Lane Stadium? More like Lame Stadium. Got ’em.
We, the collective college football hivemind, make a pretty big deal about Virginia Tech’s home field advantage. Probably for good reason! Their entrance to “Enter Sandman” is iconic, and is universally regarded as one of the rowdiest spectacles in the sport. The crowd noise at Lane Stadium has registered on seismographs on more than one occasion (I would give, at the very least, a pinky toe for that to happen in South Bend). Cool! Hard not to respect that. Our coaching staff certainly does, with reports of Metallica being piped in during practice this week.
But does that passion translate practically to success on the field? Logically, it seems like that kind of crowd engagement could be best leveraged during primetime matchups, when the lights are brightest and the stakes are, generally, highest. So, keeping in the NDOB tradition of utilizing cold, hard science, we set out to find just how tangible the Hokies’ advantage is.
Dating back to 2002 (the last year data on kickoff time seems to be readily available), VT has hosted 26 games in primetime, with a 16-10 record to show for it. Okay, that’s fine. Thing is, most of their recent wins in these situations have been beating up on inferior teams. Maybe that’s why their average point differential in wins is a healthy 18 points. And an 11-4 record against unranked opponents at home in primetime is…honestly…not super good?
The last time they took down a ranked team in these friendly confines was #23 Maryland (oh yeah lol they used to be kind of good) way back in 2008. Since that win, they’ve fallen to #13 Clemson (2011), #8 Florida State (2012), #1 Ohio State (2015), and #2 Clemson (2017) again. The opportunities for a huge, program-defining win were there, but they’ve swung and missed each time.
Taking the sample size as a whole, when both squads are ranked, it’s a toss up — Tech is 3-4, but each win is from 2005 or earlier. The aforementioned win over Maryland, along with the unranked Hokies taking down #10 Clemson in 2006 (they were still Clemsoning back then) brings their win total over ranked opponents to five, compared to six losses.
A weird quirk of the games we looked at is that 18 of the 26 games (that’s a nice 69% for all you mathematicians out there) weren’t played on Saturdays. This strikes me as an advantage for the home team, with the short week and weird travel times and whatnot. And it turns out that’s correct, as they’ve won two-thirds of these off-day matchups — meaning VT only has four Saturday, home, primetime wins since 2002.
All of this is to say that, while Virginia Tech’s home field spectacle is well and good, and a fun part of the college football lore, there’s no empirical reason to fear the Hokies as giant killers. They’ve kept within striking distance in their last few contests against high quality competition, but have faded down the stretch every time. As I write this, it feels a bit like poking a hornet’s nest — we all remember what happened at Hard Rock Stadium not even a year ago — but let’s all take a deep breath and remember that the better football team usually wins. In the words of Liam Eichenberg, let’s “kick the shit out of them, get a win, then get out of there.”