Home-Field Advantage, what is it worth?
[Ed.: Instead of throwing my internet connection through a window I'm going to bump this Mathlete post. Thank you for your UFR-related patience. Also argh.]
In honor of Michigan’s final home game of the 2010 season, I decided to look a little deeper at the true value that home field holds.
The generally accepted value is that home field is worth about 3 points. Over the last 7 years that value has held fairly true. The average from 2004 to 2010 has been a 2.8 point per game advantage for the home team. 2004 and 2007 were big years for the home teams, with the home teams holding a 3.5 points per game advantage whereas in all other years the number was closer to 2.5 points per game.*
*All point references in this article are based on my PAN metric and are opponent adjusted, exclude games against FCS opponents and exclude garbage time situations.
Home field advantage is one of those things it is very difficult to pin point from game to game but it’s effects are very present over the broader scope. That isn’t to say however that there aren’t differences between how the effect plays out for different teams or even conferences.
Big House Advantage
Last year saw the Wolverines have their biggest disparity between home and road performance at nearly a touchdown per game. Most of the last several years have been between 1 and 2 points per game, less than the national average.
Michigan has seen more advantage come from the defense than the offense.
Although the overall level of home field advantage has been lower at Michigan than other places, the general splits are roughly in line. Teams tend to get a slightly bigger advantage from the defense than the offense and Michigan is near the middle of the pack in special teams and penalty disparity.
From 2004 to 2010 the WAC and Conf USA teams saw the biggest difference between the performance at home and the performance on the road. The Big East, MAC and even the liquored up SEC fans saw the lowest difference between home and road results, all coming in at less than 2 points per game over the last seven years.
For individual teams, home field has meant big things for some teams and been a disadvantage for a few. The lures of Hawaii and Las Vegas are perhaps too much for opponents as the Warriors and the Rebels lead the nation in home field advantage at more than double the national average. Bob Stoops at Oklahoma has come under fire for his road performance and rightfully so. This year the Sooners are fourth in home/road splits and they are third over the last seven years.
In The Big Ten
Since home field advantage isn’t necessarily about how well teams play at home but about how much better a team plays at home versus on the road, sometimes some unlikely teams pop to the top of the list. Iowa tops the list at over 4 points per game but Indiana and Purdue are in the top half of the spread. Michigan is one of the lowest in the Big Ten at less than 2 points per game. South Bend certainly wasn’t a decided locational advantage - the Fighting Irish are one of only five teams to average better performances on the road than at home over the last seven years.
What does it all mean
There is obviously an advantage to playing at home that affects all facets of the game. It is very difficult to pinpoint where the advantage is in any specific game but over a large set of games the advantages really start to show. Even though only five teams were worse at home than on the road over the last seven years, 102 out of 120 teams had at least one season where their road scores were higher than their home scores.