College football fans have long since internalized "Turnovers = Turnaround." My ESPN colleague Phil Steele has, in his irreplaceable annual preview magazines, long professed the predictability of turnover margin -- as in, if it's too high or low, it's going to regress toward the mean. And it's going to take some of your wins with it. A lot of what I have tried to do with advanced stats is figure out why -- and how -- this happens.
After I define the luck involved in turnarounds, I'll reveal the luckiest and unluckiest offenses, defenses and teams in college football.
Let's "turnover" luck
There are two different types of regression happening within the realm of turnovers:
1. Fumble luck
Over a long enough period of time, you will recover about 50% of all fumbles -- yours and your opponent's. But in a given season, a team might recover only 25-30%, or it might recover 70-75%.
Coaches will insist there is a skill to this, and maybe there is when it comes to how many players pursue the play (and therefore have an opportunity to join in on the dogpile) or how viciously they do so. Also, the further downfield the fumble occurs, the more likely the defense is to recover it -- there are more defenders and fewer blockers around the ball.
At best, though, you control only a small number of recovery opportunities and will regress toward 50% no matter what.
2. Interception luck