Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Las Vegas oddsmakers typically assign three points to represent the value of home field advantage when making their college and pro football lines. I think that’s a big mistake. You can pick up free points all weekend, and all season long by recognizing when home field advantage is worth more, or less than three points.
One of the fundamental themes of my College of Advanced Handicapping is you can beat the line by outworking the linesmakers. If they take shortcuts, you’ll find value that will pay off over the long haul by digging deeper to get to the bottom of things. This is certainly the case when we’re talking about home field value.
Sometimes, home field is worth a lot more than three points:
*If a boisterous home crowd will be able to rattle a shaky visiting quarterback…then home field can be worth as much as 6-7 points in the colleges…and even 4-5 points in pro football in some domes or loud outdoor stadiums. You’d think professional quarterbacks and offenses would be immune to this. Detroit caused a few penalties from Chicago this past Monday Night in a game the home team covered. Even veterans can get flustered. Rookie NFL quarterbacks and first year college starters are particularly vulnerable to this.
*If the home stadium has a unique environment…perhaps the home site is at altitude and the visitor normally plays at sea level…perhaps the field has a high crown in the middle that makes it hard to throw sideline passes for those unaccustomed to that challenge…perhaps a grass field has very tall grass that slows down opposing speed (something Notre Dame’s been using to great effect for decades!)…home field value can double in an individual college game.
Sometimes, home field has little value at all:
*In conference games, coaching staffs and players are familiar enough with all the opposing stadiums that there are few surprises. Even if a new quarterback is unfamiliar with a crown on the field, or might be vulnerable to intimidation…a smart coaching staff will be able to prepare him because they’ve been to that stadium before. Conference visitors (underdogs and favorites) all over the nation often offer up percentage value over a large sampling of games simply because home field is probably worth 1.5 or 2 points in many cases.
*Schools that don’t draw well often have negligible home field advantages because there’s little motivation for them to play inspired ball…and there’s nothing to intimidate visitors. There have been games where I penciled in a home field advantage of zero just because the locale was irrelevant. It might as well have been a neutral site game given the lack of a fired up home crowd.
*College powers loaded with veterans are often immune to road issues. Nothing is going to phase them. Team maturity is a very important factor to consider when handicapping any college game. This is why it’s so important…veteran teams can literally erase an opponent’s home field advantage because they won’t be intimidated and they won’t lose focus.
Hopefully you’ve been able to deduce that TRUE home field advantage is a combination of factors. The locale is important (particularly at altitude or in a challenging climate). The intensity (or lack thereof) of the crowd is important. The composition of the home team is important. The composition of the road team is possibly the single most important factor.
Does anyone want to tell me that “three points in every game” is the right way to handle that?! Give me a break!
I hope you’ll consider home field advantage in a new light this weekend as you handicap all the college and pro games. I’ll be releasing my 200-unit College Blowout of the Year Saturday morning. A play that big has a lot of edges going for it. A misread of home field value from oddsmakers is certainly part of the equation in that game, I can assure you. My top NFL play on Sunday will also benefit from a true understanding of home field advantage.
Thanks for attending today’s presentation from the College of Advanced Handicapping. I’ll be back early next week to discuss an element of college and pro football handicapping that’s very important. I look forward to seeing you again at that time. Be sure to check for fresh videos this weekend on the home page of this website for the very latest developments from my personal service.