Penn State football’s annual white out game is coming this weekend against Ohio State. Typically this is one of if not the loudest, most looked forward to games on the schedule. This year is no different with Ohio State coming in undefeated and ranked second in the country. Penn State is known for having one of the best crowds in the country, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstriet went as far to say that we own “The best student section in the country” (Land). Beaver stadium will without a doubt be loud on Saturday night. It has always been thought of that home fans can impact the game, to what extent is this true if at all?
Football: There are two ways to look at this question, take football for example. You have to separate how the home crowd may affect a team before and after the play. For example, how many false starts and pre snap penalties a team suffers could have a direct link to the amount of noise the opposing crowd may be making. In addition to penalties, a loud crowd may cause the opposing team to call a time out, which could haunt them later in the game when they may need one. This video here shows how the crowd can effect a game pre snap in a football game. During the play, the home team has a distinct advantage as well. According to an article, and graphic produced by SBnation.com, throughout a five year period in inter-conference college football games these stats were complied. The home team outscored their opponent by 3.3 points per game, committed .4 less penalties per game, and averaged .22 more yards per play than the opposing team. This is a lot if you factor in how many games were surveyed, and how many plays are in each game. Even home teams field goal kickers made their kicks at a two percent higher rate than they would on the road (SBnation). Since 1990, thirty one of thirty two NFL teams have a higher winning percentage at home as opposed to on the road (Sporting charts). Crowd noise is a key component of a teams home field advantage, and it’s no coincidence that these stats show staggering numbers that favor home teams.
Basketball: The effects of crowd noise, and home field advantage extend beyond just football. In basketball the effects of crowd noise are seen most in free throw shooting. In Penn State’s conference the Big Ten, 13 of the 14 teams see their opponents make free throws at a lower rate than they do at home. Similar results are seen in other conferences such as the Pac 12, and the Big 12 where only one team has their opponents make their free throws at a higher rate than they do at home (NY Times). These numbers can be attributed to loud crowd noise at away arenas, and sometimes obscure tactics such as this example at Duke. Another alarming stat is that out of 351 college basketball teams, only thirteen have a losing record in their current home arena (RPI). Both of these stats show the effects of crowds in basketball as well.
Overall, crowds play a role in sporting events, small or big you can’t deny the stats. Any little advantage you can give your home team may swing the game one way or the other. This is why I will be cheering loud as I can Saturday night for the Nittany Lions against Ohio State.