Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 6, 2012

Home field not much of an advantage in Big 12

NORMAN — There's proving to be no home-field advantage in the Big 12 this season.

Road teams are on track to have a winning record for the first time in the conference's history, taking 16 of 27 games so far this year for a .593 winning percentage. That's almost an exact reversal of the historical trend, with home teams winning at a .594 clip over the league's first 16 years.

"It's a little mind-boggling. It's just the strength of the teams. You can pretty much win anywhere," said Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, who understands the trend more than anyone else.

"Two of our conference games, we've won on the road and we've lost a couple at home. So, you just don't know. It just depends on the frame of mind of your players and how they handle pressure and how they handle travel."

TCU has had a bewildering season, too, by going 3-1 on the road in the Big 12 while starting out 0-2 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in its first season in the league. The Horned Frogs had won 40 of 43 games over the previous eight seasons and hadn't lost back-to-back home games in the same year since 1998.

"I think we've even played better on the road because on the road you're playing in front of crowds of 50,000 to 85,000 or 90,000 people and I think your kids get more jazzed up to play in those kind of games," Frogs coach Gary Patterson said Monday.

Only No. 3 Kansas State hasn't lost at home in conference play this season. The undefeated Wildcats are also 3-0 on the road with wins at Oklahoma, Iowa State and West Virginia heading into back-to-back road games at TCU and Baylor.

"I just believe it's a tough league and that everybody's good, and if you're not at your best or you happen to make a few turnovers or something, you're going to be on the wrong end of it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Stoops' Sooners were once nearly invincible at home, having won 70 of his first 72 games on Owen Field and putting together a 39-game home winning streak that was the longest in the nation. But Oklahoma has lost three of its last seven home games heading into this Saturday's game against Baylor.

The two losses this season have come against Kansas State and Notre Dame, two of the nation's top four teams.

"We've been here for 14 years. We've got a decent home record. You're not going to win every one at home for 14 years," Stoops said.

"Our home-field advantage is pretty decent. All of a sudden, now, we can't win at home? OK, yeah. Well, I don't buy any of that."

It is an unusual turn not only for Oklahoma but across the league. The best finish for visitors was a .500 mark in both the inaugural Big 12 season in 1996 and again in 2010. Last season, road teams were 18-24.

The worst times for visitors came in 2003 (15-32), 2005 (15-31), 1998 (15-31) and 1999 (16-31) when home teams were winning about two-thirds of the time.

For whatever reason, the tables have turned so far in 2012. Iowa State's Paul Rhoads reasoned that perhaps the widespread usage of the no-huddle is helping.

"You're doing more things by signaling and so forth, it probably takes the crowd noise and that part of it and at least minimizes it a little bit," he said.

Maybe it's no coincidence that this is also the first year of a new Big 12 policy that has restricted the crowd's use of certain noisemakers — such as Oklahoma State's "Paddle People," who bang on a padded wall near the west end zone — once teams are lined up.

"I think this is such a competitive league and it's one of those things where it's just factual: Anybody can beat anybody on any given day," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

Of course, there's still plenty of time for the trend to be turned on its head over the final month of the season.

"I think it's important that you kind of understand it's probably a little bit of a home-field advantage when you're playing at home just for travel purposes, but not in terms of playing when the game's played," Tuberville said. "You're going to get the best out of both teams."

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