The gauntlet was thrown down regarding home field advantage in an earlier thread, so as promised, I've run the numbers regarding the home field. First things first, I only counted conference games. This is to try and at least make some attempt to normalize the schedules because let's face it, I don't want to reward teams for playing and beating Louisiana Tech (no offense, Bulldogs fans).
This did lead to one problem. While every team in the SEC plays an eight game schedule, Florida and Georgia play a neutral site game every year you might have heard of. It's not a big deal, but essentially Florida and Georgia lose a home game every other year. Also, Arkansas essentially has two home stadiums and I count games in Little Rock as home games for the Hogs, same with Birmingham and Alabama. I also wanted to take a bit of a long view, so I took the last ten years of games. Here are each SEC team's home wins over the past ten seasons:
Ole Miss 18
Mississippi St 17
South Carolina 16
Hey, Geaux Tigers! But this really doesn't tell us a whole bunch other than LSU and Florida have been really good over the past ten years. So, while LSU can argue it has the best homefield advantage based on total wins, it's not an argument I'm comfortable making. Good teams win a lot of games, home or road. The real advantage is how a team plays at home compared to on the road.
This has the advantage of seeing how a team plays at home without giving an advantage to teams that are simply really good on home and on the road. We're looking to see if there is a home field advantage, not who are the best teams in the SEC. The advantage I'm looking for is how many wins is home field worth? So, I compared home wins to road wins over the past ten years. The list then looks completely different than the one above.
Mississippi St +11
Ole Miss +3
South Carolina 0
Now we're talking! That is some fun results, and nothing like anyone expected. Mississippi St is the toughest homefield in the SEC? Because I know how we always tremble in fear of that biannual trip to Starkville. Well, LSU is the wrong team to ask given our total domination of Mississippi State over the past twenty years, but ask Florida about going to Stark Vegas.
But a lot of this is how terrible Mississippi State has been on the road. The Bulldogs went five years without winning an SEC road game and have won a grand total of 6 games in 10 years on the road. But even when Mississippi State was good (remember those days?), the Bulldogs won a game more at home than on the road each season. Still, I don't want to reward a team for simply being awful on the road. No team has won less games on the road in the SEC over the past ten years than Mississippi State, not even Vanderbilt. That's more of a road field disadvantage.
So, in order to get what we were looking for in the first place, I combined the two lists. I took a team's total home wins over the past ten years and then added their margin of home wins over road wins. This gets a team who wins a lot but also wins a lot in comparison to winning on the road. Here is the adjusted list:
Mississippi State 28
Ole Miss 21
South Carolina 16
The loving cofines of Death Valley rank #1 again, as LSU does well on both lists: total wins and margin of home wins to road wins. I think we can fairly call Tiger Stadium the toughest road trip in the SEC, not that going to the Swamp, or anywhere in the conference, is a cakewalk.
I'd like to point out just how many teams are clustered at the top of this list. Is there any real difference between Florida and Auburn? Not really. There is an advantage to playing at home, as almost all teams win slightly more at home than they do on the road, but the advantage is not as large as I thought it would be, to be honest. Only three schools (MSU, Arkansas, and LSU) have a homefield worth a half game or more per year than playing on the road. And of those three, only LSU ranks in the top half of the SEC in total home wins.
Which is why Death Valley lives up to its nickname.