Who are road warriors in college football and NFL?

November 9, 2022 08:44 PM
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After last week’s revealing of my True Home-Field Advantage Ratings in college and pro football, accompanied by plenty of debate and dissecting of the results, I will now move on to analyzing the road performance levels of teams.
 
Reiterating what I stated last week regarding the importance of understanding how to assign home- and road-field points in football, anyone who is still assigning the base 3 to 3.5 points for home field for every game at either level is making a gargantuan mistake. This not only leads to errors in handicapping individual games on any given week, but it also compounds itself in the building of team power ratings which take into account schedule strength and where a team has played its games. Because of this risk, my own experience on both sides of the counter has led me to build and maintain team-specific home- and road-field ratings. These are built into the formulas I use to calculate the Power, Effective Strength, and Bettors Ratings on VSiN.com for college football and the NFL.
 
I explained the many reasons that certain teams have a more definitive home-field advantage than others. The same can be said for teams’ performance levels on the road.
 
Coaching/preparation level is the leading factor for teams that play best on the road. These teams typically have solid defenses and reliable quarterback play. The other factor that might not be as clearly defined. A lot of teams that don’t enjoy a massive home-field edge have a tendency to play better on the road as their performance level is more consistent across the board, and not as influenced by game location.
 
To determine which teams hold the best True Road-Field Performance levels in college and pro football, I have taken the teams’ logs for true road games since the start of the 2019 season, or essentially the last 3 1/2 seasons. I compared their own average power rating in those games to their opponents’ average power rating, using my actual logged numbers during that span for every game. This margin would be considered the amount they should have won or lost by when meeting on a neutral field, or the expected margin. I then compared this amount to the actual point differential in those games. Obviously, the teams that had a greater actual differential than expected differential played the “best” on the road. For college teams with at least 10 road games in that span, the margins went as high as +9.8 for Ohio State out of the Big Ten to -10.7 for Florida International. In the NFL, the top road field performance belonged to Baltimore & at +3.7, while the worst rating went to the Steelers at -5.3.
 
Of course, no one would ever assign a road field edge of 9.8 points to Ohio State, as that would outweigh any opponents’ actual home-field points. However, it does lend a lot of value to betting the Buckeyes on the road and, in theory, bettors should discount the opponents home-field points when they are facing OSU. Regarding FIU, with a -10.7 true road field (TRF) rating to go along with a 2-16 SU & 5-13 ATS record, at this point you’d have to be a true gambler to back the Panthers any time they hit the road.
 
The numbers I showed last week suggest the actual true home-field advantage in college football has been about 2.5 points, and in NFL just 1.0. However, as I indicated then, the home-field advantage is trending back upward. In fact, for the 2022 NFL season, the true HF rating is about 1.9 points. If you’re using numbers larger or smaller than these, they are probably impacting your betting results negatively as you’re not getting a true gauge for what it means to play games at home or away.
 
One important thing to note: I don’t specifically assign the road field ratings in accordance with the order of the True Road Performance numbers you’ll see below on the charts, as I also give strong consideration to the straight up & ATS records. Otherwise, single games in which a team won or lost big can falsely impact the overall ratings. That said, with all factors considered, Ohio State and Baltimore are my top road rated teams for college and pro football respectively, and I deduct a half point of the opponents’ home-field edge when they are hosting those teams.
 
Let’s take a quick look at some of the other highlights I have found from my college and pro football road field performance study.

College Football Road-Field Advantage Study Highlights

  • Collectively, the conference with the best overall TRUE road-field performance rating is the Big Ten, at +1.5. That leads the Sun Belt (-0.8) and SEC (-1), and by a significant margin. Furthermore, five of the top 7 individual teams in terms of the True Road Performance ratings are from the Big Ten.
  • Two conferences have collective TRUE Road Performance ratings of less than -2.0 points. They are the Conference USA (-2.35) and MAC (-2.24). Interestingly, and perhaps not by accident, these are two teams not known for their strong defensive play.
  • There are two teams that have lost just one true road game over the last 3-1.2 seasons, and they are Ohio State & Georgia, each 14-1. The Buckeyes hit the road next week for a trip to Maryland, while the Bulldogs begin a 2-stop road trip with games at Mississippi State & Kentucky up next. Notre Dame has also played very well on the road lately, winning 13 of its L16 contests.
  • The worst outright record for any college football team on the road since the start of the 2019 season belongs to UMass, at 0-21. Four other teams have won just once in that time span, UL-Monroe, New Mexico, Akron, and New Mexico State. For those interested, UMass travels to Arkansas State & Texas A&M the next two weeks. New Mexico is at Air Force this week, while ULM has back-to-back road contests at Georgia State & Troy on tap.
  • There are two teams that have compiled ATS records better than 75% in college football on the road since the start of the 2019 season. They are Tulsa (16-5 ATS) and Notre Dame (12-4 ATS). Georgia, Western Kentucky, Marshall and Pittsburgh are the four others over 70%. I already shared just above that Georgia starts a two-game road trip this week, but Pittsburgh is also on the road, at Virginia, while Tulsa travels to Memphis on Saturday.
  • There have been five college football teams to go under 30% ATS over the last 3-1/2 seasons on the road. They are UMass (4-17 ATS), NC State (4-14 ATS), New Mexico (5-15 ATS), Florida International (5-13 ATS), and Missouri (5-13 ATS). NC State’s final two games of the regular season are at Louisville and UNC starting next week, while Missouri faces one of the more difficult road games a 2022 team can have this week, at Tennessee.
  • The five teams that have played to the average biggest point spreads on the road in recent seasons are no surprise, as they have dominated the CFP. That list is topped by Georgia (-21), and followed by Alabama (-14.4), Clemson (-13.3), Ohio State (-12.9), and Oklahoma (-12.8).
  • Three teams have been worse than 24-point underdogs on average in road games in recent seasons of college football and they are UMass (+28.6), New Mexico (+25.5), and UConn (+24.2)
  • There have been five college football teams that have averaged more than 37 PPG in their road games over the last 3-1/2 seasons, they are:
OHIO ST – 44.7 PPG
ALABAMA – 42.6
UCF – 38.7
GEORGIA – 38.1
OKLAHOMA – 37.4
 
  • There have been eight teams in college football that have allowed fewer than 20 PPG in road games since the start of the 2019 season. That list includes:
GEORGIA – 12.1 PPG
IOWA – 17.5
SAN DIEGO STATE – 18.1
OHIO STATE – 18.2
CLEMSON – 18.3
AIR FORCE – 19.2
WISCONSIN – 19.2
MARSHALL – 19.3
 
  • The only two teams that have outscored opponents by 26 PPG or more on the road since 2019 are Ohio State (+26.5 PPG) & Georgia (+26). To show just how dominant those two programs have been, no other team has a road point differential of more than 17.3 PPG in that same span.
  • Using my formula comparing how much teams have won on the road as compared to how much they were supposed to win by based upon average power ratings, the top teams for TRUE ROAD PERFORMANCE in college football over the last 3 1/2 seasons have been:
1. Ohio State +9.8
2. Western Kentucky +7
3. Penn State +6.7
4. Michigan +6
5. Minnesota +6
 
  • Of those five teams, unfortunately, none is on the road this week. In fact, we have to go all the way down to Georgia, the No. 16 team on the list to find a top TRP team actually on the road this week. However, the next few weeks afterward will be ripe with opportunities.
  • The teams with the worst TRUE ROAD PERFORMANCE ratings in all of college football based upon their road statistics over the last 3-1/2 seasons have been:
1. Florida International -10.7
2. Temple -9.9
3. UMass -9.7
4. Missouri -9
5. Colorado -7.5
 
 
Concerning the games for this weekend, Temple is at Houston, UMass is at Arkansas State, Missouri visits Tennessee, and Colorado takes on USC in Los Angeles on Friday night.
 

 

NFL Road-Field Advantage Study Highlights

  • Collectively, the division with the best overall TRUE Road Performance rating is the NFC West, at +1.4. That edges the NFC South (+0.25) as the only two divisions with positive ratings. In other words, it has actually proven advantageous for these teams to be playing on the road over the last few seasons.
  • The division with the worst collective TRUE Road Performance is the NFC North, with all four teams in negative territory. The four teams in that division combine for a -2.1 TRP rating. The AFC South has also been a poor road division, with a rating of -1.85.
  • There are just two NFL teams that have lost fewer than 10 true road games over the last 3-1.2 seasons, and they are Kansas City & New Orleans. The Chiefs have a league best 22-5 mark in their L27 road games while the Saints have gone 20-8 in their L28. KC is at home this week, but New Orleans does have a road contest, at Pittsburgh. The Buccaneers, Ravens, 49ers, and Titans have also sported solid road records since the start of the 2019 season.
  • The worst outright record for any pro football team on the road since the start of the 2019 season belongs to Jacksonville, at 4-24. Detroit is only slightly better in that time span, at 5-21. Carolina, the two New York teams, and Denver are all tied with eight outright wins, next in line. Of those six teams, three are on the road this Sunday. The Jaguars are at Kansas City, Detroit travels to Chicago, and Denver visits Tennessee.
  • There are two teams that have compiled ATS records better than 65% in the NFL on the road since the start of the 2019 season. They are Baltimore and Arizona, both sporting 19-10 ATS records. New Orleans (18-10 ATS), San Francisco (21-12 ATS), Cincinnati (18-11 ATS), and Dallas (17-11 ATS) are also all over 60%. Of those teams, Arizona (@ LA Rams), New Orleans (@ Pittsburgh), and Dallas (2 Green Bay) are all on the road this weekend.
  • There have been three NFL teams to go under 40% ATS over the last 3-1/2 seasons on the road. They are Philadelphia (11-19 ATS), Chicago (11-18 ATS), and Jacksonville (11-17 ATS). It might not seem to be a daunting task, but the undefeated Eagles next road game is a potential landmine contest at Indianapolis next weekend.
  • The three teams that have played to the average biggest pointspreads on the road in recent seasons are Kansas City (-4,5), followed by Tampa Bay (-4), and Baltimore (-2.6).
  • Four teams have been worse than 6-point underdogs on average in road games in recent seasons of pro football and they are NY Jets (+8), NY Giants (+6.6, Jacksonville (+6.4), and Houston (+6.1)
  • There have been three NFL teams that have averaged more than 27 PPG in their road games over the last 3-1/2 seasons, they are:
KANSAS CITY – 31.7 PPG
TAMPA BAY – 28.8
BALTIMORE – 27.1
(Baltimore scored 27 points on Monday in its win at New Orleans.)
  • There have been four teams in pro football that have allowed fewer than 20 PPG in road games since the start of the 2019 season. That list includes:
NEW ENGLAND – 18.6 PPG
BALTIMORE – 19.1
SAN FRANCISCO – 19.5
NEW ORLEANS – 19.6
  • The only two teams that have outscored opponents by 8 PPG or more on the road since 2019 are Kansas City (+9.1 PPG) & Baltimore (+8). There is a bit of a misconception about the Chiefs and how tough they are playing at Arrowhead. The truth is that over the last 3-1/2 seasons, they have outscored road opponents by 9.1 PPG, home opponents by 7.2 PPG.
  • Using my formula comparing how much teams have won on the road as compared to how much they were supposed to win by based upon average power ratings, the top teams for TRUE ROAD PERFORMANCE in pro football over the last 3-1/2 seasons have been:
1. Baltimore +3.7
2. Buffalo +3.6
3. Kansas City +2.9
4. New Orleans +2.9
 
Of those four teams, only the Saints are on the road this week, again, at Pittsburgh.
 
  • The teams with the worst TRUE ROAD PERFORMANCE ratings in all of the NFL based upon their road statistics over the last 3-1/2 seasons have been:
1. Pittsburgh -5.3
2. NY Jets -4.5
3. Detroit -4.4
4. Cleveland -4.3
5. Jacksonville -4.1
 
Concerning the games for this weekend, Detroit is at Chicago, Cleveland visits Miami, and Jacksonville travels to Kansas City.
 
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