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Debunking the Myth of College Football's Home-Field Edge

BabyTateSenior Writer IAugust 14, 2009

As surely as the dog days of summer slowly crawl toward September, a new college football season will soon be upon fans throughout the nation.

Many of these excited followers will point to the "big game" their team has in the bag because of home-field advantage.

Last season Penn State visited Ohio State, Alabama traveled to Georgia, and Boise State went to Oregon.

All three games featured comparatively equal squads, but followers of the home teams felt they had a definite advantage.

The hometown supporters roared before and during the games. There would be no turning back; this was their time to win. 

All three home teams lost.

People who make wagers for a living have stated the home-field advantage is a device used to extract money from the uninformed. It exists only in the mind of the believer.

Sports magazines describe how home-field advantage is worth three to seven points in college football.

If so, there must be a disparity between the teams with the best home-field advantage and how they play on the road.

A review of the past 10 seasons reveals a far different conclusion than some may have realized.

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Submitted for your approval, the home and away records of the following programs from 1999 to 2008. Neutral sites are treated as road games.

   HOME TEAM                     WINS AND LOSSES       PERCENTAGE

1. Boise State                       64-2                             .970

2. Oklahoma                         60-2                              .968

3. Texas                              55-7                              .887

4. Texas Christian                  51-7                              .879

5. Ohio State                        59-10                             .856

6. Southern California             51-10                             .836

7. Florida                              53-11                             .828

8. Texas Tech                       51-11                             .823

9. Nebraska                           58-13                            .817

10. LSU                                57-14                             .803

11. Michigan                          53-14                             .791

ROAD TEAM                         WINS AND LOSSES            PERCENTAGE

1. Texas                                 51-16                            .761

2. Southern California               48-18                            .727

3. Georgia                               46-18                            .719

4. Boise State                          44-18                            .709

5. Oklahoma                             49-22                           .690

6. Ohio State                           38-19                            .667

7. Miami                                  41-22                            .651

8. Florida                                 43-22                            .662

9. Virginia Tech                         41-21                            .661

10. Texas Christian (Tie)             40-22                            .645

10. Utah (Tie)                           40-22                            .645

Comparing teams with the 11 best winning records at home with schools having the 11 best records on the road demonstrates little difference between the success of top teams, regardless of venue.

The Broncos of Boise State have the best home record and are a solid fourth in winning away from home.

Texas is third at home and first on the road.

Powerful Southern California is sixth at home but an astonishing second on the road.

Dependable Ohio State is just that, the fifth best at home while sixth best on the road.

Florida actually goes one step further. The Gators have the seventh best record at home and away.

And the fearsome Georgia Bulldogs must be given the mantle of true road warriors by virtue of having the third best record away from home while not making the list of the best home-field programs.

In short, the best teams are the best teams, regardless of where they play.

If the home-field advantage does exist, is it similar to a firefly in the summer night?

Does it dart about, shining its glow on certain places while leaving others only in shadows?

Perhaps it exists on certain days, in particular places, for the benefit of a mysterious and ever-changing entity known as "momentum."

Whatever the case, here is a sincere hope that when it is time for the home-field advantage to appear in a contest, it arrives in the very biggest game. 

It would be a shame to waste all of that good fortune when it is least needed. 

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