18 teams playing close to home this bowl season

Dec 12, 2012 |
We counted no fewer than 18 schools that are within close proximity to their bowl games this season - but that doesn’t always mean it’s an advantage.

We highlight those teams and give you a quick note on each one to help you sort through it. (Listed in chronological order of the bowl game. Odds and ticket sales are as of Dec. 11).

Utah State – Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise Idaho
Approx. distance to Boise: 294 miles
Line: Utah State -10/58

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 center Zac Kerin admitted his team was hoping for a warmer bowl game.

San Diego State – San Diego State County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl
Approx. distance: Home stadium
Line: SDSU +2.5/48.5

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: 100 miles
Line: UCF -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
Aprox. distance to New Orleans: 135 miles
Line: La-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: 155 miles
Line: CMU +5, 55.5

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: 145 miles
Line: Duke +7/53.5

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: 120 miles
Line: Pick/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: 100 miles
Line: ULM -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: 260 miles
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: 245 miles
Line: 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: 75 miles
Line: 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
Line: Vandy -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: 124 miles 
Line: Clemson +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: 267 miles
Line: 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 offense.

Stanford - Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio
Approx. distance to Los Angeles: 360 miles
Line: Stanford -6.5/47

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: 480 miles
Line: FSU -12.5/58

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: 180 miles
Line: A&M -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: 180 miles
Line: Miss -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. 

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