When the 2013 ACC football schedule was released, I noted that the Eagles don't have the luxury of having an extra week off on their second of two cross-country trips before jumping right back into ACC Atlantic Division play. If the Eagles struggle down the stretch, get ready for the "road weary Boston College football team" to become the #ACCNarratives of choice as BC is logging some serious frequent flyer miles this season.
The Boston College football team will travel more than 15,500 round-trip miles this season, nearly double the total mileage of the next closest ACC opponent (Syracuse) and more than the total mileage of Pittsburgh, N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke combined.
Mileage is approximate based on round-trip driving distances between schools and/or neutral sites.
Boston College will log 10,678 miles on two cross-country trips to USC and New Mexico State this season. That mileage total is nearly three times more than Georgia Tech, which will travel 3,766 miles on a cross-country trip to visit the BYU Cougars. The Eagles are just one of five ACC programs that have two non-conference road games this year, though Maryland (Baltimore), Syracuse (East Rutherford) and Virginia Tech (Atlanta) all have relatively close neutral site games. Wake Forest is the only other school that plays two true non-conference road games this season (Army and Vanderbilt).
Both Virginia and N.C. State have eight home games this year and will not hit the road in non-conference play.
In ACC play, it is Miami that will travel the furthest distance in the conference. The Hurricanes will travel 6,678 miles round-trip on four conference road games at Florida State, North Carolina, Duke and Pittsburgh. Boston College will travel 4,828 miles round-trip, good for fifth in the conference behind Miami, Syracuse, Florida State and Wake Forest.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Tobacco Road schools will travel the fewest miles in league play, naturally. N.C. State is logging just 2,894 miles, North Carolina 2,158 and Duke only 966 miles. The Blue Devils will travel to Charlottesville, Blacksburg, Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill (all 22 miles round trip) in 2013.
Impact to ACC Divisional Alignment
Intuitively it makes sense that Boston College, Miami and Syracuse, as three of the conference's major geographic outliers, will travel the most during the 2013 season. It also stands to reason that the schools on BC and Syracuse's side of the conference will log more miles, on average, than their Coastal Division counterparts. Five of the seven Coastal Division teams rank in the bottom half of the conference in terms of distance traveled in ACC play. From what I understand, that's exactly how North Carolina and Virginia want it.
It's for this reason that I don't think the ACC will ever entertain realigning the divisions. Duke's longest ACC road trip this season is the 204 miles it takes to get up to Blacksburg, Virginia. North Carolina's longest is their inaugural trip to Heinz Field to play Pittsburgh (476 miles). Virginia's furthest trip is the 1,185 miles it takes to get down to Miami Gardens, but that's a once every other year trip.
Those three schools have it pretty good when it comes to conference road trips. With only one extreme geographic outlier -- Miami -- the only intra-division matchups further than 500 miles one-way are Pittsburgh-Georgia Tech and Virginia-Georgia Tech (but just barely at 508). More than half of the Coastal Division road trips are under 500 miles. The average Coastal Division road trip is 510 miles, whereas the average Atlantic Division road trip is 573 miles. Combined with manageable permanent cross-division partners (North Carolina-N.C. State, Virginia-Maryland ... soon Louisville), Duke-Wake Forest) and Coastal Division teams have it pretty good when it comes to travel. I'd imagine Coastal Division ADs would like to keep it that way.
Contrast this to an alignment where the ACC breaks down along North/South (or Big East/ACC) lines. Schools like North Carolina and Duke would see Wake Forest and N.C. State every season, but they'd also add an additional geographic outlier to the division (Florida State). Plus they'd also be guaranteed at least one trip north every year, which could include long hauls to Syracuse or Chestnut Hill. For Virginia, the idea is a nonstarter both in terms of travel and the programs that Virginia wants to share a division with. Most North/South / Big East/ACC alignments place Virginia in the north with BC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Virginia Tech and either one of the Carolina schools or Miami. Given Virginia's strong ties to North Carolina, Duke and even Georgia Tech, any North/South or Big East/ACC alignment is doomed from the start.
Impact to Boston College
Obviously we can expect to travel further than most programs when it comes to division play. But with the program tacking on an additional 10,678 round-trip miles with two trips to Los Angeles and Las Cruces, I wonder if this will become a significant limiting factor this season. If there's any consolation this year, it's that the season is 14 weeks long and gives all programs two BYE weeks. The first BYE week will be beneficial as the Eagles get an additional week off to recover from the trip to USC before facing Florida State at home (the Seminoles don't have the week off, but they do host I-AA Bethune-Cookman so, yeah). It's that second cross-country trip that could prove problematic, particularly with ACC Atlantic Division games against N.C. State, Maryland and Syracuse to end the season.
Winthrop Intelligence recently performed some interesting analysis attempting to quantify both home-field advantage and cross-country travel and its impact on college football games. The study found that 37.6 percent of Division I teams over the last 13 years have performed better at home than on the road in four major statistical categories: yards gained, points scored on offense, yards allowed and points allowed on offense.
The study further looked at whether a major time-zone change exacerbates this disadvantage. The effect is a bit hard to quantify, as out of 8,331 games from 2000-present, only 0.59 percent involved Eastern Standard Time teams traveling to the west coast. Yet EST teams that played in Pacific Time were worse on both offense (58% gained fewer yards, and 61% scored fewer points) and defense (63% allowed more yards, and 69% allowed more points).
When comparing EST and PST teams against their averages though, they actually fare a bit better than expected. So while teams that have to cross three time zones have seen their performance slip in a majority of cases, it's probably more attributed to the typical home-field advantage than the travel.
It remains to be seen whether Boston College football's increased travel in 2013 will be a factor, but I can't imagine it will help in the rebuilding process under first year Coach Addazio.