Monday, February 21, 2011

A Little About Homefield Advantage

While writing the Big 12 Compendium a few weeks ago, I was curious to find out how homefield advantage manifested itself in each conference. Since the conference landscape will profoundly shift in the fall of 2011 with, among other things, the Pac-10 adding two teams, the Big 12 losing two teams, and the Big 10 gaining one team, I decided to look back and analyze homefield advantage since the last seismic conference shift prior to the 2005 season. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, there have only been two minor alterations in conference alignment, with both occurring at the mid-major level. Temple joined the MAC in 2007 and Western Kentucky joined the Sun Belt in 2009 (they technically played an abbreviated league slate in 2008, but since they only played five of the other eight teams, I am disregarding that). Otherwise, each conference has been stable for the past six seasons.

With that out of the way, here is the cumulative home record for each conference since 2005 (includes conference games only).The Big 12 has enjoyed the most significant homefield advantage with its member schools winning roughly 60% of the time at home in league play. Homefield has mattered the least in the MAC with the home team winning just barely more than half the time in league play. In the aggregate, the home team has won on average about 56% of the time in conference play since 2005 (the All Conferences number).

The bigger question I wanted to answer when examining homefield advantage was which teams showed the biggest difference in their home and road performance. This analysis did not consider neutral site games, so the annual clashes such as Florida/Georgia in Jacksonville and Oklahoma/Texas in Dallas as well as any other neutral conference game were not included. So which teams had the largest difference in their home versus road conference winning percentage? The number one team will certainly surprise you.The Red Wolves from Arkansas State are one of the more formidable home teams in the country when facing their conference brethren. They are second to Troy in overall home record in Sun Belt play, sporting a 17-5 mark since 2005. However, away from Jonesboro, the Red Wolves are much more tame, posting just a 6-16 mark in Sun Belt road games. That is the worst road record among Sun Belt schools that have been members since 2005. Only Western Kentucky has been (slightly) worse on the road, with two wins in eight road games since coming aboard in 2009. While UTEP has been solid at home in Conference USA (their 15-9 mark is tied for fifth best), they have been the second worst road team, winning just four times in 23 games. Marshall has also struggled on the road in Conference USA. They have the same home mark as UTEP, and are just one game better on the road (5-18). In the Big East, Connecticut has the second best home record at 14-7, but is tied with Syracuse for the worst road mark at 5-16. In the MAC, Temple has dominated their conference opponents at home, going a league best 13-3 at Lincoln Financial Field. By contrast, the other ornithological tenants of the Linc (the Philadelphia Eagles) are just 10-6 in their last 16 home games. The Owls are more nocturnal on the road, posting just a 7-9 mark since joining the MAC. Three Big 12 teams are bunched rather closely together on this list. Colorado is decent at home (13-11), but just 4-20 on the road, including just 2-18 under the recently recently fired Dan Hawkins. The Buffs have lost 13 straight Big 12 road games, with their last win coming against Texas Tech in October of 2007. Oklahoma is a little difference case, as they are unbeaten in Norman (21-0), but a more human 13-7 on the road. Like Colorado, Kansas State has been respectable at home (12-11), but putrid on the road (4-19). Out west, the Bruins from UCLA have posted a solid home mark (17-10), including four wins over top-10 teams (Cal twice, Oregon, and Southern Cal), but are just 7-19 away from the Rose Bowl. UNLV has not been very good in any venue, but they have managed nine home conference wins since 2005. Away from Sin City, the Rebels have won just once since in 24 league games. Wisconsin is second only to Ohio State in terms of home Big 10 record (20-4). However, on the road the Badgers are just 12-12.

While Jonesboro, Arkansas may not be the most difficult place to win (I would say Boise, Norman, Fort Worth, or Columbus are the most arduous venues for visitors) it has conferred a significant advantage to Arkansas State when compared to the team's road performance.

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