Home Field Advantage (06/24/15)

By Paul Bessire and John Ewing @johnewing


Which teams have the best home field advantage in college football?

If you are a college football fan, then you probably have thought of a list of the loudest and toughest stadiums to play in on Saturdays in the fall. However, the true home field advantage for each program may surprise even the most diehard fans.

Home field advantage in college football is typically presumed to mean about three points for the hosting team. This means that if two teams are identical, neither team should be favored on a neutral field, while the home team would be favored by about three if they played at one of the team's stadium. This can lead to essentially a six point swing from one venue to the next. The truth is that some stadiums could actually mean up to six points, while some do not help much at all (the expected difference in the margin of victory between Arkansas and Wisconsin from one stadium to the next, for instance, could be around 12 points, while the location does not really matter when Central Michigan plays Bowling Green).

The chart below ranks every FBS college football team in order of the strength of its home field. Fans of teams from power conferences, like Florida State, TCU and Stanford, may be disappointed at their apparent lack of impact at home games. However, it's not necessarily a good thing to top this list.

The best teams should be closer to the bottom of the rankings than the top because they should dominate more consistently and not be subject to the large swings in performance from home to away like what is seen in other teams.

While traditionally elite FBS teams should not fare well in this exercise, the same can be said about teams that are traditionally really bad.

Where home field means most is with the next tier of teams - mostly BCS conference teams that can usually compete for conference titles, but do not have the depth to be consistent College Football Playoff contenders. That's when the value of home field matters most; when the talent is strong but not elite and players are more susceptible to the impact of crowd noise, tradition and atmosphere.

In the rankings below, it is also important to note that pace is a factor in determining a team's "true" home field advantage. For example, from a pure, raw points perspective, Baylor would be the top team in our rankings. When we standardize for the number of plays the Bears run compared to an average team, their relative home field advantage falls to sixth. Still, it is difficult to win or cover in McLane Stadium. The Bears are 24-1 against-the-spread in their last 25 home games spanning four seasons.

Note: All data goes back to 2000 and compares home performance to road performance relative to competition and expectations. In general, recent seasons are given more weight than seasons long ago, especially for programs that are newer to FBS football (Charlotte is not included at all since it has no FBS seasons). For teams that have new stadiums, seasons in new stadiums are given stronger consideration. The Home Field Advantage value in the charts is the expected advantage a team would gain for playing at home as compared to a neutral field against a totally average opponent if it played at a totally average pace (we use this to assess the impact of home field advantage on every play in a game).

Conference Rankings

Remember, being high on this list isn't necessarily a good thing. The ACC ranks last in home field advantage and the conference is anchored by Florida State, which has the lowest home field advantage in the nation (it's technically negative).

The Seminoles are consistent whether they are playing in Tallahassee or on the road. That dependable play has helped FSU win seven conference titles and a BCS National Championship since 2000.

Rank Conference Average Home Field Advantage
1 MWC 3.58
2 Big 12 3.36
3 C-USA 3.19
4 SEC 2.97
5 B1G 2.85
6 IND 2.77
7 PAC-12 2.70
8 American 2.54
9 MAC 2.43
10 Sun Belt 2.29
11 ACC 1.97

Home Field Advantage Rankings

Rank Team Standardized Home Field Advantage Conference
1 North Texas Green 5.94 C-USA
2 Wisconsin Badgers 5.77 B1G
3 Arkansas Razorbacks 5.66 SEC
4 Kansas Jayhawks 5.66 B12
5 Marshall Herd 5.20 C-USA
6 Baylor Bears 5.18 B12
7 Rice Owls 5.12 C-USA
8 Michigan Wolverines 4.99 B1G
9 Kansas State Wildcats 4.96 B12
10 Buffalo Bulls 4.74 MAC
11 UTEP Miners 4.48 C-USA
12 Oklahoma Sooners 4.39 B12
13 LSU Tigers 4.36 SEC
14 Hawaii Warriors 4.34 MWC
15 Air Force Falcons 4.13 MWC
16 Nevada Pack 4.11 MWC
17 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 3.98 C-USA
18 San Diego State Aztecs 3.96 MWC
19 Boise State Broncos 3.92 MWC
20 Colorado State Rams 3.90 MWC
21 UCLA Bruins 3.90 PAC-12
22 Minnesota Gophers 3.90 B1G
23 Arkansas State Wolves 3.88 SBC
24 Georgia Southern Eagles 3.85 SBC
25 New Mexico State Aggies 3.84 SBC
26 UNLV Rebels 3.79 MWC
27 Oklahoma State Cowboys 3.79 B12
28 Mississippi State Bulldogs 3.75 SEC
29 Houston Cougars 3.75 AAC
30 South Carolina Gamecocks 3.73 SEC
31 Florida Atlantic Owls 3.73 C-USA
32 Clemson Tigers 3.67 ACC
33 Toledo Rockets 3.61 MAC
34 San Jose State Spartans 3.61 MWC
35 Arizona State Devils 3.59 PAC-12
36 Army Knights 3.58 IND
37 USC Trojans 3.56 PAC-12
38 Fresno State Bulldogs 3.56 MWC
39 Indiana Hoosiers 3.52 B1G
40 Washington Huskies 3.28 PAC-12
41 Colorado Buffaloes 3.27 PAC-12
42 East Carolina Pirates 3.26 AAC
43 Connecticut Huskies 3.25 AAC
44 Tennessee Volunteers 3.23 SEC
45 New Mexico Lobos 3.23 MWC
46 Northern Illinois Huskies 3.22 MAC
47 Cincinnati Bearcats 3.21 AAC
48 Notre Dame Irish 3.16 IND
49 Iowa State Cyclones 3.15 B12
50 Boston College Eagles 3.13 ACC
51 Western Michigan Broncos 3.07 MAC
52 Miami (FL) Hurricanes 3.05 ACC
53 Ole Miss Rebels 3.02 SEC
54 Georgia Bulldogs 3.02 SEC
55 California Bears 3.00 PAC-12
56 Virginia Cavaliers 2.97 ACC
57 Troy Trojans 2.95 SBC
58 Auburn Tigers 2.94 SEC
59 Ohio Bobcats 2.90 MAC
60 Iowa Hawkeyes 2.84 B1G
61 Alabama Tide 2.83 SEC
62 Penn State Lions 2.82 B1G
63 Eastern Michigan Eagles 2.81 MAC
64 Middle Tennessee Raiders 2.80 C-USA
65 Southern Methodist Mustangs 2.79 AAC
66 Tulane Wave 2.79 AAC
67 Texas State Bobcats 2.75 SBC
68 UCF Knights 2.74 AAC
69 Oregon Ducks 2.74 PAC
70 Rutgers Knights 2.69 B1G
71 Kentucky Wildcats 2.69 SEC
72 Illinois Illini 2.68 B1G
73 Temple Owls 2.66 AAC
74 Wake Forest Deacons 2.63 ACC
75 Arizona Wildcats 2.62 PAC
76 Tulsa Hurricane 2.55 AAC
77 North Carolina Tar Heels 2.52 ACC
78 Texas A&M Aggies 2.50 SEC
79 South Alabama 2.47 SBC
80 Old Dominion Monarchs 2.42 C-USA
81 Appalachian State Mountaineers 2.40 SBC
82 Miami (OH) Redhawks 2.39 MAC
83 Akron Zips 2.38 MAC
84 Ohio State Buckeyes 2.37 B1G
85 Texas Tech Raiders 2.36 B12
86 Ball State Cardinals 2.29 MAC
87 Oregon State Beavers 2.24 PAC-12
88 Idaho Vandals 2.20 SBC
89 Maryland Terrapins 2.18 B1G
90 North Carolina State Wolfpack 2.17 ACC
91 Michigan State Spartans 2.16 B1G
92 Georgia Tech Jackets 2.16 ACC
93 Utah State Aggies 2.12 MWC
94 Florida Gators 2.12 SEC
95 Purdue Boilermakers 2.09 B1G
96 Missouri Tigers 2.07 SEC
97 Wyoming Cowboys 2.05 MWC
98 West Virginia Mountaineers 2.02 B12
99 UTSA Roadrunners 1.96 C-USA
100 Pittsburgh Panthers 1.94 ACC
101 Massachusetts Minutemen 1.93 MAC
102 Stanford Cardinal 1.92 PAC-12
103 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 1.86 C-USA
104 Kent State Flashes 1.77 MAC
105 Brigham Young Cougars 1.74 IND
106 Navy Midshipmen 1.66 AAC
107 Nebraska Cornhuskers 1.60 B1G
108 Georgia State Panthers 1.60 SBC
109 Syracuse Orange 1.56 ACC
110 TCU Frogs 1.48 B12
111 Louisville Cardinals 1.40 ACC
112 Washington State Cougars 1.22 PAC-12
113 Utah Utes 1.00 PAC-12
114 Memphis Tigers 0.85 AAC
115 Northwestern Wildcats 0.84 B1G
116 South Florida Bulls 0.81 AAC
117 Duke Devils 0.73 ACC
118 Southern Miss Eagles 0.69 C-USA
119 Texas Longhorns 0.51 B12
120 Virginia Tech Hokies 0.41 ACC
121 Central Michigan 0.37 MAC
122 Florida International Panthers 0.29 C-USA
123 Bowling Green Falcons 0.23 MAC
124 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (0.27) SBC
125 Vanderbilt Commodores (0.41) SEC
126 Louisiana-Lafayette Cajuns (0.57) SBC
127 Florida State Seminoles (0.72) ACC