Backyard Bowl Games = No Advantage

Rice University (Houston, TX) to Reliant Stadium (2008 Texas Bowl)


Typically, past home advantages in bowl games were almost exclusively held by California, Texas, and Florida schools simply because of the climate around January 1st. No doubt that there have been examples of how outcomes of games have been affected in the past because of
this which is why when I kept on hearing how a team was playing a short distance from their campus again and again I began to wonder. Does it really make that much of a difference in this generation of college football for a team to play a bowl game close to home when teams travel all over the country all season?

Although a ‘home’ advantage has come into play almost on a yearly basis in bowl games, this year seemed to up the ante. 8 teams played their bowl games within a 30 minute drive from campus. To put that into perspective, in 1970 there were only 11 bowl games total, in 1980 there were 15 bowl games, and in 1990 there were 19 bowl games.

Today, there are currently 34 bowl games which indicates that roughly 1 out of every 4 games featured a team playing in front of their hometown fans.

Below is a list of those 8 bowl games, the teams involved, the outcome of the game, and the distance from campus.

#1 – Chick-fil-A Bowl – LSU 38 Georgia Tech 3
2.2 miles from Georgia Tech University to the Georgia Dome (Atlanta, GA) map

#2 – Music City Bowl
– Vanderbilt 16 Boston College 14

3.2 miles from Vanderbilt University to LP Field (Nashville, TN) map

#3 – Texas Bowl
– Rice 38 Western Michigan 14

3.3 miles from Rice University to Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX) map

#4 – Hawaii Bowl
– Notre Dame 49 Hawaii 21

11.2 miles from the University of Hawaii to Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, HI) map

#5 – Emerald Bowl
– California 24 Miami, FL 17

12.7 miles from University of California-Berkeley to AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA) map

#6 – Rose Bowl
– USC 38 Penn State 24

14.4 miles from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) to the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) map

#7 – Eagle Bank Bowl
– Wake Forest 29 Navy 19.
30 Miles from the US Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) to RFK (Washington, DC) map

#8 – St. Petersburg Bowl
– South Florida 41 Memphis 14.
31.8 miles from University of South Florida (Tampa, FL) to Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, FL) map

Of these 8 bowl games that were more or less held in a team’s hometown, the ‘home’ teams went 5-3 overall. Furthermore, of those 5 wins, only one was considered an upset which was Vanderbilt (+4) over Boston College – hardly an upset.

To take things a step further, there were an additional 6 bowl games – PetroSun (Louisiana Tech), Motor City (Central Michigan), Champs Sports (Florida State), Armed Forces (Houston), Meineke Car Care Bowl (North Carolina), and the Cotton Bowl (Texas Tech) – that featured teams playing in their home states. When added together with the previous games, that makes 14 games out of 34 games (or 41% of all bowl games.). And when accounting for these additional 6 games where teams played in their ‘home’ state, the teams went 8-6 (when combined with the previous 8) with no additional upsets.

In fact, the teams that got to make an actual road trip out of state to their bowl games to face a ‘home-state’ team actually won 5 games where the spread was either even or they were considered an underdog according to Las Vegas.

The location of a bowl game made almost no difference in the 2008-9 bowl season which can be somewhat surprising given the amount of teams that got to stay so close to home. Many factors play a part in determining the outcomes of bowl games especially when you give teams a month to prepare. However, claiming that it isn’t fair to play a school so close to home in a bowl game is an argument that teams or fans should think twice about making.

And remember, I’m talking about bowl games only.

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