Watch any sport and you might hear a phrase like "the ball is just bouncing their way today." That phrase is said to suggest that sometimes random luck accounts for success on the field, for example, when a team gets a turnover in football.
SB Nation's Team Speed Kills took the time to break down the luck involved in recovering fumbles and hauling in interceptions. According to this breakdown, the Syracuse Orange football team in 2015 was the 12th luckiest team in the country.
Here's how the stats shake out: Last season, the Orange ranked 44th (!!!) in the FBS in the percentage of fumbles recovered. According to CFBstats.com, there were 40 total fumbles in Syracuse games, 21 of which the Orange recovered, putting them at 52.5 percent. For interceptions, TSK counted picks as a percentage of passes defended. 'Cuse hauled in 11 INTs out of 40 passes defended, or 27.5 percent of those passes, good for a ranking of 15th in that category. Together, Syracuse had an average rank of 30th among FBS teams, tied with three other teams for 12th nationally in turnover luck.
What might this mean? These numbers certainly don't account for some other intangibles, including the fact that there is some skill involved in getting turnovers. However, it is interesting to see that random chance may have been on Syracuse's side last year. The bad news is, then, that statistically you might expect something known as "regression to the mean," or, in laymens' terms, the Orange can't keep getting so lucky forever.
One element that can influence these statistics is the number of plays per game. Dino Babers's new offense will have a much faster pace of play next season than what we saw from the Orange under Scott Shafer. You'd expect that, statistically, the more plays there are, and thus the more potential for turnovers, random chance would kind of even out here over time (like flipping a coin 100 times instead of 10 - the more you flip, the more you expect the overall results to be half heads and half tails). In 2015, Syracuse games had an average of 133.16 plays per game between both teams, with the Orange offense accounting for 46.9 percent of plays. Bowling Green's games averaged 157.58 plays per contest, with BGSU's offense making up 51.17 percent of those plays.
Interestingly, even with the faster pace, Babers' Bowling Green squad ranked just ahead of Syracuse in turnover luck. The Falcons obtained an average rank of 28 between the fumble and interception categories, putting them at 11th nationally. Given this, you might suggest that maybe more plays gives players more opportunity to practice the skill involved in successfully converting a turnover, so when the opportunity comes, those players are more successful. Over time, though, we'll probably still guess that the ball will bounce Syracuse's way, well, about 50 percent of the time.