Bowl season. Beautiful, hectic, chaotic bowl season. It is finally upon us.
Starting December 17th, you’ve been able to watch football 16 of the next 17 days (that 17th day being Christmas – don’t watch football on Christmas). If you’re anything like me and only rotate between three Christmas movies, variety is important. I think 80 football games in 3 weeks will do that.
(Important note: my three Christmas movies are Home Alone, Elf, and Christmas Vacation).
Personally, I will be watching all of them from the couch. Or the recliner. Or wherever is open in whatever relative’s house I am in on any particular day. That isn’t the same for the hardcore fans who are biting the bullet and traveling to watch their team play for the last time of the 2016 season. We’ve all heard horror stories about holiday travel – but holiday bowl travel is a whole different beast. As a pseudo-first-anniversary of my time writing for MGoFish, I broke down the bowl travel for every Power 5 school.
A couple of disclaimers first:
- I know the teams fly to their destination so to a certain extent, none of this matters. I find it interesting.
- While the Big Ten has the most grueling travel schedule of any conference, I did not make this to spark sweeping change among bowl berths or bowl location. Of course bowl games will be played in the south and on the west coast; it’s warm there and fans can use the trip as a vacation as well as chance to see their favorite team.
- Mileage numbers are calculated via Google Maps from the team’s home stadium to their bowl stadium. They are not as the crow flies, rather they are using highways because that’s how the average Joe like me gets around. If there were multiple routes available, I took the shortest mileage available.
- I did this last year, too, and there was no significant link between travel distance and success in the bowl game. I just find the travel interesting.
Yes, you could argue that compiling this data is largely impractical and useless because a) it doesn’t stop fans from traveling, b) such gratuitous travel luxuries at the ready expense of bowl eligible schools doesn’t affect the player’s ability, and c) they arrive with enough time to acclimate to the time zone and work out any travel related cramps or sores (we all played high school sports and had to cram). I just want to share some numbers with you.
Like last year, the Big Ten is sending 10 teams bowling, which is great for the conference’s public stock. Also like last year, they are getting hosed in terms of total mileage – 14,440 between the 10 teams compared to 5,447 miles for their opponents, and only “travel favored” in 3 matchups. Those 3 favored matchups though aren’t even that favorable: OSU and Wisconsin both have a 53 mile edge (hardly anything at that point), and Maryland has a 193 mile edge on Boston College. 3 of the 5 biggest travel differences favor Big Ten opponents, and 3 Big Ten teams find themselves in the top 5 of the longest distances traveled (more on that later).
- Worst difference: Rose Bowl, 2,544 miles (!). Penn State travels 2,559 while USC travels…wait for it…15.
- Most favorable difference: QuickLane Bowl, 193 miles. Maryland travels 520 miles to Boston College’s 713, which is one of the five worst bowl games according to The Big Lead.
- Most even matchup: tie between the Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semi-Final) and Cotton Bowl. Both Wisconsin and OSU are favored by a mere 53 miles in their games. OSU had the most even trip last year as well, when they traveled to the same stadium to face Notre Dame.
- Longest trip: Penn State to the Rose Bowl – 2559 miles
- Shortest trip: Maryland – 520 miles.
|QuickLane||Ford Field||Maryland||520||Boston College||713||193|
|Holiday||Qualcomm Stadium||Minnesota||1949||Washington State||1197||752|
|Foster Farms||Levi's Stadium||Indiana||2298||Utah||765||1533|
|Music City||Nissan Stadium||Nebraska||748||Tennessee||180||568|
|Orange||Had Rock Stadium||Michigan||1358||Florida State||457||901|
|Fiesta||U. of Phoenix Stadium||Ohio State||1924||Clemson||1977||53|
|Cotton||AT&T Stadium||Wisconsin||1005||Western Michigan||1058||53|
|Outback||Raymond James Stadium||Iowa||1269||Florida||131||1138|
|Rose||Rose Bowl||Penn State||2559||USC||15||2544|
At first, I laughed at the Big 12 for only sending 6 teams to a bowl, but then I remembered: that’s 60% of their conference and another 20% of those teams are Kansas and Iowa State, so that’s actually pretty respectable. Like the Big 10, the Big 12 as a conference travels further than its opponents (they are only travel favored in one matchup), but the differences are minimal here seeing as most of their bowl games take place in Texas (which is no easy travel itself). The Big 12’s biggest difference would be the Big Ten’s 6th biggest difference.
- Worst difference: Citrus Bowl, 682 miles. West Virginia must travel 902 miles to Miami’s 220.
- Most favorable difference: Alamo Bowl, 422 miles. The Cowboys from Oklahoma State travel 528 miles to face Colorado, who has to go 950.
- Most even matchup: Liberty Bowl, 45 miles. TCU and Georgia are approaching from different directions but have a nearly identical trip. The Horned Frogs go 494 miles while Georgia goes 449.
- Longest trip: Baylor to the Cactus Bowl – 1,048 miles
- Shortest trip: TCU – 494 miles.
|Cactus||Chase Field||Baylor||1048||Boise State||919||129|
|Athletic||Camping World Stadium||West Virginia||902||Miami||220||682|
|Texas||NRG Stadium||Kansas State||743||Texas A&M||100||643|
|Liberty||Liberty Bowl Stadium||TCU||494||Georgia||449||45|
Only 3 ACC teams are not going bowling this season, which is quite an impressive ratio for a Power 5 conference. Though as a conference they are favored in terms of total mileage, they do matchup quite evenly with their opponents: ACC teams travel 6,849 miles to an opponent total of 9,663 miles, which is the most even among favored conferences. A lot of their teams play either in their home state or in an adjacent one, but because they are in bowls that play Big 12 or SEC opponents, the differences are mostly negligible.
- Worst difference: Sun Bowl, 642 miles. North Carolina treks 1,799 miles to Texas to play Stanford, who has a 1,157 mile trip of their own.
- Most favorable difference: Orange Bowl, 901 miles. FSU plays within their home state, but Miami is no easy drive. They go 457 miles while Michigan (like last year) hops on I-75 for 1,358 miles.
- Most even matchup: Fiesta Bowl
- Longest trip: Clemson to the Fiesta Bowl – 1,977 miles
- Shortest trip: Virginia Tech – 168 miles.
|QuickLane||Ford Field||Boston College||713||Maryland||520||193|
|Independence||Indepedence Bowl||NC State||1000||Vanderbilt||560||440|
|Military||Navy-Marince Corps Memorial Stadium||Wake Forest||359||Temple||119||240|
|Athletic||Camping World Stadium||Miami||220||West Virginia||902||682|
|Belk||Bank of America Stadium||Virginia Tech||168||Arkansas||902||734|
|Sun||Sun Bowl||North Carolina||1799||Stanford||1157||642|
|Orange||Hard Rock Stadium||Florida State||497||Michigan||1358||901|
|Citrus||Camping World Stadium||Louisville||853||LSU||695||158|
|TaxSlayer||EverBank Field||Georgia Tech||349||Kentucky||716||367|
|Fiesta||U. of Phoenix Stadium||Clemson||1977||Ohio State||1924||53|
The SEC is like the ACC in that they are sending 12 teams to bowls, but they benefit from a much easier schedule than anyone else in college football – they travel almost half the total distance of their opponents (5,351 SEC miles to 10,497 opponent miles) and favored in all but 2 games. Furthermore, 4 teams play in neighboring states, and 3 play in their home state.
- Worst difference: 734 miles to the Belk Bowl. Arkansas travels 902 miles to Charlotte while Virginia Tech has a mere 168.
- Most favorable difference: Alabama over Washington in the Peach Bow, as if Alabama needed another advantage. They travel 203 miles east on I-20 while Washington crosses nearly the entire country to Atlanta, an easy 2,636 miles.
- Most even matchup: Liberty Bowl, TCU vs. Georgia, a difference of 45 miles
- Longest trip: Arkansas – 902 miles.
- Shortest trip: Texas A&M – 100 miles.
|St. Petersburg||Tropicana Field||Mississippi State||688||Miami (Ohio)||977||289|
|Independence||Independence Bowl||Vanderbilt||560||NC State||1000||440|
|Texas||NRG Stadium||Texas A&M||100||Kansas State||743||643|
|Birmingham||Legion Field||South Carolina||365||USF||607||242|
|Belk||Bank of America Stadium||Arkansas||902||Virginia Tech||168||734|
|Liberty||Liberty Bowl Stadium||Georgia||449||TCU||494||45|
|Music City||Nissan Stadium||Tennessee||180||Nebraska||748||568|
|Citrus||Camping World Stadium||LSU||695||Louisville||853||158|
|TaxSlayer||EverBank Field||Kentucky||716||Georgia Tech||349||367|
|Outback||Raymond James Stadium||Florida||131||Iowa||1269||1138|
Like the B1G, the Pac 12 is at a natural travel disadvantage simply because of their isolation in the northwest. Washington will have a long trip no matter what bowl they draw, as will WSU or Oregon. They are sending half of their teams to bowls this season, most of whom are the more isolated teams (aside from USC) so keep in mind that these numbers will appear as outliers more than most.
- Worst difference: Peach Bowl. Washington’s 2,636 miles to Alabama’s 203 is simply egregious. For the record, I don’t think Washington wins even if it were a home game.
- Most favorable difference: Rose Bowl. You read this in the Big Ten paragraph, but USC only goes 15 miles while PSU crosses 3 time zones and 2,559 miles to sunny LA and the Rose Bowl.
- Most even matchup: Alamo Bowl. This difference isn’t even close, but it’s the most even. Colorado has to go 950 miles to Oklahoma State’s 528, a 422 mile difference, which is actually the most even among Pac 12 teams.
- Longest trip. Washington. Besides Washington: Stanford – 1,157 miles.
- Shortest trip: USC. Besides USC: Utah – 765 miles.
|Holiday||Qualcomm Stadium||Washington State||1197||Minnesota||1949||752|
|Foster Farms||Levi's Stadium||Utah||765||Utah||2298||1533|
|Sun||Sun Bowl||Stanford||1157||North Carolina||1799||642|
|Rose||Rose Bowl||USC||15||Penn State||2559||2544|
Now for some superlatives:
- Most even match up differences
- 1) Liberty Bowl: TCU 494 miles, Georgia 449 miles, a difference of only 45.
- T2) Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl: Wisconsin and Western only differ by 53 miles as do semi-finalists OSU and Clemson
- 4) Citrus Bowl: LSU 695 miles, Louisville 853 miles, a difference of 158 miles.
- 5) QuickLane Bowl: Maryland (520 miles) and Boston College (713) differ by 193 miles.
- Biggest differences
- 1) Rose Bowl: PSU’s 2,559 miles to USC’s virtual home game of only 15 miles makes for the longest difference of 2,544.
- 2) Peach Bowl: Washington’s 2,636 to Bama’s 203 makes a difference of 2,433. There’s something poetic about both semifinalists having the 2nd biggest and 2nd smallest differences.
- 3) Foster Farms Bowl: In also the longest total mileage matchup, Indiana has to go 2,298 miles to Santa Clara while Utah goes north for 765 miles, a difference of 1,533 miles.
- 4) Outback Bowl: Florida is again beneficiary of one of the easiest travel schedules (they still got creamed despite having one of the biggest differences last year): they travel 131 miles to Iowa’s 1,269, a difference of 1,138.
- 5) Orange Bowl: Your Michigan Wolverines will be asked to overcome long miles again against a team playing within their home state. Michigan travels 1,358 miles to Florida State’s 457 (which isn’t that easy in their own right).
- Longest Distances
- 1) Washington, 2,636 miles
- 2) Penn State, 2,559
- 3) Indiana, 2,298
- 4) Clemson, 1,977
- 5) Minnesota, 1,949
- Shortest Distances
- 1) USC, 15 miles
- 2) Texas A&M, 100
- 3) Temple, 119
- 4) Florida, 131
- 5) Virginia Tech, 168
Whether or not these distances determine team outcome is still unknown, but it sure didn’t last year. But when you’re watching one of the 80 bowl games this holiday season, I hope you’ll see more than just X’s and O’s on the field.
Photo Credit: David Turnley