Home Sweet Dome?

Recently, Dawg Sports readers were asked to voice their opinion on which S.E.C. team had the greatest home field advantage. You answered and I reported your verdict to the world at large.

Sunday Morning Quarterback took issue with your verdict that L.S.U. enjoys the league's greatest home field advantage, demonstrating mathematically that Mississippi State enjoys the greatest differential in winning percentage between home and away games.

Not in his house, evidently.

And the Valley Shook took issue with S.M.Q.'s interpretation of the phrase "home field advantage," arguing that the term indicates how difficult it is for visiting teams to win in a particular venue rather than how much more often a team wins at home than on the road.

I agree with And the Valley Shook's definition and with his conclusion that Death Valley is among the league's toughest places to play, but I must, in turn, take issue with a statement made by him in making his point:  

One more note, it may be a bit of a stretch to consider the SEC championship game - held annually in Atlanta - a Road/Neutral game for the Georgia Bulldogs, given that Athens is an hour away.

And the Valley Shook is an excellent weblog and I am proud to be associated with him under the aegis of SportsBlogs Nation. Having said which, the statement quoted above is sheer nonsense.

The first time I heard this claim made was in 2003, when L.S.U. coach Nick Saban offered that observation prior to the Bayou Bengals' showdown with the Bulldogs in the Dome. I would have thought the silliness of that claim would have been refuted by the eventual national champions' complete dismantling of the 'Dawgs in that contest.

Coach Saban, one game after bearing the brunt of Georgia's home field advantage in Atlanta.

It was one thing to argue in the early 1990s that Birmingham, the original site of the S.E.C. championship game, afforded home field advantage to Alabama. The Crimson Tide regularly played "home" games at Legion Field. The Red and Black have never played a regular season game in the Georgia Dome.

In fact, Atlanta---the second of the "two Georgias" regularly referred to in Peach State politics---is the home town of the Bulldogs' in-state rival, Georgia Tech. Presuming that the 'Dawgs enjoy home field advantage in the Yellow Jackets' back yard is as preposterous as assuming that U.C.L.A. enjoys home field advantage when playing U.S.C. on the road because, after all, the game is in Los Angeles.

No actual evidence exists to support the proposition that Georgia has an advantage in the Georgia Dome, not any more than evidence existed for the notion that the Gators enjoyed an advantage in the Gator Bowl.

The Bulldogs won a Peach Bowl there under Jim Donnan . . . but they lost a Peach Bowl there under Ray Goff. The Red and Black won an S.E.C. championship game there in 2002 . . . but they lost an S.E.C. championship game there in 2003. The Classic City Canines beat L.S.U. there last December . . . but they lost to West Virginia there last January. That's pretty much a wash, any way you look at it.

Coach Goff never enjoyed a home field advantage he wasn't inept enough to undermine.

If anything, I believe playing in Atlanta represents a disadvantage for the 'Dawgs. As noted by And the Valley Shook, it's only a short drive from Athens, so it lacks the urgency of a business trip and offers too many local creature comforts for the team to be focused. I believe the Mountaineers' greater concentration on the game at hand during the first 16 minutes of the Sugar Bowl attests to how distracting it was for the Red and Black to be so close to home.

The Georgia Dome is a neutral site, for the Bulldogs as it is for everyone else in the conference. Anyone who presumes, on the basis of a theory unsupported by actual facts, to treat games played in Atlanta as "home" games for Georgia needs to be logically consistent and treat Sugar Bowls played in the Superdome as "home" games for Louisiana State. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

My approach, of course, would be to treat home games as home games, road games as road games, and neutral site games as neutral site games . . . but, then, I'm a strict constructionist, so what would you expect?

Go 'Dawgs!

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