Television Gods give Clemson an extra point vs. UGA …. and rethinking expectations (Milton Jennings forgives you)

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – In case you’ve been abroad for the last four months or so and been without your smart phone, it’s been a fortuitous offseason for Clemson.

Chad Morris did not leave the Anderson Regional Airport on a plane with the Texas Tech AD. That was big for Dabo Swinney.

Tajh Boyd fought the urge to turn pro after torching LSU even though Russell Wilson was proving QBs other than Drew Brees can succeed in the NFL when measured at south of 72 inches.

And it got better today.

Clemson’s season-opening kickoff time vs. Georgia was announced today: 8 p.m. on Aug. 31…..Nationally televised on ABC (Sounds like GameDay will be in Clemson).

Now the atmosphere was going to be intense for this game whatever time of day it kicked off: both teams finished in the coaches’ top 10 last year and should be preseason top 10 teams, both teams have Heisman-hopeful QBs, it’s the renewal of a once intense rivalry series that hasn’t been played since 2003 (We really need to change this as the campuses are separated by 90 miles).

But the night-time kickoff is going to make it that much more electric and it should give Clemson the equivalent of another point or two in homefield advantage.

Clemson gains an extra point or two against Georgia just by turning on the lights

If you haven’t read “Scorecasting” I recommend you do so. The authors make a convincing argument, via statistics, that homefield advantage is real and it is tied to crowds influencing officials’ borderline calls – either consciously or subconsciously. It holds true for borderline strike calls in baseball, the blocking/charge decision in basketball and holding/pass interference in football.

The louder the crowd the bigger the advantage. The closer the crowd is to officials the bigger the advantage (See: Cameron Indoor Arena). Now in football the home-field advantage is only three or four points according to most bookmakers. But with a full day of tailgating for fans to lubricate and lose their senses to thereby bump up the volume, I suspect home-field can be worth somewhere in the ballpark of five points.

Of course home-field advantage doesn’t mean automatic wins.

Will Vandervort noted on Twitter that Clemson is 10-13 in night home games since 1992.

That stat seems surprising, but it’s really not – and it doesn’t mean homefield advantage doesn’t exist at night at Clemson. Consider these three things:

1. Clemson wasn’t very good from 1992-2010. Homefield advantage might give you three or four points but if you’re a touchdown in quality worse than your opponent it’s not going to give you a win.

2.  If you’re playing in primetime slots chances are you are playing better teams. Clemson is 3-9 against ranked teams at night at home since 1992.

3. Crowd noise and home-field are really tied to momentum. Clemson had it in the first-half against South Carolina last fall but lost it – and time of possession – in the second half. A clunker of an effort can result in no home-field advantage at all because the crowd is quieted lessening official’s on-field bias.

Clemson needs to play well against Georgia to take advantage of the crowd and homefield advantage, then the 8 p.m. kickoff can be a significant advantage. And one point could be a big deal because whichever team wins the opener could very well find itself in the top 5 of the Week 2 polls.

RETHINKING EXPECTATIONS

If you’ve ever booed Milton Jennings he forgives you.

“That’s what a fan is,” said Jennings who plays his final home game tonight vs. BC. “I complain when my teams lose. When the Spurs lose, I say ‘What is coach doing? What is Tim (Duncan) doing?’”

The expectations started early for Milton Jennings. The five-star prospect was booed by fans during his freshman year when he struggled in an ACC game against Maryland. I cringed. Oliver Purnell admonished.

Jennings admitted he only had an “average” career yesterday, he told me he was held back by a lack of confidence by “second guessing” himself. That was apparent to us all.

But it’s funny how perception works. If Jennings was a three-star prospect he would be viewed much differently. He’d be viewed as an OK player who improved slightly every year. He’s been one of Clemson’s three best player this season.

But because he was viewed by recruiting services as a player who could Gatorade into wine the expectations were enormous and unfair.

It would be one thing if Jennings didn’t care and didn’t work, but coach Brad Brownell said the one misconception about Jennings is how much he cares about the game.

In the end the expectations were unfair and like most top 100 prospects – see our study on top 100 football recruits – Jennings didn’t meet the lofty dreams of forecasters.

The public treatment and judgment by some was often as unfair as the expectations.

The ironic thing is Jennings will be appreciated soon, I think. He’ll be appreciated when Josh Smith and Bernard Sullivan are struggling next year to replace his production.

He’ll be appreciated when he’s gone.

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