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Ohio State football: Do advanced stats think the 2014 Bucks were lucky?

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The season is over, so it's time to crunch some numbers!

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason has begun, as you're undoubtedly aware, but at least 1) the 2014 Buckeyes were national champions, 2) spring practice really isn't too far away, and 3) we now have tons of time to go through all of the numbers on the 2014 football season!

Bill C has been hard at work over at Football Study Hall breaking down all of the stats for all FBS teams in preparation for his 2015 team previews. Thanks to Bill's work, we can further analyze the 2014 Bucks and how the 2015 squad might fare as a result.

Turnovers and luck

Turnovers luck is an easy concept to understand and it has a huge impact on a team's year-to-year success. Like, a can't-be-understated kind of huge impact. If the ball repeatedly bounces (and falls) in to your team's hands (and out of the opposing teams' hands) then that can easily be the difference between a win and a loss. Bill argues that the average turnover is worth about five points in field position value, and multiple studies have shown that turnover margin can be a significant predictor of win probability. And some teams are luckier than others at falling on fumbled balls, snagging tipped passes, and with opposing defenses dropping sure-interceptions. If teams should recover 50% of fumbles and on average grab 22% of passes defensed, then we can easily get a sense for turnover luck year-to-year and its effect on win percentage.

Bill does the math for us over here, but essentially the Buckeyes were slightly lucky when it came to comparing actual for expected turnover margin given the expected numbers above. From Bill:

Team FR% Off %INT Def %INT TO Margin Adj. TO Margin Diff. 2014 TO Luck
(Per Game)
2013 TO Luck
(Per Game)
Change
Ohio State 41.9% 22.2% 31.3% 7 3.2 3.8 1.26 -1.28 2.55

In a year, the Buckeyes flipped from a turnover-unlucky season to an almost equally turnover-lucky season. If the value of a turnover is worth roughly 4-5 points, then that makes the 2013 offense even more impressive, averaging 45.5 points per game compared to 2014 at 44.8.

The 2014 Buckeyes weren't overwhelming lucky -- averaging just +1.26 turnover per game more than expected, but that extra turnover could have been Vonn Bell not intercepting Blake Sims in the Sugar Bowl, for instance. But at 32nd most-lucky in the country, it's unlikely to think they will be that lucky overall next year too.

However, it's interesting that the Buckeyes were actually unlucky when it came to fumble recoveries (remember Thomas Tyner's 12-yard positive fumble recovery in the first quarter of the championship?), exactly average in offensive interception percentage, and significantly lucky when it came to defensive interception percentage.

That suggests to me that maybe there's hope that the Buckeyes don't regress when it comes to turnover luck. There's always the chance that the defensive backs were simply coached better than they were the year before, where now what would have been a pass breakup before (or a blown assignment altogether) became an interception. But offensive interception percentage and fumble recovery percentage really do seem like luck to me -- and there's the chance that the Buckeyes might get luckier next year when it comes to fumble recoveries, anyway.