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One statistic that virtually guarantees a winning season

Oregon Florida State

Want to win games next season? Force more turnovers than your opponent. And in other news, water is wet, the sun is hot and that friggin' dress was black and blue.

We all know that teams that can simultaneously force takeaways and limit giveaways are more likely to win games, but did you know just how powerful the turnover statistic is? So powerful that, at a certain point, the right turnover margin makes victory almost guaranteed. A year ago, SB Nation's Bill Connelly revealed that teams that register a plus-four or greater turnover margin win more than 90 percent of the time, and often in a blowout. This makes sense.

But what about at a macro level? FootballScoop examined the last seven seasons of turnover margins and found that among the 53 teams that forced an average turnover margin of greater than one per game, 52 of them posted winning seasons. (Why seven seasons? That's as far as back as the CFB Stats database goes.)

Fifty-two out of 53. Force a fraction more than one turnover per game than your opponent and your team has a 98.11% chance of a winning season.

Teams that master turnovers aren't just winning, most of them are winning big. Fifty of them won eight or more games, 40 won nine or more games, 32 won 10 or more games, 27 of the 50 eligible teams (excluding independents Navy and Army and FBS transitional club UTSA) won or shared a conference or division championship, three went undefeated and two won national championships. The clubs listed below averaged 9.9 wins per season, and most of them took claimed some sort of hardware along the way.

Of the teams that forced 1.01-or-more turnovers per game than their opponents.....
98.11% had winning seasons
94.33% won at least 8 games
75.47% won at least 9 games
60.38% won at least 10 games
54% won at least a share of a conference or division championship

There are a number of examples of teams using an exceptional turnover margin to post historic seasons. Army's only winning season since 1996, a 7-6 mark in 2010, can be explained third-best 1.23 turnover margin in 2010. Rice experienced a smattering of winning seasons in the 1990's and early 2000's, but the Owls' 10-win season in 2008 was the programs first since 1949.They posted a 1.15 turnover margin that season. Buffalo's only winning seasons over the past seven seasons, eight-win campaigns in 2008 and 2013, coincide with 1.43 and 1.15 turnover margins.

Even the lone outlier makes sense. A Baylor team led by first-year head coach Art Briles and quarterbacked by true freshman Robert Griffin III went 4-8 despite posting a fourth-best 1.33 turnover margin. Baylor has now completed five straight winning seasons and back-to-back Big 12 championships while posting an even 1.00 turnover margin in each season.

Every team in college football wants to force turnovers while preventing its own, and few prove capable. The 53 clubs listed below represent a notch above six percent of the total seasons played since 2008. But there is no surer bet on a Saturday and over the course of the fall to winning games and hosting a trophy than mastering the art of ball control.

2014

TO Margin

Record

Oregon*

1.53

13-2

Michigan State

1.46

11-2

TCU*

1.38

12-1

Georgia

1.23

10-3

Louisiana Tech^

1.14

9-5

Arizona State

1.08

10-3

2013

TO Margin

Record

Houston

1.92

8-5

Louisville

1.31

12-1

Florida State*!

1.21

14-0

Oklahoma State

1.15

10-3

Buffalo

1.15

8-5

Missouri^

1.14

12-2

Arizona State^

1.07

10-4

2012

TO Margin

Record

Oregon

1.62

12-1

Boise State*

1.54

11-2

Kansas State*

1.54

11-2

Kent State^

1.43

11-3

Mississippi State

1.23

8-5

LSU

1.23

10-3

UTSA

1.20

8-4

Fresno State*

1.15

9-4

Florida

1.15

11-2

Ohio

1.15

9-4

SMU

1.08

7-6

Northwestern

1.08

10-3

Louisiana Tech

1.08

9-3

2011

TO Margin

Record

Oklahoma State*

1.62

12-1

LSU*

1.43

13-1

Toledo^

1.23

9-4

Houston^

1.14

13-1

Wisconsin*

1.14

11-3

N.C. State

1.08

8-5

2010

TO Margin

Record

Virginia Tech^

1.36

11-3

Tulsa^

1.31

10-3

Army

1.23

7-6

Ohio State*

1.15

12-1

Maryland

1.15

9-4

Wisconsin*

1.08

11-2

2009

TO Margin

Record

Air Force

1.69

8-5

Rutgers

1.54

9-4

Boise State*

1.50

14-0

Alabama*!

1.36

14-0

Ohio State*

1.31

11-2

Arkansas

1.15

8-5

2008

TO Margin

Record

Oklahoma*

1.64

12-2

Florida*!

1.57

13-1

Buffalo^

1.43

 8-6

Baylor

1.33

4-8

Wake Forest

1.31

 8-5

Ohio State*

1.23

 10-3

California

1.15

9-4

Rice^

1.15

 10-3

Navy

1.15

 8-5

* won or shared conference championship
^ won or shared division championship
! won national championship