Home sweet home field advantage

Aug 22, 2006 2:35 AM

Unlike human beings, all football stadiums were not created equal. Some college teams will have competitive advantages when playing at home.

Though attendance numbers are part of the equation, as well as the quality of the home team that takes the field, the home field advantage is as much about intangibles as it is brute statistics.

For some reason, some visiting teams can never get comfortable, they can never find their stride or they can never seem to execute their plays.

For some reason, the nastiness of the crowd or atmosphere of the stadium wreaks havoc with the visitors.

Although not truly scientific, here are the top 10 college teams that have the best home field advantages. (Five-year won less record is followed by ATS (against the spread) records.)

1. Virginia Tech (27-7, 20-12 ATS): Lane Stadium in Blacksburg has an enclosed south end that amplifies crowd noise and renders audibles useless. Moreover, the Hokies campus is isolated, making visitors feel like they’re playing in the middle of Siberia. Frenzied fans coupled with the Hokies’ frenzied special teams and defense make playing a grueling experience.

2. Ohio State (31-4, 21-13-1 ATS): The famed Horseshoe features a double-deck design that keeps fans close to the field and amplifies their incessant yelling. Game days have it all ”¦ tailgate parties, the marching band, dotting the "i" and all the tradition that goes with it.

3. Florida (24-7, 14-16 ATS): Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as "The Swamp," hosts a team with the third best winning percentage in the nation. The crowd keeps up its end as the rowdiest, and if they can’t get to the visitors, the heat and humidity will.

4. LSU (29-5, 15-16 ATS): Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is, according to the great Paul "Bear" Bryant, "the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It’s like being inside a drum." Not only is Death Valley the loudest venue, when the Tigers play at night, it is the only game in town, attracting what seems like the entire city!

5. Oregon (23-9, 15-15 ATS): This could be the toughest venue on the West Coast as the fans are noisy, wild and obnoxious — everything you expect from the home crowd! The horrible artificial turf used to kill opponents, but the administration, at the request of the NCAA, replaced it a couple of years ago.

6. Boise State (31-2, 20-11 ATS): There is something eerie about the blue turf at Bronco Stadium. Visitors find their perspective, their equilibrium, if you will, turned completely upside down by the unsettling Astroturf. It helps that Boise unleashes an all-out aerial assault from the get-go, making playing from behind the order of the day.

7. Iowa (29-3, 25-5-1): The classic grass field at Kinnick Stadium appears welcoming, but visitors find that the dedicated home fielders, coupled with an enthusiastic and rabid crowd, produce a wave of energy that’s very difficult to overcome.

8. Florida State (24-6, 12-17 ATS): Though it may lack some of the heritage of other stadiums, Doak Campbell Stadium ranks at the top of the intimidation factor. It’s nearly frightening when 80,000 Seminoles go into their infamous war-chant. The result is the best 10-year home winning percentage.

9. USC (28-2, 19-11 ATS): There’s certainly nothing intimidating about the Los Angeles Coliseum, unless it’s the location amid the hood slums of Los Angeles. But the former Olympic venue has proved to be a field of nightmares for visiting teams.

10. Hawaii (31-10, 22-17 ATS): Aloha Stadium is as laid back as everything else in the Hawaiian Islands. And that’s usually the visitors’ downfall — it’s hard to take anything seriously when you’re in paradise. The autumn heat and humidity, as well as the bikini-clad girls on the beach, can take their toll on players from the mainland.

Honorable mention: Here are a few campuses that are not visitor friendly.

”¡ Auburn (28-6, 18-12 ATS)

”¡ Oklahoma (30-2, 14-18 ATS)

”¡ Wisconsin (23-11, 16-16-1 ATS)

”¡ Texas A&M (21-11, 13-16-1)

”¡ Penn State (23-11, 19-15 ATS)