Northern Ill., Toledo Kings Of Home-Field Advantage
By Clyde Hughes
Northern Illinois and Toledo opponents should beware when visiting those two teams at home, according to records of Mid-American Conference teams since 2003. In fact, on the road, Northern Illinois has not been too bad, either.
In an examination of the last 10 years of MAC football, Northern Illinois and Toledo stand as the clear kingpins of home-field advantage. From 2003 until last year, the Huskies are 49-16 (.754) at Huskie Stadium. Meanwhile, the Rockets are 41-19 (.683) in the Glass Bowl.
In a 2011 attendance report by the NCAA, Toledo averaged 19,333 while Northern Illinois averaged 17,718. The Mid-American Conference is working to improve its attendance from a Football Bowl Subdivision-worst 15,718. In that report, Central Michigan had a conference-best 20,448 fans per game.
Northern Illinois, with two straight MAC titles under its belt, is 20-2 at home the last three seasons (.909). Toledo was nearly as impressive from 2003-05, going 15-1 during those three seasons (.938).
No other MAC teams had 40 wins at home in that stretch, but three teams came close, including Ohio (36-22, .621), Central Michigan (36-23, .610) and Western Michigan (35-20, .636). Western Michigan had the most undefeated seasons at home of any MAC team with three: 2011 (5-0), 2008 (6-0) and 2006 (5-0).
Home wins, though, have not necessarily meant conference championships. Miami only had a 31-25 record at home, but has reached the MAC championship game four times in the same period, winning the conference title game in 2003 (Miami 49, Bowling Green 27) and 2010 (Miami 26, Northern Illinois 21). Only Northern Illinois has as many MAC championship game appearances as Miami.
On the flip side, even with Toledo's .683 winning percentage at home, the Rockets have not made the MAC championship since 2004, when they beat Miami, 35-27.
During the last 10 years, Central Michigan has the most MAC titles with three ('06, '07 and '09), even though they have the fourth-best home record. Ohio has reached the MAC title game three times, all losses.
A Rough Road
Road records are tougher to compare since Mid-American Conference play many teams from power conferences on the road before conference play starts. Still, Northern Illinois (33-31, .516) and Bowling Green (34-33, .507) managed winning records during the last 10 seasons.
Akron, though, has not won a road game since 2008, when the Zips went 4-3 away from home. Since then, they have gone 0-18 in three seasons. Probably the worst road season for the MAC was 2004 when four teams — Ball State (0-6), Buffalo (0-6), Central Michigan (0-6) and Western Michigan (0-6) combined for a 0-24 record away from their home fields.
Jekyll And Hyde
In 2007, Toledo went 5-2 in the Glass Bowl and 0-5 on the road, representing one of the biggest home-road differentials during the 10 years Football.com examined. On the flip side, Bowling Green went 5-2 in the road in 2008, but 1-4 at home.