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Baylor vs. Oklahoma State: Is Home-Field Advantage Enough for the Cowboys?

The Oklahoma State Cowboys need to beat statistically superior Baylor to stay alive in the hunt for the playoffs. But will Oklahoma State’s home-field advantage be enough?

You can’t blame Big 12 fans if they have the impression that the college football playoff selection committee doesn’t respect their conference.

After all, last year, the 12-member committee gave the playoff nod to Ohio State over one-loss Baylor and TCU. And this year, the committee has yet to rank a Big 12 team any higher than sixth, despite the conference being home to one of the remaining five unbeaten.

But the good news for Big 12 defenders is that the unblemished Oklahoma State Cowboys appear to control their own destiny on the road to the Final Four.

Forget a conference championship game. Forget about FBS opponents and strength of schedule. Forget the committee, and its objective and subjective criteria.

Win out and you are in.

numberFire’s power rankings -- driven by our team efficiency rating known as nERD -- show that on a neutral field, Oklahoma State (20.75) has a challenging road to the playoff, with Oklahoma (31.03) ranked first in the nation and Baylor (27.58) ranked second, left on its schedule.

But unlike other contenders who have to win big games on the highway, Oklahoma State -- now ranked eighth in nERD -- will complete its playoff resume by hosting Baylor and Oklahoma in Stillwater. Advantage Cowboys.

Wins and Losses

It’s difficult to argue with Oklahoma State’s recent record of success when playing within the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys have gone a staggering 26-5 straight up at home since 2011. Perhaps more impressively, Oklahoma State is 20-10-1 against the spread in those 31 games. Blindly betting Oklahoma State at home would have hit 67 percent of the time over the last five seasons.

The Cowboys are even better as a home favorite. In their last five campaigns, Oklahoma State has gone 23-1 in Stillwater and has outperformed the spread by an average of six points per game. Translation: Oklahoma State has been consistently undervalued at home.

By comparison, the Cowboys have gone 17-10 straight up on the road during that same period, and an even .500 against the number. This includes being 0.2 points worse than the average Vegas spread. Translation: Away from Stillwater, they are who Vegas thought they were.

Efficiency Numbers

A deeper dive into the statistics show that Oklahoma State’s superior home performances are about more than just wins and losses.

Oklahoma State’s offensive and defensive efficiency numbers differ drastically home versus away. On average over the last five seasons, Oklahoma gains a full yard per play more at home. The disparity is even greater if you throw out 2013, a year where Oklahoma State’s average yard per play was virtually identical home and away, the clear anomaly in the bunch.

Season Home Offensive Yards Per Play Road Offensive Yards Per Play
2011 8.0 6.5
2012 7.5 6.3
2013 5.9 6.0
2014 5.8 4.9
2015 7.3 5.9

Similar variance is seen on the defensive side of the ball. Since 2011, the Cowboys have given up 5.0 yards per play at home and 5.6 on the road.

Season Home Defensive Yards Per Play Road Defensive Yards Per Play
2011 5.4 5.2
2012 4.8 6.0
2013 4.8 4.9
2014 5.2 6.3
2015 4.7 5.6

Oklahoma State’s ability to protect the ball and force turnovers also suffers on the road. This season they are +2.8 in average turnover margin per game in Stillwater but only +0.4 on the road. In only two of the last six seasons have the Cowboys seen greater turnover margins on the road.

Vegas’ View

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