Football's most important statistic (is still football's most important statistic)

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A study we conducted last year showed that 52 of the 53 teams (98.11 percent) over a 7-season sample that managed to force one turnover per game more than their opponent went on to post winning seasons.

We decided to check into that number halfway into this season and.... yep, still checks out.

Through seven weeks of the 2016 season, 16 teams have registered a +1 turnover margin. Six are undefeated.

Team

Turnover Margin

Record

Washington

+2.17

6-0

Western Michigan

+1.71

7-0

Old Dominion

+1.50

4-2

Troy

+1.33

5-1

Tulane

+1.33

3-3

Washington State

+1.33

4-2

Ohio State

+1.33

6-0

Illinois

+1.33

2-4

Ohio

+1.29

4-3

Memphis

+1.17

5-1

Kansas State

+1.17

3-3

Texas A&M

+1.00

6-0

Baylor

+1.00

6-0

Minnesota

+1.00

4-2

San Diego State

+1.00

5-1

Michigan

+1.00

6-0

That's 16 teams with a cumulative 76-22 (.776) overall record and a 36-9 (.800) mark in conference play. Fifteen of the 16 teams are at .500 or above, nine have one or fewer losses and 12 are in first place in their division or conference. History says the 16th team (Illinois) will either leverage its turnovers into victories or watch its turnover fortunes flip in the second half of the season.

Let's look at the other side of the ledger.

Team

Turnover Margin

Record

Bowling Green

-1.86

1-6

Kansas

-1.83

1-5

East Carolina

-1.50

2-4

Kentucky

-1.33

3-3

Oklahoma

-1.17

4-2

Arkansas State

-1.17

2-4

Purdue

-1.17

3-3

Southern Miss

-1.14

4-3

Fresno State

-1.00

1-6

UTEP

-1.00

1-5

Louisiana-Monroe

-1.00

2-4

Eleven teams with a cumulative 24-45 (.348) record and an 11-21 (.344) mark against their respective conferences. Six are in last place in their conference or division. And, oddly, three of the remaining five are in first place of their division or conference but, once again, we expect those teams to stop giving the ball away like leftover Halloween candy or suffer the consequences.

Why are turnovers the universal shortcut to winning? Beyond the obvious -- a takeaway adds to your offense's possession total and decreases your opponent's -- turnovers transcend scheme, style and fad.

Turnovers are the route which bad teams become average, average teams become good and good teams become great.