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How much is home-field advantage worth in football?

VSiN analyst Steve Makinen ran the numbers on “HFA” in college football and NFL

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Football - NCAA - Georgia vs. LSU Photo by Derick Hingle /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

How much is home-field advantage actually worth? VSiN’s Steve Makinen looked over the data and his answers may surprise you.

One of the most important and debated factors in handicapping football is determining how much weight to give to home-field advantage. It’s been tough to figure in the last few seasons, especially with COVID-19 leading to empty or partially filled stadiums. Now, with the football world having essentially returned to normal, it’s a good time to revisit the subject of home-field advantage and what it’s worth from a quantitative perspective.

A few of the things I set out to find when breaking down my data from the last three and a half seasons:

1. Has home field advantage picked up over the last one and a half seasons since COVID stopped wreaking havoc on football?

2. Have oddsmakers adjusted appropriately for any changes?

3. Have any specific teams set themselves apart in terms of home-field performance?

In my own experience of oddsmaking and doing the strength ratings for VSiN, I have found that one of the most important factors in analyzing a team’s strengths in football, or any sport, is determining how much home-field advantage to assign. Some handicappers assign it from a general sense, issuing a standard 2 to 3 points depending on how much they value it. Others, such as myself, develop team-specific home-field edges, realizing some environments are tougher than others. For those in the latter group, I am here to help.

Let’s face it, using the team-specific method is almost a must for bettors. There are reasons why certain teams have a more definitive home-field advantage than others. Among those are weather, a roster that fits the field surface, crowd capacity/enthusiasm, confidence level of a team at home and perhaps even site-specific distractions for the visiting team.

I am 100% positive in this next statement: There is no way that every team’s home-field advantage is the same.

To determine which teams hold the best TRUE HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE in both college football and the NFL, I have taken every team’s game logs at home since the start of the 2019 season. I compared each team’s average power rating in those games with the opponent’s average power rating, using my actual logged numbers for every game. This margin equals the amount a team should win or lose by when meeting on a neutral field, or the expected margin. I then compared the expected margin per game with the actual point differential per game for each team’s home games in the span. Obviously, the teams that had a greater actual differential than expected differential played the “best” at home.