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Big Ten Football: Examining Turnover and One-Score Game Data and the Impact on 2022

Omar Manning, Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska lost eight games by one score last season but better days could be ahead this fall

Luck is a big part of every college football season and shapes how seasons can go for all 131 teams. Injuries are one of the x-factors that's hard to predict in the preseason and how it could impact every program, but luck is also shaped by performances in one-score games and turnover margin. It's not an exact science by any means but reviewing a team's performance in one-score games and the turnover margin can tell us which teams are likely to improve the following year - provided of course the roster is in good shape.

It's no secret Ohio State and Michigan are the front-runners in the Big Ten going into the 2022 season. However, some uncertainty surrounds how the pecking order in the rest of the conference will end up. Can Michigan State contend for a New Year's Six bowl without running back Kenneth Walker III? Will Penn State rebound? Is Wisconsin at the top of the West? Or is there room for a surprise team - such as Purdue? - in the division.

Although close game data is just one factor, there are some clues in this to answer some of the above questions.

Big Ten Football: Examining Turnover and One-Score Game Data and the Impact on 2022

East Division

Record in 1-Score GamesTurnover Margin

Indiana

1-2

-13

Maryland

3-0

-7

Michigan

3-1

+2

Michigan State

4-0

+3

Ohio State

1-1

+9

Penn State

2-4

+6

Rutgers

1-1

+3

* Indiana seems due for better turnover luck (-13), but coach Tom Allen's team played in just three games decided by one score. 

* Two of Maryland's three Big Ten wins came by one score. Those victories came against Illinois and Indiana.

* Michigan State was tied with Iowa for the most wins by one score (four) in the Big Ten last year. Two of the Spartans' marquee victories (Penn State and Michigan) came by one score.

* Ohio State did not play a Big Ten game decided by one score in 2021. The Buckeyes' one-score matchups took place against Oregon and Utah.

* Provided Penn State gets better quarterback play and improved performance in the trenches, coach James Franklin's team is a candidate to rebound in '22. The Nittany Lions suffered four defeats by six points or less, including close losses to Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State.

* Rutgers' only loss by one score came against Michigan.

* Michigan played in four games decided by one score. Three of those came on the road - at Michigan State, at Penn State and at Nebraska.

West Division

1-Score GamesTurnover Margin

Illinois

3-4

+5

Iowa

4-1

+12

Minnesota

3-3

+3

Nebraska

0-8

-5

Northwestern

0-2

-6

Purdue

3-1

-2

Wisconsin

3-1

+1

* Nebraska is a prime candidate to improve in 2022. The Cornhuskers lost eight of their nine games by one score and had a minus-five turnover margin. Neither of those numbers is likely to repeat this fall.

* Illinois played in seven games decided by one score in coach Bret Bielema's debut last fall. The three victories by one score all came in Big Ten play - Penn State, Nebraska and Minnesota.

* Iowa led the Big Ten with 31 forced turnovers and also tied for the conference lead with four wins by one score. Repeating 31 takeaways is not going to be easy in '22.

* Minnesota won nine games last year, but coach P.J. Fleck's team wasn't far from something better. The Golden Gophers lost four games but three were by one score. Included in those three were head-scratching defeats to Bowling Green and Illinois.

* Northwestern's only Big Ten game decided by one score came against Iowa (17-12).

* Wisconsin's only loss decided by one score came in the first matchup of the year versus Penn State. The Badgers also lost the most turnovers (23) in the Big Ten, yet finished plus-one in overall margin.

* Purdue's one-score wins came against Illinois, Tennessee and Nebraska. The only defeat was against Minnesota.

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