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College Football 2018: Here’s How Many Miles 40 Top Teams Will Have To Travel

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From Alabama to Navy, we’ve calculated how many miles some of college football’s best teams will travel this year.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Auburn Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are just one spot apart in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, but their 2018 football schedules couldn’t be more different in terms of travel.

The 10th-ranked Tigers’ average road trip is 197 miles, or roughly the distance between Buffalo and Cleveland. The 11th-ranked Irish, meanwhile, embark on a six game road schedule that includes jaunts that average the distance between Omaha and New Orleans.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick’s decision to move a Nov. 17 game against the Syracuse Orange from Notre Dame Stadium to Yankee Stadium (1,412 roundtrip miles away by road) added to an already travel-intensive schedule that includes expeditions to San Diego (4,305 miles roundtrip), Los Angeles (4,211), Winston-Salem (1,271 miles) and Blacksburg (1,124).

And while no top 25 team will cross as many time zones as Notre Dame this year, the 22nd-ranked Boise State Broncos and 8th-ranked Miami-Florida Hurricanes will log the most miles among the group of contenders.

The Broncos will log about a third of their season’s miles traveling to Alabama for their Sept. 1 opener against the Troy Trojans.

The Hurricanes have four trips that are relatively similar, including trips to Chesnut Hill, Mass. (2,940 miles) to play conference foe Boston College Eagles; to Arlington, Texas (2,666 miles) to open the season against the LSU Tigers; to Ohio to play the Toledo Rockets (2,630); and to Charlottesville to play fellow ACC Coastal member, the Virginia Cavaliers. All except the Texas trip, however, are in Miami’s time zone.

TIME ZONE EFFECTS

Have scientists already predicted how the Michigan State Spartans will fare in their 10:45 p.m. Eastern clash Sept. 8 against the Arizona State Sun Devils?

Perhaps.

In studies in both 1993 and 1997, researchers found that NFL teams play better east of their home base and worse to their west during night games.

“Air travel across multiple time zones desychronizes the well-orchestrated endogenous rhythms by acutely offsetting the internal rhythms (i.e., sleep-wake cycle) with external cues (i.e., light-dark cycle),” wrote scientists in the 1993 report. “Decreased athletic performance has been documented under these conditions.”

Both studies suggested athletes who were playing games closer to their typical practice times held the advantage over those playing when their body clocks were “closer to the human performance nadir (late night).”

While we don’t know the exact circadian rhythms of any athlete, researchers generally know that may take three or more days for their bodies to adjust to traveling across three or more time zones.

The teams most likely to experience this extreme body disruption in 2018 are the Hawaii Warriors and the Navy Midshipmen.

Nick Rolovich’s team travels far east for a Sept. 15 game against the Army Black Knights in West Point, N.Y. that kicks off a 6 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST). The Middies, meanwhile, will cross six time zones (9,706 roundtrip miles) to play the Warriors in Oahu at a game that kicks at 11 p.m. Annapolis time.

The Warriors play the remainder of their road games against opponents situated in the Pacific time zone, except the BYU Cougars. That kickoff time is yet to be announced.

Navy and Notre Dame will both traverse three time zones to meet Oct. 27 in San Diego, for a game that will kick at 8 p.m. on both their body clocks. (If they were traveling by road, Notre Dame would be about 1,000 miles closer to San Diego than Navy would.)

Notre Dame not only scheduled against their own body clocks for that neutral site game, they’ve announced a kickoff time for a Sept. 29 game that is body-friendly for their opponent.

The Irish’s clash with the Stanford Cardinal kicks at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, which is just 60 to 90 minutes earlier than the Cardinals’ typical home games. Will that help the Cardinal athletes overcome a three-time zone trip? That remains to be seen, although the Cardinal’s 17-10 victory over the Irish in 2016 was also a night game.

Other three-zone crosses among top 25 teams include:

  • Sept. 1: The Washington Huskies travel three time zones east (5,298 roundtrip road miles) to play the Auburn Tigers in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Nov. 24: The Irish travel three time zones west (4,211 roundtrip road miles) to play the USC Trojans in Los Angeles. Since 2002, Notre Dame has finished its regular season in California. They are 5-11 in those games, including losing the last five.

MILEAGE CHECKS

All miles are road miles between the team’s home stadium and their opponent’s home stadium. While I recognize that many road trips include flights, not buses, this was the easiest way to present comparable data.

Travel Among 40 Top College Football Teams, 2018

Coaches Poll Team Away/Neutral Games Miles Traveled Round Trip Miles per game Round trip mpg Time zones Time zones (roundtrip)
Coaches Poll Team Away/Neutral Games Miles Traveled Round Trip Miles per game Round trip mpg Time zones Time zones (roundtrip)
1 Alabama 5 1,946 3,878 389 776 2 4
2 Clemson 5 2,584 5,265 517 1,053 1 2
3 Ohio State 5 2,290 4,589 458 918 2 4
4 Georgia 5 2,228 4,489 446 898 2 4
5 Oklahoma 5 2,437 4,903 487 981 1 2
6 Washington 6 5,985 12,006 998 2,001 4 8
7 Wisconsin 5 1,708 3,418 342 684 3 6
8 Miami 6 6,570 13,320 1,095 2,220 1 2
9 Penn State 5 1,927 3,868 385 774 1 2
10 Auburn 5 983 1,995 197 399 2 4
11 Notre Dame 6 6,284 12,551 1,047 2,092 7 14
12 Michigan St. 5 3,979 8,026 796 1,605 3 6
13 Stanford 6 4,791 9,571 799 1,595 3 6
14 Michigan 5 1,306 2,611 261 522 1 2
15 USC 6 3,856 7,708 643 1,285 3 6
16 TCU 6 2,081 4,184 347 697 1 2
17 Virginia Tech 5 1,572 3,334 314 667 0 0
18 Mississippi St. 5 1,718 3,432 344 686 1 2
19 Florida St. 5 3,820 7,617 764 1,523 0 0
20 West Virginia 6 5,598 11,209 933 1,868 4 8
21 Texas 6 3,895 7,790 649 1,298 1 2
22 Boise State 6 6,556 13,234 1,093 2,206 4 8
23 Central Florida 5 3,343 6,778 669 1,356 1 2
24 LSU 5 2,354 4,698 471 940 1 2
25 Oklahoma St. 5 1,208 2,481 242 496 0 0
26 South Carolina 5 1,923 3,841 385 768 2 4
27 Florida 5 1,858 3,715 372 743 2 4
28 Oregon 5 3,085 6,169 617 1,234 1 2
29 Utah 6 4,612 9,232 769 1,539 5 10
30 Texas A&M 5 3,181 6,363 636 1,273 1 2
31 Northwestern 5 1,824 3,656 365 731 3 6
32 Kansas St. 5 2,697 5,391 539 1,078 1 2
33 Florida Atlantic 6 4,902 9,801 817 1,633 3 6
34 Memphis 5 2,450 4,953 490 991 2 4
35 Boston College 5 4,472 8,897 894 1,779 0 0
36 N.C. State 5 1,870 3,777 374 755 0 0
37 Arkansas State 6 3,275 6,551 546 1,092 2 4
38 Troy 6 2,984 5,949 497 992 3 6
45 South Florida 6 6,628 13,306 1,105 2,218 3 6
NR Navy 8 13,192 26,456 1,649 3,307 13 26
@andrewwinn / One Foot Down