After the UTEP game, I heard many people claim that OU plays slopper during night games in an attempt to justify the flat performance. It seems like a plausible theory. Our players have to wait around all day before finally getting the chance to play. Bob Stoops even declared his dislike for the fact that OU plays night games more frequently than the majority of the Big 12 teams. Granted, his complaint is more about the time that players get home than anything else, but it still adds to the idea that teams could get sloppier as the game time gets later in the evening.
In order to explore this possibility, I researched every game OU played from 2003-2010 and analyzed the results. To normalize the strength of opponent, I considered the difference from the spread and the final score of each game. I then plotted that difference over different game times to observe which times OU played its best and which times OU played its worst. The numbers may surprise you.The following bar graph shows how many points OU did better than the spread for different game times on average. Each game time is really just an average of game times near it. For instance, the 12:00 PM games include all games from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The 12:00 PM games include 27 games, the 2:00 PM games include 27 games, the 5:30 games include 26 games, and the 7:30 games include 28 games.
Surprisingly, the graph shows that OU typically performs better than the spread during evening games. Since OU is typically favored, beating the spread by 2 points on average would result in a majority of wins. However, it is clear that game time does have an effect on our players.
It appears that our players are probably a bit drowsy for the morning games, causing a worse performance than expected. During the afternoon, our players are at their peak and typically beat the spread by about a touchdown. This readiness to play seems to wear down as the night progresses, causing us to only do better than the spread by about 2 points in the night games. Thus, while there is some validity to the claim that our players could end up sloppier in the evening, it doesn't fully justify a poor performance as we still usually beat the spread in these games.