Home field advantage is always a big part of setting college football odds, but which stadiums really are the toughest for visitors to pull off upsets?
My two favorite sports to watch might be baseball and college basketball, but when it comes to my preference for actually being in attendance, a college football game sits at the top of the list. There's just nothing quite like the atmosphere of a crisp autumn Saturday afternoon on a college campus.
There's also nothing quite like the advantages that many teams have playing on their own campus in front of 70, 80, 90 thousand or more fans, most of whom are cheering for the home side. Fans certainly understand their role in this phenomenon, though their exact contribution is often intangible. Still, it's certainly a measurable factor when it comes to sports books setting their college football odds.
A team has to be downright awful not to draw at least three points in consideration from the books, and the advantage of playing at home can often lead to a touchdown or more on the NCAA football betting card.
LSU & Clemson Historically Two Of The Best
The home gridirons for two schools have built such a strong reputation for being hostile environments, they're nicknamed Death Valley. Coincidentally, they each host Tigers, Clemson and LSU, and the fans at both stadiums can frequently resemble caged Tigers.
It's almost impossible to find a tougher place for visitors to pull off a win than Baton Rouge. Louisiana State has won 98 of the last 113 games played on its turf, the Bayou Bengals an impressive 31-4 in front of the home fans since the start of the 2011 season. The Tigers were officially 5-1 as the home team last year, 6-1 when you include their contest vs. South Carolina which was moved from Columbia because of flooding, and they went 5-2 against the spread in those contests. Their biggest SEC games are at home this season against Ole Miss on October 22 before a bye week is followed by a visit from Alabama.
We recently included Clemson on our list of schools with relatively easy schedules in 2016, and Dabo Swinney's squad enters the season riding a 16-game home win streak, the last loss coming to Florida State in 2013. The Tigers are very likely to extend that to 23 by the end of this campaign, though they were just 3-4 ATS at home last year and face their two toughest opponents on the road, at Auburn in Week 1 and an October 29 matchup in Tallahassee vs. the Seminoles.
Waco Has Been Toughest Big 12 Stop
Stanford has proven to be one of the toughest venues out west in recent years, the Cardinal cutting down 31 of the last 35 schools to pay a visit. The Farm proved inhospitable to six of seven last year, college football bettors giving up from 4 to 20 points cashing five of those seven games. With Heisman favorite Christian McCaffrey leading the way, Stanford could go 6-0 at home, this time around, the biggest game being USC in Week 3. The road slate looks awfully tough, however, the Cardinal having to make treks to UCLA, Notre Dame and Oregon.
Baylor moved into a new stadium two seasons ago and promptly won its first 11 games before dropping the final two at home last year. That leaves the Bears 31-3 in Waco since 2011, the best Big 12 home mark in that span, though a more pedestrian 6-5 against the spread the last two seasons.
The Big House in Ann Arbor and The Shoe in Columbus have long been two of the most unfriendly venues in the Big Ten. Michigan is 28-7 at home since 2011, but just 7-6 ATS the last two campaigns, while Ohio State is a sparkling 33-4 at home, but a woeful 1-6 ATS in 2015.
Lest we forget, teams in the Power 5 conferences don't have a monopoly on home field advantage. Take Northern Illinois, for example; the Huskies have only lost two home games out of 28 since 2011, though the more profitable college football pick has been to fade them at home with a 7-11-1 ATS mark the last three seasons.