One of the biggest topics in college football year after year is the stadiums of various teams and which location is the most difficult to play at. Kyle Field is constantly brought up as one of those hallowed venues. A place where play calling is difficult due to the noise brought by one of the most faithful and raucous student sections in the nation. False starts, delay of games, and other mental errors become the expectations for visiting teams. However, in spite of all the talk about Kyle Field being an intimidating venue, Texas A&M has struggled to defeat top opponents at home. Why is that? Well, the truth is that all of the talk about home field advantage that fans have been fed on since the dawn of time isn’t really all that accurate. Crowds don’t will teams to victory so much as good teams will crowds to make noise.
When you dig into the pasts of historic venues with intimidating crowds, you’ll find that even the most storied of stadiums have their fair share of home losses, some of them to rivals and ranked opponents, some of them to teams that the casual fan may not even be familiar with. Let’s take this list from Bleacher Report and talk about some of the losses these “intimidating stadiums” have seen.
10. Beaver Stadium - In 2018, the Nittany Lions suffered back-to-back losses at home, one to then #4 Ohio State, one to an unranked Michigan State.
9. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - The Swamp is readily accepted as one of the toughest places to play in college football but the Gators lost two games at home in 2018, both to teams that were unranked at the time. Kentucky (who actually ended up being pretty good) and Missouri (who was average at best) both bested Florida at Ben Hill Griffin.
8. Michigan Stadium - Ah, the legendary Big House. A hallowed venue where even the strongest of teams, such as Appalachian State struggle. Of the seven games played between Ohio State and Michigan in Ann Arbor since 2005, Michigan has won exactly one.
7. Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium - Back in 2014, the Sooners lost four conference games in the Big 12. Three of those were at home in Norman.
6. Camp Randall Stadium - The Badgers suffered two home losses in 2018, neither of them to elite competition. Minnesota and BYU were the teams who walked into Madison and came out with a win.
5. Memorial Stadium - The Clemson Tigers managed to win a national championship in 2016 but even that team couldn’t escape a home upset at the hands of legendary chaos inducer, Pitt. Also, why are there so many Memorial Stadiums?
4. Ohio Stadium - Speaking of national champions, Ohio State suffered a 14-point home loss to unranked Virginia Tech before going on to take the title for the 2014 season.
3. Autzen Stadium - The team that would go on to lose to Ohio State in the title game at the end of the 2014 season was Oregon. That Oregon team had suffered a home loss of their own to Arizona that year.
2. Bryant-Denny Stadium - In the fall of 2012, Texas A&M travelled to Tuscaloosa and a star was born when Johnny Manziel lead the Aggies to victory on the road. The 12th Man probably didn’t need this reminder. The Tide would rally to win a national championship that season, demolishing Notre Dame. In 2015, the Tide would fall to Ole Miss at home before once again going on to win a national championship.
1. Tiger Stadium - Baton Rouge has long been regarded as one of the toughest places in the world of sports to play. Particularly at night, the Bayou Bengals have Death Valley jumping in anticipation of another LSU win. Until 2016 when the Tigers fell to Troy at home for a night kickoff.
Really, I just wanted to run through that list to show that even the most elite of environments are prone to home losses. College football is a chaotic storm where we search for patterns that make sense but in reality, the only overarching truth is that great teams win for the most part, no matter where the game is played. Of course, because of the chaotic nature of the game, even the best of the best will falter whether at home or on the road. Sure, having thousands of fans making noise can make it difficult to communicate, but any decent coach will have his team prepared with alternative communication methods such as hand signals and those really cool sign boards that have comic book characters and what not.
So what does this mean for Texas A&M and Kyle Field? Simply this. Texas A&M hasn’t won big games at home for the most part because Texas A&M hasn’t been a great team in recent memory. The truth is that even 100,000 fans screaming their lungs out won’t make a difference if a team fails to execute. It’s nice to believe that Kyle Field can get back to being the intimidating beast it once was, but until Jimbo improves this squad to the point that they win consistently at home against upper-tier opponents, that won’t happen.
Now, before I completely squash the myth on home field advantage being non-existent, I do have to concede a few points. Teams who have their home stadiums at higher elevations definitely have a home field advantage. Teams on the east coast have a home field advantage when teams from the west coast travel, particularly for early games. Everyone has a little bit of home field advantage simply because of the matter of comfort. However, all of these things are nullified by adequate preparation. So you see, home field advantage is in fact, a myth.
With that being said, home crowds can still create incredible environments so even if your team sucks and it won’t matter, show up, get rowdy, and be loud. It’s what makes college football fun even if it doesn’t do all that much to help your team win.