'Turning over' the SEC

The only thing coaches hate worse than turnovers is a visit from NCAA enforcement representatives.

And looking at the statistics from the last few seasons in the SEC, it’s pretty obvious that all that grumbling about avoiding turnovers is a lot more than just coach-speak.

The last three BCS national champions have finished no worse than fourth nationally in turnover margin.

  • Alabama was fourth last season -- gaining 31 and losing 12 (plus-19).

  • Florida was second in 2008 -- gaining 35 and losing 13 (plus-22).

  • LSU was second in 2007 -- gaining 36 and losing 16 (plus-20).

I did a study on turnovers in the SEC over the last five seasons, and there were some interesting results.

The Gators were the runaway winner at plus-57. Not only did they force the most turnovers during that span (138), but they also lost the fewest (81).

Alabama was No. 2 on that list from 2005-09. The Crimson Tide were plus-44, forcing 127 and losing 83.

Want to venture a guess as to which SEC team has lost the most turnovers over the last five seasons?

It’s not Vanderbilt, Kentucky or Mississippi State.

South Carolina has turned it over 132 times over the last five seasons. That’s an average of 2.09 per game during that span. In fact, since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia in 2005, the Gamecocks have finished on the plus side in turnover margin only once, and that was his first season in 2005 when they were plus-2. Just in the last three seasons, South Carolina has thrown 54 interceptions.

Even so, South Carolina isn’t at the bottom of the SEC in turnover margin over the last five seasons.

That dubious distinction belongs to Ole Miss, which is minus-27. The Rebels are the only team in the league to have forced fewer than 100 turnovers the last five seasons (96) and have turned it over 123 times.

To be fair, a lot of the damage was done on Ed Orgeron’s watch. The Rebels’ defense under Tyrone Nix the last two seasons has forced 47 turnovers. The only four SEC teams to force more the last two seasons were Florida (58), Alabama (56), Vanderbilt (49) and Kentucky (48).

The Commodores, despite a 23-37 record over the last five years, have been in the top half of the league in turnover margin. They’re plus-6, forcing 112 turnovers and losing 106.

Georgia has forced the fewest turnovers in the league the last two seasons, and it’s not even close. The Bulldogs took the ball away 28 times during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, including only 12 a year ago. The second lowest total in the league during that two-year span belongs to LSU with 37.

Auburn has lost 27 fumbles over the last two seasons, which tops the league.

Here’s a complete rundown, spanning the last five seasons:

1. Florida: Plus-57 (138/81). Record: 57-10

2. Alabama: Plus-44 (127/83). Record: 49-17

3. LSU: Plus-14 (108/94). Record: 51-15

4. Kentucky: Plus-12 (123/111). Record: 33-30

5. Vanderbilt: Plus-6 (112/106). Record: 23-37

6. Arkansas: Plus-5 (118/113). Record: 35-28

7. Tennessee: Plus-5 (109/104). Record: 36-27

8. Georgia: Even (113/113). Record: 48-17

9. Auburn: Minus-5 (106/111). Record: 42-21

10. Miss. State: Minus-12 (113/125). Record: 23-37

11. South Carolina: Minus-22 (110/132). Record: 35-28

12. Ole Miss: Minus-27 (96/123). Record: 28-33