|9 Georgia||L 32-45||0||0||0||2||2||4||-4|
|@ 11 Mississippi St.||L 10-17||1||2||3||0||1||1||+2|
|17 Mississippi||W 30-0||3||3||6||1||0||1||+5|
|@ 14 Missouri||L 14-21||1||1||2||2||0||2||0|
|+ Texas||W 31-7||1||1||2||0||0||0||+2|
|2013||Result||Fum. Gain||Int. Gain||Total Gain||Fum. Lost||Int. Lost||Total Lost||Margin|
|Southern Miss.||W 24-3||0||2||2||0||1||1||+1|
|@ Rutgers||L 24-28||2||1||3||0||0||0||+3|
|18 Texas A&M||L 33-45||0||0||0||0||2||2||-2|
|@ Florida||L 10-30||0||0||0||1||1||2||-2|
|4 South Carolina||L 7-52||1||0||1||2||1||3||-2|
|@ 7 Alabama||L 0-52||0||0||0||1||2||3||-3|
|2 Auburn||L 17-35||0||0||0||2||1||3||-3|
|@ Mississippi||L 24-34||0||2||2||0||1||1||+1|
|Mississippi St.||L 17-24||1||1||2||2||1||3||-1|
|@ 14 LSU||L 27-31||1||1||2||1||1||2||0|
Just looking at 2015:
-Lost TO Battle and Game= 2 times
-Won Game and TO Battle= 3 times
-Lost TO Battle but Won Game= 1 time
Record when TO Battle was even= 4-1
+3 Turnover Margin
Outliers- Won Turnover Battle vs Alabama and lost game, Lost Turnover Battle vs Auburn but won in OT, +3 vs Miss. St. but still lost.
Takeaway: Arkansas can compete and stay in games when making some mistakes, throwing an interception on occasion or putting the ball on the ground, as long as the opposing offense is taking some chances and the defense comes through with one of their own. If the turnover battle is even, the style of offense that Bielema likes to implement can be successful. In a game where each team makes a few isolated mistakes, or neither team is pushing the ball down the field or taking chances his version of ball control can be highly efficient. Examples include the Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri games from 2014, and the LSU, Missouri,and Kansas State games from last year.
If his team is unable to force any turnovers on defense, as was the case in some key games last season, then it becomes difficult. Toledo, Texas A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss all played clean without any turnovers. Two of those four came out with a win against the Razorbacks and the other two came down to nail biting overtime thrillers.
As a whole, in 2015 the defense for Arkansas did not create many turnovers (18), but on the other side of the ball the offense was highly regimented in ball security only giving it away 11 times. It is almost guaranteed that Austin Allen or one of the young running backs will make some mistakes and the defense next season will need to create a few more opportunities to get the margin close to even or in the plus category. Hopefully the defense will return to form and force a few more turnovers and the overhauled offense can limit them on that side.
The best way to put it would be that the Arkansas approach of grinding and plodding needs some mistakes and turnovers by the opposing offense. Without those extra chances, in the last three seasons anyway, a daring comeback is probably out of the realm of what can be expected.