Last Thursday, we wrote this in our free email newsletter.
A week ago, we looked Rutgers and their almost 10% chance of remaining undefeated.
But that calculation was based on our team rankings, in which Rutgers is currently 32nd. Our offense and defense rankings reveal another side of this team. Their offense is ranked 85th, while their defense rose to 56th after last weekend. Why is there such a discrepancy between the team ranking and the offense and defense rankings?
Rutgers is +14 in turnover margin this season. And turnovers are random. For example, the turnovers forced by a defense in the first 6 games explains 2.9% of the variance in turnovers the remainder of the season. The current turnover total is a weak predictor future turnovers.
However, turnovers have almost no affect on yards per play for the offense and defense. When we adjust these numbers for Rutgers’ schedule, they look much worse than their team rank suggests.
Despite being a two touchdown favorite at home, Rutgers lost 35-23 to Kent State on Saturday.
Quarterback Gary Nova threw 6 interceptions. He had thrown only 3 interceptions this season before this game. While we discussed forcing turnovers in the email newsletter, giveaways on offense are also random. In college football, the interception rate in the first 6 games of the season explains only 4.6% of the variance in interception rate the remainder of the season.
To see why the offense has such little control, watch the first 10 seconds of the highlights in which defensive end Mark Fackler makes an incredible one handed pick and runs it back for touchdown. (Sorry, ESPN makes you watch a 15 second commercial first.) That doesn’t happen every day.
While we didn’t expect Rutgers to get exposed so soon, the luck or curse of turnovers can strike at any moment during the season.
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While I agree that there is a lot of randomness in turnovers, there is probably some correlation with other factors. Defensive pressure, offensive efficiency, etc.
Ed Feng says
Were you in my office yesterday when I was thinking about this? Exactly the direction I’m headed with this. I think I know the answer for fumbles. I’m intrigued about the answer for picks.