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Home Cookin’

November 3rd, 2009

On the ESPN broadcast of the game last Thursday between North Carolina and Virginia Tech, play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler said that in Virginia Tech’s home games, visiting teams average over two false start or delay-of-game penalties per game.  Those types of penalties are often credited (at least partially) to the crowd noise and hostile atmosphere in the home team’s stadium.

Naturally, I wondered how Virginia Tech compared to other FBS teams in the average number of opponent’s false start or delay-of-game penalties per home game.  But when I started looking at the data, I realized that there is inconsistency in how official scorers record what type of penalty occurred.  For instance, instead of recording a penalty specifically as a false start, some will record it using the more general “illegal procedure” type.

So I decided to consider delay-of-game penalties plus all penalties that fall under the category of “illegal procedure”: false start, illegal formation, encroachment offense, and illegal procedure itself.   These penalties are signaled by the referee using official signal number 19.

Here are the top teams whose home opponents average the highest number of illegal procedure and delay-of-game penalties per game.  The data is from the 2005 through 2009 seasons, and only includes games at the team’s home stadium (or stadiums in the case of Arkansas’s two home stadiums and Miami’s move from the Orange Bowl to Land Shark Stadium).  Neutral site games are not included.

                      |------------------- Visiting Team ----------------------|
                       False  Illegal  Illegal    Encr.    Delay          Per
 Home Team         G   Start   Proc.    Form.    Offense  Of Game  Total  Game
 Texas            29    77       1        7        0        19      104   3.59
 Missouri         29    66       3        7        1        15       92   3.17
 Utah             28    71       1        5        0         8       85   3.04
 Miami (Fla.)     30    59       2       10        2        17       90   3.00
 Virginia Tech    32    61       3       13        0        17       94   2.94
 Florida          31    47       5       14        1        21       88   2.84
 Boise St.        30    48      15        5        0        17       85   2.83
 California       30    59       4        4        1        16       84   2.80
 Miss. St.        30    50       5        4        0        24       83   2.77
 Arkansas         29    52       0       13        1        13       79   2.72
 Oklahoma         29    59       0        5        0        15       79   2.72

So Virginia Tech ranks fifth among FBS teams using the above criteria.  Texas, one of three Big 12 teams on the list,  is first by a pretty good margin.  I was a little surprised by Cal being on the list.  I thought I’d see Oregon or USC from the Pac-10 on the list before Cal.  Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium is not particularly big, but the fans have the cowbell effect on their side.  Boise State’s Bronco Stadium is even smaller, but visiting teams are obviously mesmerized by the blue turf.

The home stadium atmosphere is not likely the sole reason for how a team ranks on this list.  The quality and style of play of both teams in a game and the penalty tendencies of the teams and officiating crews are among the factors that may contribute to the numbers.