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VARSITY NUMBERS: Embrace The Randomness


Week 2's Varsity Numbers column is up at Football Outsiders.

For the other nine games, however, turnovers both defined and potentially decided the winner. Bounces ruled in the Ohio-Penn State game; not only did Ohio benefit significantly from turnovers, but they also benefited from a non-turnover. On their first touchdown, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton saw a horrendous pass bounce off of the hands of a Penn State defender (said defender was actually stepping in front of another Penn State defender who might have picked the pass off) and into the hands of his intended receiver, who caught the pass and ran for an unlikely touchdown. Make no mistake: Ohio made the plays it needed to win the game late. But without turnovers, they don't win.

Turnovers made the difference in quite a few upset bids as well. Indiana and Wake Forest each avoided embarrassing losses to FCS teams that had otherwise potentially outplayed them (Liberty actually outgained Wake, 363 to 293), while Stanford narrowly avoided a loss in their first game post-Andrew Luck thanks to 10 turnover points. Washington escaped a bit of a stinker and held off San Diego State thanks to a 14-point turnover margin. UTSA and Northwestern each scored last-second road wins in part because turnovers kept them close enough through the game's first 59 minutes; meanwhile, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were in complete gridlock heading into overtime, but Tevin Washington's incredibly misguided overtime interception made the difference. And, finally, turnovers sealed an upset bid (if you can call it an upset) for McNeese State over poor Middle Tennessee, which has fallen off the map over the last couple of years.