Every fall, the college football season fires up and gives fans an opportunity to eschew responsibility in favor of sitting on the couch every Saturday for 15 weeks. Beautiful. With 844 games on the docket for the regular season, plus conference championships and bowls, all of our couch time comes at the expense of plenty of travel for all 130 FBS teams this season.
This season, I took a look at every team’s away and neutral site schedule and determined how much travel is necessary for each team. The list uses a handful of assumptions that I’ll hit on below, but the top team should be no surprise.
The Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii will be the most traveled team in 2018, racking up 37,703 miles, all in the air of course, over the course of the season. That’s enough to circle the globe one and a half times. On the other side of the spectrum, Ball State likely won’t step foot in an airplane during their regular season, traveling a mere 1,692 miles all season. Let’s take a look at the difference. First here’s Hawaii’s flight plans, including starting the season in Fort Collins against Colorado State:
It’s clear to see the differences between the two, and the associated travel nightmare that the Rainbow Warriors tend to have to deal with annually. In fact, Hawaii will fly more than 50% farther than the second most-traveled school in the FBS this season. That second team, Navy, spends most of their travel on an away game at, you guessed it, Hawaii itself. Before we continue on with more facts, let’s take a look at my assumptions.
- “Power Five” conference teams will fly for anything longer than around 300 miles or five hours drive.
- Non-P5 teams will fly for anything longer than around 500 miles or eight hours drive.
- Driving mileage is via Google Maps’ quickest route.
- Flying mileage is via GCMap’s direct route between the most suitable airport nearest to campus to the nearest suitable airport for the opposing team.
- Teams return home after every week, which I’m pretty sure happens as even Hawaii has two weeks between away games this season.
With that, there may be a few cases where a team is likely to fly below the limit (e.g. Auburn budgets X plane trips a year and the plane is available), but I think this analysis should get you generally close to what reality will end up being. Taking a look at the conference breakdown, it’s no surprise that the Mountain West Conference takes the cake, with Hawaii dramatically raising the average distance. Below that is the Independents, who don’t receive the geographic benefits of being in a conference. Then the first Power Five conference with the Pac 12, the largest geographic spread of any major conference. At the bottom of the list, we find the SEC, with the average team traveling almost half as much as their Pac 12 counterparts. This is largely attributable to a compact footprint, even after the recent expansion added geographic outlier Texas A&M. Here’s the full conference averages:
On the individual team level, beyond the previously mentioned top three and bottom, here are some other interesting notes.
- Miami (of Florida) has the longest travel schedule of any Power Five team, with a neutral site trip to Dallas to play LSU, a trip to Toledo, and in conference play against Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech.
- Michigan State has the longest journey in the Big Ten, which is surprising given their rather centrally-located status within the conference. Most of that is attributable to an out of conference matchup against Arizona State in Tempe this year. Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin have virtually no travel this season, totaling under 3,000 miles a piece.
- The Big XII is no surprise, with centrally-located Oklahoma State having the least travel while West Virginia will be up in the air the most.
- Oregon is the only Pac 12 school to fly fewer than 5,000 miles this season (by only four miles), while Texas A&M and Missouri are the only SEC schools to fly more than 5,000 miles on the season.
- Seven of the twelve Mountain West teams will fly more than 10,000 miles on the season. In the rest of FBS, only ten schools will fly more than 10,000 miles on the season.
- None of last year’s four playoff teams will fly more than 5,000 miles on the season. Alabama has the shortest road at 3,245 miles while Clemson will travel 4,768.
Okay, so enough random facts, here’s the whole list so you can see where your team falls:
|New Mexico St||Sun Belt||11216|
|Utah St||Mountain West||10845|
|Air Force||Mountain West||10652|
|Boise St||Mountain West||10646|
|Oregon St||Pac 12||10251|
|West Virginia||Big XII||9515|
|FL Atlantic||Conf USA||8352|
|UT San Antonio||Conf USA||8211|
|Texas St||Sun Belt||8167|
|Colorado St||Mountain West||7950|
|North Texas||Conf USA||7883|
|Ga Southern||Sun Belt||7135|
|Arizona St||Pac 12||6862|
|Fresno St||Mountain West||6785|
|Michigan St||Big Ten||6775|
|Washington St||Pac 12||6724|
|Florida Intl||Conf USA||6688|
|San Jose St||Mountain West||6478|
|Old Dominion||Conf USA||6246|
|Southern Miss||Conf USA||6037|
|New Mexico||Mountain West||5933|
|Coastal Car||Sun Belt||5850|
|Arkansas St||Sun Belt||5211|
|San Diego St||Mountain West||5192|
|Texas Tech||Big XII||5119|
|Kansas St||Big XII||4747|
|Louisiana Tech||Conf USA||4682|
|Appalachian St||Sun Belt||4613|
|Iowa St||Big XII||4548|
|Ohio St||Big Ten||3925|
|Georgia St||Sun Belt||3805|
|Penn St||Big Ten||3307|
|Oklahoma St||Big XII||2068|