The Real Value of Home Field (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Penn State)

UPDATE: The Penn State Nittany Lions And Your Day In The Sun is now up at the mothership.

The 2010 season for Penn State was mediocre no matter how you slice it. Joe Paterno did the rarest of rare things and started true freshman Rob Bolden at quarterback to begin the season, and after a decent month or so, he hit a rather predictable brick wall. In stepped Matt McGloin after Bolden suffered a mild concussion against Minnesota, and he boosted the Nittany Lions slightly above average but hit a wall himself in the Outback Bowl, a wall named "five interceptions."

In all, the offensive ebbs and flows are rather easy to spot.

Penn State Offense, First Four Games (with Bolden): 30.4 Adj. PPG
Penn State Offense, Next 2.5 Games (with Bolden): 19.1 Adj. PPG
Penn State Offense, Final 6.5 Games (with McGloin): 28.8 Adj. PPG

After barely seeing the field, even in the Outback Bowl, a frustrated Bolden attempted to transfer this offseason but was denied (JoePa is old-school enough to have only caught some hell for this and not a lot of hell), but now he's "a completely different guy" and is back aboard the JoePa train. He and McGloin will duke it out for the starting job this month, and honestly, one probably shouldn't completely count out veteran Kevin Newsome or redshirt freshman Paul Jones (also a four-star 2010 recruit like Bolden) either. Four-way quarterback races are entertaining for a few days, but somebody will need to actually take the lead at some point. The smart money is probably on Bolden, but the money isn't that smart.

--------------------

Phil Steele recently released his "Homefield Edges," and it has been making the rounds. The list makes a certain amount of sense -- successful teams with loud (and preferably large) stadiums have the biggest advantage. That's the way it is supposed to work.

I thought it would be interesting to compare his list to what I produced a couple of years ago in one of my favorite Insider pieces. It was one of the strongest cases of my looking into the numbers expecting to see one thing, and seeing something completely different instead.

Think about the teams considered to have significant home-field advantages through the decades: Florida, LSU, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Ohio State. These teams' home stadiums are absolutely intimidating, and few teams win there. But how much of that is due to the stadium, and how much is due simply to the great teams playing there? Those teams have been great at home, but they have also been pretty stout on the road. And during down periods -- Florida under Ron Zook (7-5 in conference home games), Oklahoma under John Blake (3-8), Nebraska under Bill Callahan (10-6, plus just 3-2 under Bo Pelini) -- these teams' home stadiums weren't nearly as terrifying. What we consider great home-field advantage is, as much as anything, simply great teams playing at home.

In the end, you can really only compare a team's home results to its road results to determine an home-road split, but not home-field advantage. This split can be caused by underachieving on the road or overachieving at home, but there are certainly teams whose performance at home and on the road have varied significantly through the years.

The teams we generally refer to as the toughest to beat at home are, in most cases, the toughest to beat, period. The teams with notable "homefield edges," really, are the ones who are much more stout at home than on the road. The list I produced by comparing home and road results against common opponents gave us an almost counter-intuitive view of home-field advantage.

(Note: the numbers below -- Texas Tech's 7.6, for example -- are not the same as what I produced in the Insider piece. Since those numbers were looking at the combined home-road difference, I divided the ESPN numbers in half to get at how much home field matters compared to a neutral field, which is, I'm pretty sure, what Steele did too.)

Here is how BCS conference teams shaped up according to both Steele's estimates and mine. Non-BCS teams after the jump.

Team Homefield Edge
(Phil Steele)
Rk Homefield Edge
(Outsiders)
Rk Difference
Texas Tech 4.8 14 7.6 4 +2.9
Cincinnati 4.3 32 6.7 10 +2.5
Arizona State 4.3 32 6.5 11 +2.3
Penn State 5.3 6 6.4 13 +1.2
Connecticut 4.3 32 6.4 14 +2.1
Nebraska 4.8 14 6.2 15 +1.5
Indiana 3.0 89 5.8 17 +2.8
Oklahoma State 4.3 32 5.5 20 +1.2
Virginia 3.5 67 5.1 25 +1.6
Minnesota 3.0 89 5.0 27 +2.0
Florida 5.3 6 5.0 28 -0.3
Oklahoma 6.0 1 4.9 30 -1.1
Purdue 3.5 67 4.9 31 +1.4
UCLA 4.0 44 4.7 32 +0.7
Missouri 4.5 26 4.6 33 +0.1
Boston College 4.3 32 4.5 35 +0.3
Louisville 3.8 57 4.4 37 +0.7
Iowa State 3.8 57 4.4 40 +0.6
Syracuse 3.3 82 4.3 42 +1.0
Kansas 3.8 57 4.2 45 +0.4
Texas A&M 4.8 14 4.1 47 -0.6
Oregon State 4.8 14 4.1 48 -0.6
Miss State 3.8 57 3.9 52 +0.2
Iowa 5.0 12 3.7 56 -1.3
Ole Miss 3.8 57 3.6 57 -0.1
Michigan 4.3 32 3.5 61 -0.8
Rutgers 3.5 67 3.5 62 +0.0
Michigan State 4.3 32 3.5 63 -0.8
Baylor 3.0 89 3.4 65 +0.4
Kansas State 4.3 32 3.3 70 -0.9
Kentucky 3.8 57 3.3 71 -0.5
Wake Forest 3.5 67 3.3 72 -0.2
South Florida 4.0 44 3.1 73 -0.9
Stanford 4.3 32 3.0 74 -1.3
Illinois 3.5 67 2.9 75 -0.6
Colorado 4.0 44 2.9 76 -1.1
North Carolina 3.5 67 2.8 78 -0.7
Auburn 4.8 14 2.7 79 -2.0
Washington 3.5 67 2.7 80 -0.8
Clemson 4.5 26 2.6 81 -1.9
Ohio State 5.8 4 2.6 82 -3.2
Northwestern 3.3 82 2.6 83 -0.7
Wisconsin 5.3 6 2.5 85 -2.7
Miami 3.3 82 2.5 86 -0.8
USC 4.8 14 2.5 87 -2.3
Virginia Tech 5.8 4 2.4 89 -3.4
Georgia Tech 4.3 32 2.4 90 -1.9
Tennessee 4.5 26 2.3 91 -2.2
Maryland 3.8 57 2.3 92 -1.4
Florida State 4.3 32 2.3 93 -2.0
South Carolina 4.5 26 2.2 95 -2.3
Notre Dame 4.0 44 1.9 99 -2.2
California 4.8 14 1.8 100 -2.9
Vanderbilt 2.5 104 1.7 102 -0.8
Oregon 6.0 1 1.7 103 -4.3
Texas 4.8 14 1.5 105 -3.3
West Virginia 4.8 14 1.5 106 -3.3
Pittsburgh 4.0 44 1.4 107 -2.6
Arkansas 4.5 26 1.1 110 -3.4
Georgia 4.8 14 1.0 111 -3.8
Duke 2.3 113 0.6 114 -1.6
Alabama 5.3 6 0.6 115 -4.7
Washington State 2.3 113 0.4 116 -1.8
LSU 5.0 12 0.4 117 -4.6
Arizona 3.5 67 0.0 118 -3.5
N.C. State 4.0 44 0.0 120 -4.0

Looking at actual results really throws us for a loop. Teams like LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Oregon -- teams known for having loud, mostly huge (except in Oregon's case) home crowds -- have almost no "homefield edge" whatsoever because they are also likely to play quite well on the road. Meanwhile, a team like Texas Tech, located in the middle of Nowhere West Texas, tends to generate a true edge playing at home.

So this begs an important question: what really matters? Do loud home crowds really impact a game the way we assume? Since conference results were analyzed here (to guarantee adequate home-road splits), do we just assume that conference foes get used to places like Baton Rouge after a while? Would the impact be stronger in non-conference games? Anyway, food for thought for a hot Wednesday morning.

Team Homefield Edge
(Phil Steele)
Rk Homefield Edge
(Outsiders)
Rk Difference
Hawaii 5.3 6 10.1 1 4.9
Utah State 3.0 89 7.4 5 4.4
Marshall 3.5 67 7.8 3 4.3
Rice 2.8 99 6.8 9 4.0
Toledo 3.3 82 7.1 7 3.8
Arkansas State 3.5 67 7.3 6 3.8
Buffalo 2.5 104 6.0 16 3.5
Boise State 6.0 1 9.4 2 3.4
San Jose State 2.5 104 5.8 18 3.3
Tulsa 3.8 57 6.4 12 2.7
Wyoming 3.0 89 5.4 21 2.4
Western Kentucky 2.0 117 4.2 44 2.2
Akron 2.3 113 4.1 49 1.8
Florida International 2.5 104 4.3 41 1.8
Louisiana Tech 3.8 57 5.5 19 1.8
TCU 5.3 6 7.0 8 1.7
Tulane 2.0 117 3.7 53 1.7
Memphis 2.5 104 4.1 46 1.6
Middle Tennessee 3.5 67 5.0 26 1.5
UTEP 3.5 67 5.0 29 1.5
New Mexico State 2.0 117 3.4 66 1.4
East Carolina 3.8 57 5.1 24 1.4
SMU 3.0 89 4.2 43 1.2
Troy 4.0 44 5.2 22 1.2
Bowling Green 2.5 104 3.6 58 1.1
New Mexico 3.0 89 4.0 51 1.0
UNLV 2.8 99 3.7 54 0.9
Houston 4.3 32 5.2 23 0.9
Army 2.8 99 3.3 68 0.6
San Diego State 2.8 99 3.3 69 0.6
Eastern Michigan 1.5 120 2.0 96 0.5
Ohio 3.5 67 4.0 50 0.5
North Texas 3.0 89 3.4 64 0.4
Fresno State 4.0 44 4.4 38 0.4
Idaho 3.0 89 3.4 67 0.4
Central Florida 4.0 44 4.4 39 0.4
Central Michigan 3.5 67 3.6 60 0.1
Nevada 4.5 26 4.6 34 0.1
BYU 4.8 14 4.5 36 -0.3
Air Force 4.0 44 3.7 55 -0.3
Northern Illinois 4.0 44 3.6 59 -0.4
UAB 2.5 104 2.0 97 -0.5
Ball State 2.3 113 1.7 104 -0.6
Western Michigan 3.3 82 2.5 84 -0.7
Colorado State 3.3 82 2.4 88 -0.8
UL-Lafayette 2.5 104 1.4 108 -1.1
Temple 3.0 89 1.8 101 -1.2
Miami (Ohio) 2.8 99 1.2 109 -1.6
Southern Miss 4.0 44 2.3 94 -1.7
Utah 4.8 14 2.9 77 -1.9
Navy 4.0 44 1.9 98 -2.2
UL-Monroe 3.3 82 0.9 113 -2.3
Kent State 2.5 104 0.0 119 -2.5
Florida Atlantic 3.5 67 0.9 112 -2.6
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