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Points-Off-Turnover Efficiency: Penn State has scored 35 points off five straight turnovers

Two weeks ago we took a little bit of an analytical look at Penn State’s turnover margin and the points resulting from turnovers forced and lost. After knocking off Ohio State, the Nittany Lions had a little room for improvement in cashing in on turnovers. Yep. They improved.

Penn State has scored five touchdowns off the last five turnovers forced by either the Nittany Lions defense or special teams. 35 points off the last five turnovers is as good as it can possibly get, unless Penn State made like Chip Kelly and Oregon and went for two-point conversions after each. But you get the point. In their last two games, Penn State has taken advantage of extra opportunities the way top 10 teams in the country are supposed to.

And hey, look at that, Penn State is ranked No. 10 by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The committee has praised Penn State for playing better of late, and this new trend seems to support that stance with flying colors.

Even more impressive for Penn State? No turnovers lost in the last two games. That means a points-off-turnover-margin of +35 since the upset of Ohio State. Here is the updated breakdown of all Penn State turnovers, what the offense has done following a turnover and what opponents have done following a turnover.

An updated look at what has happened after each turnover forced or lost by Penn State this season as of November 10, 2016. Click to view a larger image.
An updated look at what has happened after each turnover forced or lost by Penn State this season as of November 10, 2016. Click to view a larger image.

A few quick points about this chart…

  • A few of these turnovers resulted in what I defined as “game-ending plays.” That could mean it was the final play of a game or merely led to the opponent being able to take a knee or two to run out the final seconds on the clock. These are not situations that would ultimately lead to points off a turnover, but they will be recorded as such.
  • Though not defined, some results will include defensive touchdowns. For example, a Kent State interception was returned for a touchdown by Penn State. This still qualifies for this chart because points were scored off the turnover. So not all points have to be scored by the offense.
  • I do not track turnover on downs, but will consider it in the future.
  • Special teams points are not included, even if off a blocked field goal try.

My what a difference two weeks can make

Two weeks ago when I broke these numbers down, I made special note that Penn State’s offense had scored just one touchdown off an opponent’s turnover all season long. That came in the season opener against Kent State. Since then, Penn State came up dry more often than not with four punts and two field goals in addition to one game-ending sequence. This was a legitimate concern as it suggested Penn State was unable to capitalize and punish opponents for their miscues. That certainly changed against Purdue, which led to an inflated bounce back in this category.

Penn State scored 28 points off four Purdue turnovers two weeks ago, and then Penn State tacked on one more off Iowa’s only turnover last week. Perhaps Penn State was just fortunate to have Purdue on the schedule to help boost this stat in their favor. Entering the Purdue game, Penn State’s points-off-turnover margin was sitting at -18. Now, after the Purdue and Iowa games, Penn State is sitting on a +17. That is one heck of a turnaround in such a short period of time.

Looking ahead to the Hoosiers

Penn State heads back to the state of Indiana this week to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana will enter this week with a -3 turnover margin (Penn State is now at +2). The Hoosiers had a -3 last week against Rutgers (Rutgers!), with one takeaway and two recovered fumbles and two interceptions against the Scarlet Knights offense. Indiana has had a negative turnover margin in two of the last three games. Last week against Rutgers, the Hoosiers gave up 14 points off four turnovers, with one missed field goal by Rutgers in the mix.

So it would appear Penn State may have an opportunity to keep this new trend going. Will they cash in once again in the state of Indiana? If they do, they should be coming home with another win in their pocket.

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