‘Tis the Season for 2017-2018 Bowl Game Travel Data

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not because everyone’s in a good mood, because we get time off of work, we get to see family and friends from afar, or because the snow outside makes life feel peaceful. None of that.

It’s college bowl season.

Beginning December 16, we have meaningful football games every single day (except Christmas Day) until January 2nd. It’s bowl season. It’s crootin’ season. It’s also, coincidentally, it’s nappin’-on-the-couch-with-a-really-dark-stout-and-a-frasier-fir-scented-candle season.

With the holiday and bowl season comes oodles of travel. It may come on a plane, a train, or an automobile (they should make a movie about that!), but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be staying in one place this winter. For the numerous college football teams that won enough games to earn a trip to the postseason, they’ll be going with you, most likely in fancy style with Beats by Dre headphones that the bowl game paid for (nope, no room in college athletics to pay players) and not a beat up 2003 Mercury Sable with a dent in the back (that was my ride until my Christmas bonus came in the mail last year).

Here is your 2017-2018 Power 5 Bowl Travel.

Some disclaimers:

  • If you aren’t a fan of pointless data that won’t really impact your life, this isn’t the post for you.
  • I’m not advocating a sweeping reform of bowl selection policy (I mean, maybe a little bit, but that isn’t because of travel). I compiled this because I think it’s interesting and I love college football, and you do too.
  • This is my third year presenting this data and so far there isn’t a distinct correlation between distance traveled and outcome. In 2015, the team with the longer trip went 17-10; in 2016, the team with the longer trip went 9-16 (Ohio State had a shorter trip and lost 31-0, in case you forgot). Michigan’s last two bowl games were against a Florida team in a Florida stadium and they split the matchups. With how weird college football is, it would be impossible to argue even if the data were in favor of a narrative.
  • With the ease of modern travel, I know that distance won’t affect performance. Teams arrive with plenty of time to adjust to time changes, hotels, and other living arrangements. Same for fans. Except for egregious differences (like Miami playing in their home stadium against Wisconsin), match-ups are pretty even.
  • All mileages listed are from the team’s home field to the bowl site via Google Maps, not the cities or campuses. They are driving mileages, not as the crow flies.

Previously: 2016 travel data, 2015 travel data.

Here we go!

Big Ten

BowlSiteConference TeamMileageOpponentMileageDifference
PinstripeYankee StadiumIowa1003Boston College200803
Foster FarmsLevi's StadiumPurdue2248Arizona8311417
HolidayQualcomm StadiumMichigan State2276Washington State11971079
Music CityNissan StadiumNorthwestern504Kentucky213291
CottonJerryWorld (AT&T Stadium)Ohio State1061USC1422361
FiestaUniversity of Phoenix StadiumPenn State2244Washington1397847
OrangeHard Rock StadiumWisconsin1512Miamilol1512
OutbackRaymond James StadiumMichigan1166South Carolina485681

Holy frequent flier miles. The Big Ten far and away travels more than any other Power 5 conference, accumulating 12,014 total miles (the Pac-12 is closest with 9,454 miles). What’s worse is their opponents have about half the distance, a total of only 5,745 miles. No, there is not an anti-Big Ten conspiracy. Even though there are some gorgeous domed stadiums in the Midwest and relocating some would make sense, it’s more fun for fans to see their team in the sun and escape the gray and 5 PM sundown for awhile.





Click the map to go to an interactive map of all the Big Ten’s conference travel.

That said, Wisconsin got hosed. Miami is literally playing a home game.

  • Furthest trip: Michigan State, 2276 miles. That’s also the furthest trip any Power 5 team makes this winter.
  • Shortest trip: Northwestern, 504 miles. Compared to the rest of the conference, this trip is a breeze.
  • Worst difference: Wisconsin vs. Miami, 1512 miles. The mileage is one thing, but the home field advantage is another. It would throw everything out of alignment, but why not Lucas Oil Stadium? Or Nissan Stadium? Or even the billion-dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Purdue’s travel deficit of 1417 miles against Arizona isn’t so pretty either.
  • Most favorable difference: Ohio State, 361 miles. The only Big Ten team that has a shorter trip than their opponent ( and the first time since 2013 that USC isn’t playing in either LA or San Diego).
  • Most even match-up: Northwestern vs. Kentucky, 291 miles.
  • The three longest trips this bowl season belong to Big Ten teams, all over 2200 miles: MSU (2276), Purdue (2248), and PSU (2244).

Big 12

BowlSiteConference TeamMileageOpponentMileageDifference
BirminghamLegion FieldTexas Tech960USF556404
Heart of DallasCotton BowlWest Virginia1204Utah124541
Cactus Chase FieldKansas State1107UCLA374733
Texas NRG StadiumTexas164Missouri805641
Camping WorldCamping World StadiumOklahoma State1288Virginia Tech698590
LibertyLiberty BowlIowa State653Memphis0653
RoseRose BowlOklahoma1345Georgia2241896

A little bit of everything here. The team with the longest trip (Oklahoma) also has the second-most favorable difference (896 miles). The Big 12 have the most even travel match-up (41 miles) and the second-most lopsided (1444 miles). Four teams have mileage advantages, the other four don’t. Two teams get to play in their own state (makes sense when the state of Texas hosts what feels like a third of the bowls).

    • Furthest trip: Oklahoma, 1345 miles.
    • Shortest trip: Texas, 164 miles. Is Texas back? *glances at cue card* Texas is back! Unless Missouri wins, in which case Texas was back for a little bit!
    • Worst difference: Kansas State vs. UCLA, 733 miles. Other than watching Josh Rosen play for interim head coach Jedd Fisch, the mileage is the only notable thing about this game.
    • Most favorable difference: TCU vs. Stanford, 1444 miles. For as drab as KSU/UCLA sounds, TCU/Stanford is equally as exciting to me. Frogs versus trees, LET’S GO!
    • Most even match-up: West Virginia vs. Utah, 41 miles
    • Like Wisconsin, Iowa State has to play what will feel like a true road game against Memphis at Memphis’s home stadium – put the over/under at around 140.

Click the map to go to an interactive map of all Big 12’s conference travel.


BowlSiteConference TeamMileageOpponentMileageDifference
Quick LaneFord FieldDuke655Northern Illinois345310
Independence Independence StadiumFlorida State648Southern Miss307341
PinstripeYankee StadiumBoston College200Iowa1003803
MilitaryNavy-USMC Memorial StadiumVirginia154Navy0154
Camping WorldCamping World StadiumVirginia Tech698Oklahoma State1288590
BelkBank of America StadiumWake Forest83Texas A&M1067984
SunSun BowlNC State1832Arizona State3941438
TaxSlayerEverBank FieldLouisville746Mississippi State557189
OrangeHard Rock StadiumMiamilolWisconsin15121512

The ACC has the shortest cumulative trip of any of the P5 conferences, traveling 5,608 miles this season. If you remove NC State as an outlier, their average trip is shorter than the Big Ten’s shortest trip; like I said earlier, that’s to be expected when these teams play in 70 degrees year-round. Only Miami plays a game in their home state (and Miami plays at their own stadium, I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet) and more than half the teams face a travel deficit.

    • Furthest trip: NC State, 1832 miles
    • Shortest trip, other than Miami: Wake Forest, 83 miles
    • Worst difference: NC State vs. Arizona State, 1438 miles. After that one, the next worst is FSU vs. Southern Miss, which is only 341 miles.
    • Most favorable difference: Miami vs. Wisconsin, 1512 miles. After that, Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M.
    • Most even match-up: Virginia vs Navy, 154 miles. Navy has a home game, but I feel bad ragging on them since, you know, they’re going to be fighting for our freedom and everything.

Click the map to go to an interactive map of all of the ACC’s conference travel.


BowlSiteConference TeamMileageOpponentMileageDifference
TexasNRG StadiumMissouri805Texas164641
BelkBank of America StadiumTexas A&M1067Wake Forest83984
Music CityNissan StadiumKentucky213Northwestern504291
TaxSlayerEverBank FieldMississippi State557Louisville746189
OutbackRaymond James StadiumSouth Carolina485Michigan1166681
PeachMercedes-Benz StadiumAuburn110UCF455345
CitrusCamping WorldLSU695Notre Dame1114419
RoseRose BowlGeorgia2241Oklahoma1345896

Georgia’s travel alone accounts for more than a third of all of the SEC for the bowl season; remove them and their trips look relatively balanced. They’re still favored in six of their nine games, but the margins are pretty small. This is also the most cumulative mileage that they’ve been forced to travel in my three years recording the information; the conference traveled 3904 miles in 2015 and 5351 in 2016. Cumulative stats are one thing but differences are closer too: the largest difference in their favor is 681 miles compared to multiple thousand mile differences in 2016 and a 2400+ mile difference in 2015.

    • Furthest trip: Georgia, 2241 miles
    • Shortest trip: Auburn, 110 miles (RIP UCF)
    • Worst difference: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest, 984 miles. It’s Jimbo time, y’all.
    • Most favorable difference: South Carolina vs. Michigan, 681 miles.
    • Most even match-up: Mississippi State vs. Louisville, 189 miles
    • For the first time since I’ve been recording, an SEC school does not play in their home state. Still plenty of neighboring states, but they aren’t as wildly favored as in years past.

Click the map to go to an interactive map of all of the SEC’s conference travel.

PAC 12

BowlSiteConference TeamMileageOpponentMileageDifference
Las VegasSam Boyd StadiumOregon883Boise State634249
Heart of DallasCotton Bowl StadiumUtah1245West Virginia120441
Cactus Chase FieldUCLA374Kansas State1107733
Foster FarmsLevi's StadiumArizona831Purdue22481417
HolidayQualcomm StadiumWashington State1197Michigan State22761079
SunSun BowlArizona State394NC State18321438
Cotton AT&T StadiumUSC1422Ohio State1061361
FiestaUniversity of Phoenix StadiumWashington1397Penn State2244847

The conference has to go a long way for every game (UCLA’s 374 miles is the shortest), but so do their opponents; on average each opponent has to travel approximately 35% further. They are beneficiaries of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th worst differences in this bowl season (Miami, who plays a home game if you didn’t know, has the best difference), and also play the teams with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd longest trip. But they also average over 1,000 miles per trip, so take these with a grain of salt.¬† I just can’t wait to see Herm Edwards¬†play. to win. the game.

    • Furthest trip: Stanford, 1711 miles
    • Shortest trip: UCLA, 374 miles
    • Worst difference: Stanford vs. TCU, 1444 miles
    • Most favorable difference: Arizona State vs. NC State, 1438 miles
    • Most even match-up: Besides West Virginia vs. Utah, the Boise State vs. Oregon split of 249 miles to meet in Sin City is pretty fair.
    • This is the first year since I’ve been recording that Washington has not had the P5’s longest trip. Their 2015 trip to the Cotton Bowl was 2107 miles, and last year’s semifinal appearance at the Georgia Dome was 2,636 miles, the longest on my records. Their 1,397 haul this year still ain’t no joke.

Click the map to go to an interactive map for all of the Pac 12’s conference travel.

And some superlatives for you…

  • Longest trips
    • Michigan State, 2276 miles
    • Purdue, 2248
    • Penn State, 2244
    • Georgia, 2241
    • NC State, 1832
  • Shortest Trips (excluding home games like Miami – did you know Miami plays at their home stadium?)
    • Wake Forest, 83 miles
    • Auburn, 110
    • Virginia, 154
    • Texas, 164
    • Boston College, 200 (pour one out for AJ Dillon)
  • Worst Differences
    • Wisconsin vs. Miami, 1512 miles
    • Stanford vs. TCU, 1444 miles
    • NC State vs. Arizona State, 1438 miles
    • Arizona vs. Purdue, 1417 miles
    • Washington State vs. Michigan State, 1079 miles
  • Most Even Trips
    • Utah vs. West Virginia, 41 miles
    • Louisville vs. Mississippi State, 189
    • Boise State vs. Oregon, 249
    • Kentucky vs. Northwestern, 291
    • Clemson vs. Alabama, 300

I know I said I don’t use this as a platform to advocate for reform, but since you made it this far, I’ll throw you a bone. I wish the bowl schedule moved away from the designated conference opponents. Keeping the playoff and the NY6 methodology the same, I would like to see each bowl remaining to be granted the ability to pick from a pool of available teams based on attraction of matchups rather than from a particular conference. On paper, there don’t seem to be too many blowouts waiting to happen (I also didn’t think that Iowa would be outscored their last two bowl games 75-19, but hey), but I also think that we are confining ourselves a little bit by forcing certain teams with certain records from certain conferences to play other certain teams with certain records from certain conferences.

That’s a rabbit hole that I’ll fall down on another day. Enjoy bowl season and thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: Paul Sherman/MGoBlog

Bill Getschman