Unbalanced: Is four Big East home games a boost?
As I'm working to finish my Big East preseason football ballot, I've crunched a lot of numbers again, trying to get a better understanding for the impact of the league's unbalanced schedule, which has half its teams with four conference home games and three on the road.
You'd think it's a consistent advantage, but last year presented a real anomaly -- Big East teams went 12-16 at home in conference games, including 1-3 home marks for USF, Louisville and Cincinnati. Five of the league's eight teams had a higher conference winning percentage on the road than they did in home games.
Since USF joined the Big East in 2005, home teams are 96-72, winning 57 percent of the time. That home-field advantage is stronger when a team has just three home games -- teams with three home games win 59.7 percent of the time at home, while teams with four home games win 55.2 percent of the time in Big East play since 2005.
If you're picking a Big East champ, that team is more likely to go to a BCS bowl with just three conference home games -- Connecticut went 3-0 at home last year, as did Cincinnati in 2009; West Virginia won its last two Big East titles in 2005 and 2007 with only three home games both years.
So this year, as I work up a preseason lineup from first to eighth, my initial instinct was to bump up teams that have four home games this fall -- that's Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse. But those four went 8-8 at home in 2009, the last time they had four at home. In 2007, those same four teams went 8-8 again, and in 2005, yes, those four went 8-8 at home.
Those same four teams -- UConn, Pitt, Rutgers and Syracuse -- are worse on the road when they have just three road games: 4-8 in 2009, 4-8 in 2007, 2-10 in 2005. That's a 10-26 mark, winning just 28 percent of the time on the road, compared to a .500 road record (16-16) for those same four teams in their last two four-road-game seasons.
USF, despite having four home games last year, had more conference wins on the road (2) than at home (1) -- that scenario has happened just four times in six seasons since the Big East went to its unbalanced schedule in 2005.
So as I try to make sense of the Big East standings before the first game is played, I'm less likely to give a tiebreaker to a team with four home games. That might bode well for USF, West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati. ...