Thursday, August 24, 2006
STILL OVERRATED: LSU'S TIGER STADIUM AS "BEST HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE"
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Kyle at Dawg Sports reports the results of his site's latest poll, gauging responders' opinion of which SEC team's on-campus stadium affords the greatest home field advantage. The winner, not surprisingly, was the much-hyped "Death Valley," LSU's Tiger Stadium. Florida's Ben Hill Griffin comes in second, Georgia's Sanford Stadium third. Sites of numerous atrocities at Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State are not listed and, therefore - along with Vaught-Hemingway at Ole Miss, which was listed - received no votes as the stadium bestowing the greatest advantage upon its team.
SMQ has addressed the issue of homefield advantage in the SEC before, specifically targeting the notion of LSU as one of the toughest places to play after statements to such effect by Bob Davie prior to the Tigers' home collapse against Tennessee last September, and found the evidence in its favor lacking. Tiger Stadium is, indeed, a tough place to play, but this is primarily due to the fact LSU is tough to play anywhere, period; the relative advantage of playing in Baton Rouge, as opposed to an opponents' home or a neutral site, is nothing to sneeze at, as shown below, but, as also demonstrated, is not an outsized advantage in any sense, even in the SEC.
These numbers are updated from last year's exercise, and again for fairness and simplicity's sake include only SEC games, so results against Florida States, Clemsons or Georgia Techs are not reflected.
Home Records in SEC Games Since 1998
1. Georgia: 23-6 (.793)
2. Florida: 22-6 (.786)
3. Tennessee: 23-9 (.719)
4. LSU: Home, 21-11 (.656)
T5. Auburn: Home, 20-12 (.625)
T5. Arkansas: Home, 20-12 (.625)
7. Alabama: Home, 19-13 (.594)
T8. Mississippi State: Home, 17-15 (.531)
T8. Ole Miss: Home, 17-15 (.531)
10. South Carolina: Home, 13-19 (.406)
11. Kentucky: Home, 9-23 (.281)
12. Vanderbilt: Home, 4-28 (.125)
This is a tad misleading, as Georgia's string of futility against Florida, entirely on neutral ground, doesn't reflect on its record at Sanford Stadium. And, again, the best teams are going to have the best records regardless of where they play. The top home teams, not surprisingly, are also the top road teams:
Road/Neutral Records in SEC Games since 1998
1. Tennessee: 25-10 (.714)
2. Florida: 27-11 (.711)
3. Georgia: 24-14 (.641)
4. Auburn: 21-13 (.618)
5. LSU: 19-16 (.543)
6. Alabama: 17-16 (.515)
7. Ole Miss: 13-19 (.406)
8. South Carolina: 11-21 (.344)
9. Arkansas: 11-22 (.333)
10. Kentucky: 7-25 (.219)
11. Vanderbilt: 5-27 (.156)
12. Mississippi State: 5-28 (.152)
If we're talking advantage ("to benefit; gain; profit"), though, we have to find the benefit each program has gained from being at home. Every team in the SEC but one, Vanderbilt, has a "home field advantage" in the sense it's home winning percentage is better than it's road winning percentage. The "advantage" of playing at home, then, as opposed to anywhere else, can be judged by comparing the above records and measuring the difference:
Advantage of Home Record vs. Road Record in SEC Games Since 1998
1. Mississippi State: +.381
2. Arkansas: +.292
3. Georgia: +.152
4. Ole Miss: +.125
5. LSU: +.113
6. Alabama: +.079
7. Florida: +.075
T8. South Carolina: +.062
T8. Kentucky: +.062
10. Auburn: +.007
11. Tennessee: +.005
12. Vanderbilt: -.031
Tennessee's stadium holds more people than those of Arkansas and Mississippi State combined, yet the Razorbacks and Bulldogs, abysmal road teams by any standard, recently are gaining significantly more from playing in friendly confines. Nobody will ever fear visiting Scott Field, where State was 1-3 in-conference last year, and it wasn't even on Kyle's list, but 38 percent is a huge advantage; apparently, over the past eight years of SEC play, the rickety old place has meant more to its team than any other stadium in the conference. It was, after all, the site of the league's most inexplicable upset of the past decade, when the totally ineptBulldogs knocked off Florida there in 2004. On the road, State is about as hopeless as possible, but at home, they're elevated to "average," which is a big jump.
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The real "Death Valley"?
Note: this does not mean it's the "toughest place to play" (that distinction, in SMQ's mind, would go to Florida's Swamp), because when you finish 1-7, and the one win is at home, that represents a very large 25 percent advantage without making the place a "tough" one to visit. Still, though, it's an advantage; compared to MSU's performance on the road and at neutral sites, opponents fare worse travelling to Starkville than to any other league venue.
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I'm not sure there is one stat that could prove this. However it seems if you could figure out the percentage at which a home teams pulls out an upset, it would seem to indicate their ability to play above their abillities at home. I guess. But really it's just a matter of people going off of personal experience.
I imagine the Swamp and Death Valley always get rated high in this category based soley off of having cool names.
I applied this methodology to the college football conferences following the 2004/2005 season and came to the following conclusions:
I should finish up the 2005/2006 analysis by this weekend.
Look at Miami. They almost always play before a half-empty Orange Bowl unless Florida State is in town, and yet they have the national record for the longest home winning streak. Is that because the Orange Bowl is a brutal place to play, or because from the late 80s to the early 90s Miami had stacked teams that beat just about EVERYBODY they played?
LSU is unquestionably louder at night, nixforsix is definitely right there. Afternoon games just don't have the same pop (or the same level of intoxication).
At the end of the day, go ask any player that has been to a game there, and they'll gladly tell you that Tiger Stadium is among the loudest places they have ever been to. Players at Auburn and Alabama and anybody else who consistently plays LSU at night will tell you.
Florida and LSU haven't played a night game in Baton Rouge since 1997, and go ask Doug Johnson if he thought the Valley was shaking that night.
Back in the 70s and 80s when USC and LSU had a couple of series, multiple Trojans (including Anthony Munoz) remarked that going to Baton Rouge was a lot tougher than even Notre Dame.
Not to nitpick, but this is way off. MissState's holds somewhere in the neighborhood of 55K, and UofA's holds upwards of 75K. Neyland crams in a lot of folks, but not 130K. More like 105K, I believe.
So the bit about Neyland Stadium being able to encompass both, while not that far off, was definitely wrong.