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. What a time to be alive. With 838 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.
Like always, 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 once again be the most traveled team in 2019, racking up 28,161 miles over the course of next season. That’s a decrease of almost 10,000 miles over their 2018 total of 37,703 miles, thanks in part to not having to play at Army in West Point this season. On the other side of the spectrum, Georgia likely won’t have to step foot in an airplane during their regular season (though they probably still will with that booster money flowing in), traveling a mere 1,671 miles all season. Let’s take a look at the difference. First here’s Hawaii’s flight plans:
And now, Georgia’s light galavant throughout Georgia and the surrounding area:
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 nearly 50% farther than the second most-traveled school in the FBS this season. That second team, Army, 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 (mayyybe Hawaii stays between Boise and Reno between weeks 5-6).
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. Above them are 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 less than 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.
- Arizona has the longest travel schedule of any Power Five team, with a trip to Hawaii as their only OOC away game, before a spread-out Pac 12 schedule taking them to Boulder, LA, Palo Alto, Eugene, and Tempe.
- Minnesota has the longest journey in the Big Ten, which is not too surprising given their rather western status within the conference. Most of that is attributable to an out of conference matchup against Fresno State in Fresno this year, as well as a conference matchup at Rutgers. Iowa, and Michigan State have virtually no travel this season, totaling under 3,000 miles a piece.
- The Big XII is no surprise, with somewhat-centrally-located Baylor having the least travel while West Virginia will be up in the air the most, almost 4x as many miles as Baylor.
- Utah is the only Pac 12 school to fly fewer than 7,100 miles this season, while West Virginia and Oklahoma State are the only other P5 schools to fly more than 7,100 miles on the season.
- Five of the twelve Mountain West teams will fly more than 10,000 miles on the season. In the rest of FBS, only eight schools will fly more than 10,000 miles on the season, four of them independents.
- Neither of last year’s National Championship Game teams will travel more than 3,000 miles, with Alabama going 2,690 and defending champions Clemson going 2,911. The semifinalists will both travel more, Oklahoma going 4,483 and Notre Dame 6,890 miles on the season.
Okay, so enough random facts, here’s the whole list so you can see where your team falls:
|Michigan St||Big Ten||2526|
|Ohio St||Big Ten||3707|
|Kansas St||Big XII||3933|
|Appalachian St||Sun Belt||4273|
|Southern Miss||Conf USA||4547|
|Penn St||Big Ten||4637|
|Colorado St||Mountain West||4695|
|Georgia St||Sun Belt||5046|
|Old Dominion||Conf USA||5501|
|UT San Antonio||Conf USA||5729|
|Louisiana Tech||Conf USA||5827|
|Iowa St||Big XII||5940|
|Arkansas St||Sun Belt||5958|
|Ga Southern||Sun Belt||6134|
|Florida Intl||Conf USA||6449|
|Texas Tech||Big XII||6516|
|North Texas||Conf USA||6810|
|Texas St||Sun Belt||6858|
|Coastal Car||Sun Belt||7005|
|Oklahoma St||Big XII||7398|
|Arizona St||Pac 12||8230|
|Boise St||Mountain West||8586|
|Washington St||Pac 12||8754|
|Fresno St||Mountain West||9598|
|San Diego St||Mountain West||9716|
|Oregon St||Pac 12||10458|
|Utah St||Mountain West||10671|
|FL Atlantic||Conf USA||10778|
|West Virginia||Big XII||11133|
|New Mexico||Mountain West||11196|
|Air Force||Mountain West||12035|
|New Mexico St||Independent||15950|
|San Jose St||Mountain West||16007|