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Michigan State Spartans Football: Mark Dantonio Teams on the Road

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Joe continues to play with GFEI data

Eric Francis/Getty Images

In a previous post, I wrote about the best and worst games of the Dantonio Era using GFEI data. It just so happens that GFEI data stretches back to 2007, the start Dantonio's MSU tenure. Here's Brian Fremeau's explanation of those metrics:

GFEI Game Ratings are the opponent-adjusted single game data used to produce overall FEI team ratings. Adjustments factor in home field advantage and the strength of the opponent. Each team table includes the rating (FEI) and rank of each FBS opponent, plus the game location (Site) and final outcome. The non-garbage game results -- points scored (PF), points allowed (PA), and possessions (Po) -- are used to produce unadjusted game efficiency (GE) data. Game ratings include the national rank and percentile (Pct) of each game performance.

TL;DR: Game Efficiency (GE) is the raw score for a game based on roughly on score and possessions. Game FEI (GFEI) adjusts for opponent strength. Ranks and percentiles based upon all games played. Also, there are no FCS games.

One thing I thought would be fun to look at is how Dantonio teams perform on the road. In 2012, for instance, MSU was winless in the Big Ten at home but 3-1 on the road. Dantonio has compiled a record of 45-12 at home, 6-5 on neutral fields (I'm counting the weird FAU game) and 24-14 on the road. Using GFEI data I created the following table:

Michigan State Game Efficiency and GFEI by Site

This is an interesting data set, but mostly tells you essentially what you'd expect; MSU plays some bad teams at home (which skews the GFEI numbers). Due to this issue, I filtered based upon whether opponents were members of Power 5 conferences (or Notre Dame). This gave me what I was looking for:

Michigan State Game Efficiency and GFEI against P5 by Site

Voila, there you have it: Mark Dantonio teams perform better on the road. Using only P5 opponents mitigates the issue with uneven level of competition at home and on the road.

GFEI data incorporates home and road adjustments into the computation of GFEI data points, too. Ultimately, you'd expect that teams would perform at about the same rate regardless of where the game was played, assuming that level of competition was held constant. This is why MSU teams have performed so well in neutral-site games; outside of the Florida Atlantic game in 2010, these games have been bowl games or conference championship games.

This makes sense to me outside of just pure wins and losses, as well. Though there have been some laid eggs on the road in Big Ten play (like 2010 Iowa or 2011 Nebraska), those games generally come against at least reasonable competition. There have been a number of home games against the dregs (I'm looking at you, Purdue and Minnesota) of the Big Ten that were too close for comfort. 2010 Purdue, 2011 Minnesota, 2013 Purdue, and even 2008 Purdue all fit that bill.

The takeaway here: if you believe in "trap" games, they're more likely to come for MSU on their home turf. But never discount MSU teams on the road.