Are Saturday Night College Football Games the Biggest Home Field Advantage in Sports?
Anytime a team plays at home, they have a built-in advantage; that used to be an actual fact as college football picks against the spread had automatic -3 points built into the opening line. As bettors have gotten smarter over the years, that number has been less transparent, but that doesn’t mean being at home gives a team an edge even before the opening coin toss.
One big question remains as to whether all home-field advantages are created equal. Fans don’t have a ton of time to tailgate before a 1:00 PM ET Sunday start in the NFL, and a Tuesday night game in the NHL might not have the high stakes that would get the fans into rabid mode.
It seems to be that the best home-field advantage in all of the sports is a home Saturday night game in college football, and here’s why:
Prices are climbing at professional sporting events, starting with the tickets and going right down the line to hot dogs, beers, and T-shirts. Because of this, what you see in the crowd at a game is a lot of corporate seats and more laid-back fans that have to work in the morning.
Throw decorum out the window when it comes to Saturday night college football games. First off, tickets are much less expensive for the general public, including basically free of charge for students. It’s a rite of passage for ‘student sections’ to become as rowdy as possible to make this incredibly uncomfortable for opponents.
Aside from students, a lot of the college football crowd includes alums. These graduates may not get back to campus, but once a year, depending on where they have moved off to, they have a tendency to get loud and make the most of things.
There’s tailgating in the NFL and even during day games in college football, but Saturday night tailgates in the NCAA are an art form. Whether you’re talking about a hot toddy at Ole Miss, soaking up some booze with the ‘big ole turkey leg’ at Iowa, or partying in railroad cars in South Carolina, sometimes the buildup to the game is just as fun as the football itself.
When you have a legitimate draw for fans to come out early on game day, it starts to create an electric atmosphere, especially when there’s some alcohol involved. Those fans who can survive until kickoff – or find their second during the game – are loud and proud and have a definite effect on the game.
Home Field in General
Road teams often find more success in the early 12:00 PM ET road games, and that’s not necessarily because the home fans aren’t yet as bubbly but more just due to the travel schedule in general. When you roll into town the night before, wake up early, get a good breakfast, and just get to play right away, the distractions are minimized.
Compare an early game, where you get to go right into football, to a late contest on a Saturday, where players have to sit idle all day fighting through distractions, and it’s obvious that getting to the game as soon as possible is the way to go. It’s almost like getting a dentist appointment out of the way at 8:00 AM before work compared to thinking about it all day until the 5:00 PM visit.
Opposing teams may be trying to keep themselves busy in the hotel or in a walk-through on the field while the home players get to rest comfortably in their own beds or relax with family and friends.
College Football Saturday Night Betting
We saw it in 2022 when Tennessee ended up beating Alabama 52-49 in Knoxville, and their fans subsequently stole the goalpost and paraded it down the street before dumping it in the river – a chaotic Saturday night college football crowd is sometimes the ultimate X-factor. Playing at home on a Saturday night is not a perfect analytic to bet on, but it’s something to consider.