NCAA Football: Bowl Teams Playing Close To Home

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: San Diego State does not have very far to travel for the Poinsettia Bowl as this game is being played on their home turf

There are 18 schools playing bowl games within a reasonably close proximity to their home fields this season – but that does not always mean there is an advantage.

Games are listed in chronological order with odds and ticket sales as of 13 December.

Utah State – Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise Idaho
Approx. distance to Boise: 473 KMs
Toledo vs Utah State (-10, 58.5)

Utah State has just a 4.5-hour drive up the I-84 to Boise, where it returns to the Famous Potato Bowl for the second straight season. The Aggies are hungry to get back to Boise to avenge a heartbreaking 24-23 loss to Ohio there last year, while Toledo centre Zac Kerin admitted his team was hoping for a warmer bowl game.

San Diego State – San Diego State County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Approx. distance: Home Field 
BYU vs San Diego State (+2.5, 49)

The Aztecs play on their home turf of Qualcomm Stadium and get a game against an opponent they’re not too fond of, BYU. SDSU won its only appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl, a 35-14 win over Navy in 2010 as a 3-point fave.

Central Florida – Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl
Approx. distance: 160 KMs
Ball State vs Central Florida (-7, 61.5)

Florida teams are 1-2 in this bowl game’s short four-year history, including a 45-24 loss by UCF to Rutgers in 2009. You have to worry a little about UCF’s motivation for this one after losing the C-USA championship in OT to Tulsa in its last game and missing out on the Liberty Bowl.

Louisiana-Lafayette – New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Bowl
Approx. distance to New Orleans: 217 KMs
East Carolina vs University Louisiana-Lafayette (-6, 64)

For the second straight year, the Ragin’ Cajuns will drive just a couple of hours down the I-10 for the New Orleans Bowl. Last year, the bowl had by far its biggest turnout its history of over 42,000 and they watched a ULL team upset San Diego State 32-30 as a 6-point underdog.

Central Michigan – Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl
Approx. distance to Detroit: 250 KMs
Central Michigan vs Western Kentucky (-5, 57.5)

The Chippewas are in familiar territory after playing in this bowl when it was called the GMAC Bowl from 2006-08. CMU went 2-1 ATS (against the spread) in those games and attendance averaged over 50,000. Western Kentucky is playing in its first bowl game ever – and with a new coach.

Duke – Belk Bowl
Approx. distance to Charlotte: 233 KMs
Cincinnati vs Duke (+7, 58.5)

This may be Duke’s first bowl game in 18 years, but head coach David Cutcliffe may use it more as a building block for next year. He’s said he’ll be using some practice time to evaluate for next season.  An anonymous donor bought 500 tickets to distribute to Duke students for free so they’re trying to boost attendance.

UCLA – Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Approx. distance to San Diego: 193 KMs
Baylor vs UCLA (+-0, 79.5)

The Bruins missed out on a Rose Bowl spot in the loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. But coach Jim Mora has this team refocused from years past and reports sound like UCLA  is all business heading into the Holiday Bowl against Baylor. Players have even eliminated the “over the wall” tradition, where they bolt on a practice this time of year.

Louisiana Monroe – AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Approx. distance to Shreveport: 160 KMs
Ohio vs University Louisiana Monroe (-7,60) 

This is the Warhawks’ first bowl game ever, so you can bet there will be some fans making the mere 1.5-hour drive west on the I-20 to cheer on their team.

Rice – Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Approx. distance to Fort Worth: 418 KMs
Air Force vs Rice (+1, 61)

This may be only a relatively short trip for Rice students and alumni, but Air Force could be the team feeling more at home here. The Falcons have appeared in three of the previous five Armed Forces Bowls, though they only won one of those.

Syracuse – New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Approx. distance: to NYC: 394 KMs
West Virginia vs Syracuse (+4, 73.5)

The first two Pinstripe Bowls at Yankee Stadium were won by Syracuse and Rutgers, so proximity teams are 2-0 SU and ATS in this one. Cuse also plays a familiar former Big East foe, West Virginia.

Texas – Valero Alamo Bowl
Approx. distance to San Antonio: 119 KMs
Oregon State vs Texas (+2, 56.5)

This is one of the shortest bowl trips of anyone, but you have to wonder how excited the Texas alumni are about going to a middle-of-the-road bowl game. Texas lost its last two games and coach Mack Brown won’t commit to a starting QB for the game.

Vanderbilt – Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Approx. distance to Nashville: Home City
NC State vs Vanderbilt (-6.5, 52) 

Vandy has already sold its allotment of 12,000 tickets and has requested more. They’ll play an N.C. State team that just fired its coach at season’s end.

Clemson – Chick-fil-A Bowl
Approx. distance to Atlanta: 200 KMs  
Clemson vs LSU (-3.5, 58.5)

This game appears headed for its 16th straight sellout and you can bet Clemson will have its fair share of supporters with such a short drive to Atlanta. Clemson needs all the support it can get after losing five of its past six bowl games, including a Chick-fil-A defeat in 2007 to Auburn.

Oklahoma State – Heart of Dallas Bowl
Approx. distance to Dallas: 429 KMs
Purdue vs Oklahoma State (-16.5, 70)

This is the highest spread on the bowl game board and Oklahoma State should have plenty more support at this game than 6-6 Purdue, which just hired a new coach, Darrell Hazell from Kent State. The Cowboys just lost OC Todd Monken to Southern Miss though, and this team wins with offence.

Stanford – Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio
Approx. distance to Los Angeles: 579 KMs
Wisconsin vs Stanford (-6.5, 47.5)

Stanford sold out of its 31,000 ticket allotment quickly for this one and the team has the added familiarity of playing in the Rose Bowl against UCLA just two games ago.

Florida State – Discover Orange Bowl
Approx. distance to Miami: 772 KMs
Northern Illinois vs Florida State (-12.5, 58.5)

The Noles aren’t going out of state, but it’s still a long hike to Miami from Tallahassee. Their fans have shown they aren’t interested, buying just 4,000 tickets of the 17,000 allotment . Northern Illinois students, meanwhile, gobbled up the 5,500 their school dished out for free.

Texas A&M and Oklahoma – AT&T Cotton Bowl   
Approx. distance to Dallas: 289 KMs
Texas A&M vs Oklahoma (+4.5, 71.5)

Both schools have about the same travel distance for this one so pick your pleasure. The Sooners quickly sold out of their 12,500 tickets but A&M’s Heisman winner, Johnny Football, will probably garner the most attention.

Ole Miss – BBVA Compass Bowl
Approx. distance to Birmingham: 289 KMs
Pittsburgh vs Mississippi (-3.5, 52)

The Clarion Ledger wrote that Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork hopes to break the attendance record for this game of 42,610, set in 2010. The Rebels went 2-10 last year so any bowl game is big for them. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, had players openly rooting not to go back to the BBVA Compass Bowl, where they’ll play their third straight bowl game.