TURNOVERS...Who's to blame, and who gets the credit?

USA TODAY Sports

We've discussed the importance of winning the TO battle, but who holds the key to that battle...offense or defense?

As pointed out in this previous post, since 2005 (as far back as the Big 12 keeps separate stats for conference play) only 2 champions have turned in less than a +5 turnover margin (TOM). Since its inception in 1996, the Big 12 has crowned only 2 champions that produced negative TOM's. Since 1996, only 2 teams have led the league in TOM and finished in the bottom half of either the league or their division.

OSU and Kansas State overcame traditionally important defensive stats by turning in the two highest TOM's EVER in conference play in 2011 and 2012.

Traditional power Texas registered its last +TOM in 2009, not coincidentally its last championship. Three consecutive years of negative TOM since, and three years of struggle.

Turnover margin might not be the cure all, but it sure goes a LONG way to winning games and championships.

The next question, posed by Kevin in a response to a comment over at Pistols Firing, is who is more responsible, the offense or the defense?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In this case, I think it starts with the offense. Don't turn the ball over a lot, and the pressure is off the defense.

A couple of people responded to tweets about TOM, and one of those responses wanted to know if spread offenses and pace of play increased offensive turnovers.

The answer is no.

For sake of this dicussion, I will exclude TCU and West Virginia, as they have only been with the conference 1 season.

Since 2009, here are the offensive TO lines for OU, Baylor, Tech, and OSU, who I think can be argued are the most pass happy, up tempo offenses in the league:

  • 17-11-23-16
  • 17-13-19-16
  • 18-18-16-18
  • 13-14-16-15
Now, here are the offensive TO lines for Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, and Kansas, who I think can be argued are less aggressive and generally slower paced than the previous 4:
  • 12-9-22-15
  • 12-23-21-14
  • 11-13-13-7
  • 18-16-22-18
Amazingly, while the "slower" group produced the only single digit turnover seasons (2), they also produced four 21+ turnover seasons, as the other group returned only 1.

While not being ultra "stingy" in giving the ball away, the spread, up tempo teams have been extremely consistent and are actually producing a lower plays to turnovers ratio.

But we are still left with the question...which side made the difference?

Let's just go down the list of TOM leaders, starting in 2005, defensive TO's listed first:
  • 2005, Iowa State...22-11
  • 2006, Texas A&M...screw them, I'm not including them in this conversation...
  • 2007, Kansas...22-7
  • 2008, OU...20-6
  • 2009, Texas...23-12
  • 2010, OSU...19-14
  • 2011, OSU...33-16 (this defensive # was so ridiculous that it delivered a conference championship)
  • 2012, Kansas State...26-7
So, out of 7 seasons, the defenses exceeded their norm 7 times. The offenses exceeded their norm 3 times. In fact, 6 of the 7 teams recorded their HIGHEST number of defensive turnovers for this period, and Texas tied their high mark from 2006. For the offenses, only 3 teams recorded their lowest number for the period.

While the margin is the critical number, it is obvious that defenses need to create turnovers at a higher rate to have the biggest impact. Another nugget...the top 3 defensive TO performances are on the list. The top offensive performance is not (Baylor, 5 offensive TO's in 2008).

There you have it. Again, while we get nuts about offensive production, it's actually the defense that makes the difference, even in the Big 12.
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