Your Minnesota Golden Gophers football squad have been last on a LOT of preseason lists and rankings this year. And if not last, then almost last. Almost all I've agree with, but this one from Phil Steele (thanks to OTE for the link) made me say "wait whaaaat?" Steele ranked every D-1 football program for Home Field advantage, and the Gophers came out in an 11-way tie for 89th in the country with a 3 rating (6 was the highest). One of those schools was Indiana, making those two the worst two home-fields in the B1G. In no way, shape, or form is IU's home field better than Minnesota's. Neither is the usually half-empty Ryan Field for Northwestern (the only time it's full is when other schools fill it up), and I'd argue Purdue and Illinois aren't exactly hostile environments that I fear the Gophers going to play against.
The Gophers have a gorgeous, brand spankin' new stadium on the heart of campus with a view of downtown, and located right across the street from The Barn, and Don Lucia's Failure Palace. It's been sold out for every game in the first two seasons of its existence, something you cannot say about IU, Ryan Field, or some of the others.
So how can the Gophers' new home be ranked so low, not just in the B1G, but nation-wide? After all, while Minnesota wasn't ranked quite the worst (that would be poor Eastern Michigan), they might as well have been as there were only three other BCS conference schools further down the list: Vandy at 104, and Duke and Washington State at 113. Some of the schools included at 89 along with the U and IU were the following: Temple, Baylor, SMU, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah State, and North Texas. Not exactly a who's-who of college football programs. and Minnesota- by far- has the best college stadium and atmosphere of the bunch.
So again, how did they end up here? Let us count the ways, or at least, as Phil Steele counted them. Here's the very shortened explanation of how Steele came up with his rankings:
I have gotten many requests to do a blog to explain how I compute each teams home field edge in the magazine. I have 27 different factors in my computer’s grade of a team. I then compare the computer’s analysis to my own and make the final decision.
While I mention that there are 27 factors in my home field computer ratings, there are actually nine individual factors that I use each year and I then combine the grades for the last three years giving half of the grade to last year, 30% to the numbers from two years ago and 20% to the computer rankings from three years ago.
27? 27 factors? He actually has nine basic categories, which he uses to analyze a school during the 2010, 2009, and 2008 seasons to total 27. I don't have access (or, honestly the time) to go through nine categories for all three seaons, so let's play our own little game of "rank the home field advantage" for just the 2010 season with six of Steele's nine categories to get an idea of where the Gophers stand. We can rank them against four other B1G schools: Ilinois (tied for 67th on Steele's list), Purdue (ditto), Northwestern (tied for 82), and Indiana (89). Because I suck at math, instead of using Steele's formulas (which you can read about in depth at the link above) let's just give a simple 5-4-3-2-1 point system for each of the criteria we use, tally it up at the end, and see if we can get to the bottom of how Minnesota can have (tied for) the worst home field advantage in the Big Ten. Ok then...
1. STADIUM CAPACITY
(Purdue gets 5 points for having the biggest stadium) Purdue (Ross-Ade Stadium): 62,500
(4) Illinois (Memorial Stadium): 60,670
(3) Indiana (Memorial Stadium): 52,929
(2) MINNESOTA (TCF Bank Stadium): 50,805
(1) Northwestern (Ryan Field): 47,130
The larger your stadium, the higher your score. In 2010, Penn State was highest at 107,282 (remember the Big House at Michigan was undergoing renovations last year, but it'll take over the top spot again in 2011 at over 109,000.) while Idaho's Kibbie Dome is the smallest at 16,000. The Gophers come out at the lower end both in the conference and nationally as TCF Bank Stadium seats 50,805 for football (and considerably more for a U2 concert with a giant ass spaceship-looking thing in the middle of it). That'd be a good size for most non-BCS programs, but as you can see, it's the second smallest capacity in the Big Ten (But just wait until Jerry Kill gets this rolling and we blow it out to 80,000 in a few years! Then let's see where we'll stand! Ok, ok getting a wee bit ahead of myself there).
2. ACTUAL ATTENDANCE
(5) Illinois: 54,188
(4) MINNESOTA: 49,513
(3) Purdue: 46,063
(2) Indiana: 41,953
(1) Northwestern: 36,449
It should be noted that this is reported by each school, so take these numbers for what it's worth- especially Minnesota. That number may reflect actual tickets sold, but as anyone who actually attended a Gopher home game after the USC opener can tell you, that figure may be a wee bit high. However, since that's all we have to go on, it definitely helps the Gophers here.
3. PERCENTAGE OF CAPACITY
(5) MINNESOTA: 97.46%
(4) Illinois: 89.31%
(3) Indiana: 79.26%
(2) Northwestern: 77.33%
(1) Purdue: 73.70%
As Steele explains:
Let’s face it, a crowd of 45,000 in a 45,000 seat stadium is louder than a crowd of 45,000 in a half-full 90,000 seat stadium.
Or to put it another way, a crowd of 25,000 in a cavernous, sterile, horrible, awful, life-sucking dome of 65,000 seats is not going to be as loud as 25,000 people in a sold-out smaller dome (like, say, the Fargo Dome). So % of capacity definitely matters, and thanks to the Gophs' inflated actual attendance numbers, they come out looking pretty good at 99.03% of capacity (although when I do the math- and keep in mind I suck at math so I could be missing something here- by dividing average attendace from stadium capacity I come up with 97.46%. Anyone?). Alabama was the leader in this category at 111%, and were one of 10 schools with a larger average capacity than actual seats available. In our comparison, the Gophers dominate this list. Good thing those Gopher numbers are accurate (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
4. WON/LOSS RECORD AT HOME
(5) Illinois: 4-2*
(4) Northwestern: 3-2**
(3) Indiana: 3-4
(2) Purdue: 3-4
(1) MINNESOTA: 1-6
*(Illinois 7th "home" game was a neutral site game vs Missouri, so it was not counted)
**(Northwestern played six road games in 2010, and their "home" game against Illinois was at Wrigley, so that doesn't count. Or should it?)
Wow, is that ugly for the Gophers. Timmy B can talk all he wants like he did at the B1G meetings about how the end of the season wins over Iowa and Illinois proved "what he was building" or doing or whatever crap he was spewing, but that home record? Yeah, that is not acceptable. That is why he's out of a job.
5. WON/LOSS RECORD AT HOME- 2008-2010
(4) Illinois: 10-8
(3) Purdue: 10-11
(2) MINNESOTA: 9-12
(1) Indiana: 9-12
Spread it out over three years and the Gophers look better at home- but not by much. Despite a real lack of a home field advantage, the Wildcats have played very well in Evanston.
6. WON/LOSS RECORD AT HOME- 2006-2010
(5) Northwestern: 19-13
(4) Purdue: 20-15
(3) Illinois: 16-15
(2) Indiana: 17-18
(1) MINNESOTA: 14-20
That's right, kids: in the past five years, the Gophers have the worst home record in the Big Ten. And you can't even blame Glen Mason, as Mase's last season in 2006 the Gophs' were 4-2 at home.
Steele's last three criteria are home record vs the spread in 2010, the past three years, and the past five. I'm not going to include those here as let's be honest: if the Gophers have the worst home record already, the spread isn't going to help them much, if at all. To get his 27 categories, Steele will take all of this criteria and do the same thing for the 2009 and 2008 seasons, tally it all up, and there you have it: his 27 step process to home field advantage. We know the Gophers don't rank well in his standings, so where do they come out in ours? To the final tallies...
So Minnesota is not quite last, but close. Despite a gorgeous new stadium and one that's been near capacity so far (wink wink), the bottom line is Minnesota has really struggled at home, and it's the product on the field that matters most. You know this already, but winning cures all. To maximize home field advantage and to create a REAL home field advantage (which I believe TCF Bank really can be) Jerry Kill needs to win games at home. The more he wins, the more tickets will be in demand from actual Gopher fans (hopefully things like Pick your Packs will be a short-lived idea), and who knows, the entire student section might be full (Crazy, I know, but I like to dream)! Field of Dreams told us "build it and they will come" but left out the part about "you need to win for them to keep coming."
So I guess Phil Steele was right on this one: TCF Bank is a beautiful stadium, but the U has some work to do before The Bank becomes a real home field advantage.