Tuesday, September 27, 2005
O-VER-RA-TED: LSU AS "ONE OF THE TOUGHEST PLACES TO PLAY"
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At the outset of last night's LSU-Tennessee contest, fraidy-cat announcer Bob Davie (over the course of the game, Davie's thoughts were always worst-case and called for extreme conservatism or excessive concern to routine detail: "You have to kick the field goal here," "They need to make sure they secure a good quarterback-center exchange on this play," "The last thing the Vols want here is a turnover, Ron," "They need to just run out the clock and get to overtime," etc.) was not afraid to proclaim that LSU, in his opinion, had "the best home field advantage in all of college football." He is certainly not alone in his opinion - "Death Valley on a Saturday Night" is often cited with tones of awe designed to strike terror in the heart of opposing teams. And Tiger fans last night were, as usual, loud and proud.
Here is a breakdown of LSU's SEC record (SMQ does not include the Tulanes and North Texases that serve as annual, record-inflating Tiger Stadium bait) since 1998 (numbers on the left are home records, road/neutral records on the right):
Adding the 2001 home loss to UAB, that's 18-12 in Baton Rouge: 66 percent. Twice in that span - 2001 and 2003, the Tigers' two league championship seasons - LSU was better away from Death Valley. In his five-year tenure (2000-2004), Tiger Stadium was worth exactly two more wins (16) to Nick Saban than other SEC venues (14). This constitutes "the best home field advantage" in the country, or even one of the best?
In that same span, without even leaving the league, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas all have better home SEC records than LSU; Auburn and Alabama are each but one game back of the Tigers.
But we're also talking about home field advantage, "to afford profit or gain to; benefit." That is, which team benefits the most from playing at home? Since most games would probably have been won by the same team regardless of where they were played, there is no actual benefit to playing at home, i.e. LSU is tough at home because LSU is just tough, period, and will beat Mississippi State no matter where they play. So SMQ looked at not only the straight home records in SEC games since 1998, but also the road records to determine which team had the greatest discrepancy between home winning percentage and road winning percentage, thereby deriving the greatest benefit from playing at home (remember, only SEC games, no Florida States, Miamis, Georgia Techs, Clemsons or Notre Dames included; this year's early games are included):
Georgia: Home, 22-5; Road/Neutral, 21-13
Mississippi State: Home, 16-13; Road/Neutral, 5-25
Arkansas: Home, 19-10; Road/Neutral, 10-20
Florida: Home, 20-6; Road/Neutral, 26-8
LSU: Home, 18-11; Road/Neutral, 15-15
Ole Miss: Home, 16-12; Road/Neutral, 13-16
Alabama: Home, 17-12; Road/Neutral, 15-15
Tennessee: Home, 22-6; Road/Neutral, 24-9
Kentucky: Home, 8-20; Road/Neutral, 6-23
South Carolina: Home, 10-19; Road/Neutral, 9-20
Vanderbilt: Home, 4-25; Road/Neutral, 4-25
Auburn: Home, 17-12; Road/Neutral, 18-12
So the Bulldogs are the best, but remember that they benefit in this analysis from playing Florida at a neutral site each year; chalk up two or three more losses from the 'road/neutral' column into the home column if the Gators came to Athens every other year. The teams that you really don't want to see the "at" in front of on the schedule are Arkansas and Mississippi State, though the Bulldogs are near the top mainly because of their monumental road struggles (one SEC win away from Starkville - at Kentucky in 2000 - this decade). SMQ concludes that while Florida is probably the SEC school he would least want to visit as an opponent, the best home field advantage, in the true sense of the word, really goes to the Hogs. He doubts, though, that Mr. Davie, nor any other CFB announcing guru, will ever give 53,727-seat War Memorial Stadium the pre-game distinction of "one of the toughest places to play."
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The only thing scary about Death Valley on a Saturday Night is the amount of drinking until you puke and throw bottles at buses that goes on from 9AM until kickoff and beyond...