NORMAN — Oklahoma has the No. 1 home-field advantage in college football, according to new research by PredictionMachine.com.
But, Sooner fans, before you get too excited, know that topping this list isn't necessarily meant to be a badge of honor.
Out of 120 FBS teams, defending national champion Alabama ranks 106th and LSU is 108th.
The rankings indicate the Sooners play much, much better at home than they do on the road, which is why teams like Alabama and LSU come in so low.
“Teams that are consistent national championship contenders should not be as susceptible to playing much better at home than on the road,” said Paul Bessire, the website's general manager. “If fans can accept the fact that Oklahoma is in the next tier of teams that is not consistently elite, but really good and reliant on a strong home-field advantage to maximize its talent, then it is should be a compliment to see the ranking that high.”
The analysis reviewed every FBS team's performance at home and on the road from 2000-2011, relative to what would be expected based on 50,000 simulations of each game on a neutral field.
Bessire said the reason OU tops the home-field advantage list is because there are several instances between 2000 and 2011 where the Sooners dominated games in Norman that should have been closer, and either lost or barely squeaked by on the road in games when they were, on paper, far superior.
“Where home field means most is with the next tier of teams behind the absolute elite — mostly BCS conference teams that can usually compete for conference titles, but who do not have four-star recruits filling the two-deep and are not always legitimate BCS Championship contenders,” Bessire said. “That's when the raw 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.”
Teams that are most likely to be unbeaten or winless tend to be at the bottom of the list, because they're either really good or really bad no matter where they play, Bessire said, adding that the three teams on his list that surprised him the most were Notre Dame (105), Florida State (119) and OU.
“Notre Dame and Florida State are teams that are wildly inconsistent no matter where they play, which pushed them to the bottom,” Bessire said.
“OU, on the other hand, has seemed to be among the nation's elite over that 12-season span. Diving deeper into the numbers, the team often finds ways to narrowly win road games it should dominate and run up the score in games it dominates at home.”
Here are the top 10 college football home-field advantages, according to PredictionMachine.com's rankings, along with some other programs of note.
Top 10: 1. Oklahoma; 2. Wisconsin; 3. UCLA; 4. Missouri; 5. Nevada; 6. Arkansas State; 7. Houston; 8. Hawaii; 9. California; 10. Troy
Noteworthy: 14. Kansas; 17. Oklahoma State; 24. Texas Tech; 27. Kansas State; 60. Tulsa; 96. Florida; 100. Texas; 106. Alabama; 108. LSU; 111. West Virginia
What pushed OU to the top
Paul Bessire, general manager of PredictionMachine.com, pointed to a few specific games that helped push Oklahoma to the top of his list ranking college football home-field advantage.
2003 vs. OSU: The No. 1 Sooners beat the No. 14-ranked Cowboys 52-9.
2005 at UCLA: OU, ranked No. 21 at the time, lost 41-24 at the unranked Bruins.
2007 at Colorado: OU was No. 3 when it fell 27-24 at unranked Colorado.
2007 vs. Miami: The Sooners were ranked No. 5 and Miami was unranked, but OU still exceeded expectations in this 51-13 rout.
2008 vs. Cincinnati: No. 4 OU blasted Cincinnati 52-26 in Norman.
2008 vs. TCU: No. 2 OU easily handled No. 24 TCU 35-10 at home.
2008 vs. Texas Tech: The Sooners, ranked fifth, destroyed No. 2 Texas Tech 65-21 in Norman.
2010 at Texas A&M: OU, then ranked No. 11, lost 33-19 to the unranked Aggies.
2010 at Cincinnati: OU was ranked No. 8 early in the season when it narrowly defeated the unranked Bearcats 31-29.