Fumbles are impactful plays that can decide football games. While some might speak of “swarming the ball,” recovering them seems to be the product of dumb luck. Inordinate bad or good luck can dramatically affect a season. Michigan won 11 games last year, recovering 20/25 opponent fumbles and 13/19 of their own fumbles. Opposite fortune might have seen them miss a bowl game.
Here are a few teams that have been lucky so far. This does not predict how lucky they will be moving forward, but it provides some better perspective on some of their accomplishments.
Kansas State [13/18] The Wildcats have recovered 9/12 fumbles on defense and 4/6 of their own fumbles, ranking in the Top 15 in both categories. Where might fumbles have helped them? How about Oklahoma. Landry Jones fumbled on his own 13-yard-line which KSU returned for a touchdown. Blake Bell fumbled on second and goal from the one-yard-line. Recovering those two fumbles tipped a five-point game to Kansas State. That’s the difference between Top 5 right now and barely in the Top 20.
Mississippi State [14/19] Dan Mullen’s team has recovered 7/10 opponent fumbles and 7/9 of their own fumbles. His team benefitted in a narrow 30-24 win at Troy. The Bulldogs recovered a punt return fumble in Troy territory that set up a short touchdown drive. Troy also fumbled away probable points on 1st and 10 from the Mississippi State 30. Either of those going the other way might have affected the outcome.
Louisiana Tech [21/29] The Bulldogs have recovered 10/14 opponent fumbles and 11/15 of their own fumbles, helpful for a team playing a number of close games. Sonny Dykes’ team recovered two fumbles in Houston’s zone that led to short touchdown drives in a 56-49 win. Their win over Illinois was padded by recovering 7/10 fumbles (including all five on defense). They also recovered two of their own fumbles in a 44-38 Virginia win.
Ohio [12/17] The Bobcats have been winning narrow games against bad teams. Fumbles aren’t the only luck they have received, but recovering 11 of 14 opponent fumbles has contributed. They were helped out in the Penn State game by negating a 67-yard-opening drive recovering a fumble. They also recovered 3/4 fumbles including one that set up a 14-yard touchdown in a 38-31 win over lowly Buffalo.
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