Texas Tech’s recent history is pretty good confirmation of this fact. Going back to 2008, the Red Raiders’ best performance in turnover margin came in 2008 when they went +.62, finishing No. 22 in the nation. Not coincidentally, that team was one of the greatest in school history. Conversely, Tech’s worst performances in turnover margin came during the last two seasons when the Red Raiders finished -1.08, which was No. 119 nationally a year ago and No. 123 in 2013. Tech finished 4-8 last season, the school’s worst record since 1981.
During the five seasons previous to Kliff Kingsbury’s arrival, Tech’s average finish in turnover margin was -.20. That is a poor number. In 2014 it would have placed the Red Raiders at No. 84 nationally. But as bad as -.20 is, it is one heck of a lot better than the -1.08 which has been the norm under Kingsbury. The hope here is that Tech can climb from horrendous to merely awful in terms of turnover margin in 2015.
There is reason for hope, particularly on the offensive side of the football.
Patrick Mahomes, after taking over for Davis Webb, did a much better job of taking care of the football. Webb threw an interception every 27 pass attempts; Mahomes tossed a pick every 46 pass attempts. Mahomes also looked much more sound carrying the football than did Webb who often ran upright and failed to either slide or cover up for an approaching hit.
Assuming Mahomes continues to value the rock, and perhaps even improve in that area, turnovers by the offense should diminish considerably.
But it takes two to tango, and David Gibbs’ defense will need to show up at the dance if the Red Raiders are to make major headway in the all important turnover margin category.
In 2014 Tech finished No. 113 nationally in interceptions, and No. 68 in fumbles recovered. In terms of total turnovers gained, the Red Raiders finished No. 110, which was actually slightly better than the offense, which finished No. 117 in turnovers lost. Still, however, the Gibbs gang will have to do better. Much better.
A strong pass rush always helps create havoc in an offense, and while Pete Robertson is one of the nation’s best pass rushers, he could use some help. But frankly, it is hard to see who will provide that help. Perhaps Micah Awe blitzing through the A gap will be of assistance.
Ball-hawking safeties are also tools for turnover creation, but is there one on the Tech campus? Neither Keenon Ward nor J.J. Gaines have truly demonstrated this ability, perhaps in part because they have been unable to stay healthy. Derrick Dixon may be a player who will develop into this role, but again, that is supposition.
Zone coverage schemes can also aid turnover creation because they put multiple defenders around the ball and allow players to slip into passing lanes. Presumably, Gibbs will increase zone coverage in the hope of generating turnovers.
Still history is not exactly on Tech’s side. Over the past seven seasons the Red Raiders have finished better than -.20 only twice. And a primary reason for this sad fact is that Tech runs a high-risk offense. But if Tech does indeed run the football more frequently in 2015 as has been promised, that risk factor will diminish. Factor in a judicious Mahomes, and a defensive coordinator who knows his stuff and has a track record for creating turnovers (his Houston defense finished No. 23 nationally last season), and the projection here is the Red Raiders actually do better than -.20.