What is the value of home field advantage in college football? It’s as pronounced at East Carolina as practically anywhere in the Football Bowl Subdivision and certainly appeared to be a factor in the Pirates’ 33-30 win over visiting N.C. State on Saturday.
In a study on the subject by Jimmy Boyd, the performance of teams in home and away conference games from 1989 to 2014 was computed. Boyd, who provides a service that advises those inclined to wager on games, said only conference games were used to avoid outliers (statistical abnormalities) that might be created by playing inferior nonconference opponents.
Boyd took the difference of each team’s home margin of victory and road margin of victory. He divided that number by two to get each team’s advantage at home over a neutral field. Some top programs were near the bottom in terms of home field advantage, but Boyd said that could be attributed to the fact that those teams play well on the road.
The Pirates were 67-44-1 at home in the games studied and were 53-67-0 on the road for the span.
“Home field advantage is not created equal,” Boyd stated.
ECU’s true edge at home of 5.39 points ranked fourth in the FBS. Hawaii, had the biggest index at 7.06, followed by Cincinnati (5.65) and Texas-El Paso (5.46).
You can check out the study here: https://www.boydsbets.com/college-football-home-field-advantage/
It’s probably safe to say that the crowd of 50,719, the second largest in stadium history, for the most recent meeting with the Wolfpack, created more of an advantage than the typical environment at Bagwell Field.
“The crowd was into the game, especially the last drive” said Quay Johnson, who had 13 catches for 75 yards. “The crowd helped us a lot, being loud and getting our energy up as well. It helped the defense a lot and the defense pulled it through.”
A 5-yard scoring run by Anthony Scott and conversion kick by Davis Plowman accounted for the final points of the game with 5:49 remaining. That completed a drive of 14 plays that covered 84 yards and took 7:15 off the clock.
The largest gathering at the Fick, 51,082, fueled a 70-41 win over North Carolina on Sept. 20, 2014. ECU’s top five home crowds have been for ACC opponents.
The high point for the Pirates in 2015 was a 35-28 win over Virginia Tech before 50,514 on Sept. 26, a game in which James Summers ran for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
The emotional wins over ACC programs have sometimes given way to mediocrity later in the season. Last year, ECU went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference before a coaching change ensued.
Can the Pirates change the course of recent history?
“Last year was last year,” said Summers after carrying for scores of 27 and 15 yards against NCSU. “This was a huge win for us because it was today. The only thing we’re worried about is South Carolina because that’s next week.”
The Pirates (2-0) visit the Gamecocks (1-1) for a 4 p.m. start Saturday. ECU’s last trip to Columbia produced a 33-23 setback in 2014. The Pirates ventured into Southeastern Conference country in the second game in 2015 and were topped 31-24 by Florida.
One factor that will be in ECU’s favor compared to last year is quarterback play. Philip Nelson has a stronger arm and more experience than his predecessor, Blake Kemp. Summers has a better knowledge of the offense this season. He arrived during preseason camp a year ago and made the conversion to quarterback from receiver after starter Kurt Benkert, now at Virginia, went out for the season with a knee injury.
Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery said ECU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen will continue to refine Summers’ multi-position package going forward this season.
Senior outside linebacker Dayon Pratt led the Pirates with seven tackles, including six solo stops on Saturday. Pratt forced a fumble and had two tackles for losses, including an 8-yard sack.
“We feed off that energy,” Pratt said of the gathering, which wore purple and gold in alternate sections. “It’s all about energy. You can’t go out there, just lagging. You’ve got to have some kind of emotion. … That helped us win the game.”
Going on the road presents a different set of circumstances for ECU to deal with this week.
“We know we can’t slack off,” said Pratt, who credited the benefit of diligent preparation for the Wolfpack. “The more time we spend working, the better we’re going to be on that game day.”