In a championship game that few envisioned back in September after Ohio State’s befuddling home loss to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes have a real chance to win Monday night.
As a matter of fact, my model shows the Buckeyes outgaining the vaunted Oregon offense in total yards and yards per play, two metrics that are crucial to winning. The margins are razor thin, but would be enough to favor the Buckeyes if the projected turnover numbers were equal (or favored Ohio State).
But the Ducks have only turned the ball over 10 times all season in 1,047 offensive plays. Comparatively, the Buckeyes have played fast and loose with the ball at times, turning the ball over 22 times. That’s about 1.6 a game and while that’s not terrible, Oregon simply hasn’t turned the ball over and the probability is that Ohio State will have more turnovers than Oregon.
The model I use projects that each turnover lost decreases a team’s probability of winning by about 8.8% (assuming other metrics stay the same). With a projected turnover advantage of 1, the Ducks probability of winning is 57.0%.
The Buckeyes recipe for success is simple: Don’t turn the ball over or force Oregon to do something the Ducks haven’t done all season – turn the ball over. Just being even in turnovers would give the flip the odds to 51.9% in the Buckeye’s favor, but that’s easier said than done.
It’s not unique to suggest that turnovers will determine the outcome of a game, but the model allows us to put a value on each turnover and what they may mean in the context of winning and losing the initial College Football Playoff National Championship Game.