Who will get yeoman’s duty regarding miles traveled in the Big 12 in this first season of expansion?

Well, naturally it is the pair of teams on the edges, UCF and BYU.

And if you look at some of the old members of the league, they have much easier travel situations, a factor that could play in how things shake out in late October and November.

“UCF is set to travel 14,914 miles over the course of six road games in 2023, most of any Power Five team in the country by a wide margin. It begins with a 4,367-mile journey to Boise State in Week 2 and ends with a 2,517-mile road trip at Texas Tech,” according to Bookies.com’s college football report.

BYU is No. 2 in travel plans with 12,741 miles set for the 2023 slate, per Bookies.com’s numbers.

To give you an idea of the challenge, UCF will travel more in Week 2 to Boise State and back (4,367 miles) than Kansas State will the entire season (3,240).

In fact, UCF’s trip to Boise State will be more than KSU, TCU, Texas or Houston will travel the whole season and is just 117 miles less than what Oklahoma will encounter in its final season in the league.

The Bookies.com report was written about by several media outlets, among them the Austin American-Statesman, the Oklahoman and Yahoo Sports.

Travel does come into play.

Just ask NBA teams who have some of the best athletes in the world.

There are plenty of reasons home teams have an advantage and the suitcase-carriers bite off a little more by leaving home.

According to studies, travel and jet lag are a real thing. It doesn’t impact youth as much and it has less effect on highly trained athletes, but it absolutely messes with sleep habits, the body clock, digestion, timing of meals and the ability to get quality sound sleep.

If you want to get nerdy about travel and sports, dive into a study by physicians Aaron Lee and Juan Carlos published in Sports Health, found in the National Library of Medicine. It has so many studies and papers to quote it will make you go cross-eyed.

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There’s a section specifically about how the direction of travel can make a difference. A team like BYU is going to travel east primarily in the Big 12 and UCF and West Virginia will be traveling west.

From the study: “The direction of travel affects the severity of jet lag symptoms. Travel across times zones, especially eastward, disrupts the diurnal rhythm. As a result, symptoms of jet lag and sleep disturbances are worse after eastward flights than after westward flights. When one travels in an eastward direction, the length of the day is shortened, and the circadian system must shorten to reestablish a normal rhythm. The body demonstrates a natural tendency toward periods longer than 24 hours; therefore, eastward travel is more difficult because these periods are shorter.

“The effects of eastward travel persist longer for athletes. When travel is westward, symptoms peak in the first 3 days, while for eastward travel, the symptoms are more severe and persist for as long as 7 days.”

“The effects of eastward travel persist longer for athletes.When travel is westward, symptoms peak in the first 3 days, while for eastward travel, the symptoms are more severe and persist for as long as 7 days.”

In 2014, BYU traveled about 22,000 miles due to an independent schedule that needed more ability to get quality teams to Provo. Bronco Mendenhall began the season at UConn and then made stops at Texas, Orlando, Tennessee (Murfreesboro), Boise and Berkeley before finishing at the Miami Beach Bowl in Miami.

In 2000, the final season for legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards, the team traveled about half of that distance with stops in Jacksonville, Charlottesville, Virginia, and at Syracuse.  That team finished with a 6-6 record. 

This past year, the final season of independence, BYU’s head football coach Kalani Sitake, his staff and players managed a season of more than 12,000 miles traveled. It began with a 5,000-mile round trip to Tampa Bay to play the University of South Florida. That team finished 8-5 and endured a four-game losing streak midseason.

Last year, Utah made a long trip to Florida to experience a loss. Conversely, Florida must travel to Salt Lake City (and altitude) at the end of August. 

Will travel make a difference?

It could.

Nobody should use travel as an excuse. This is what sports is about.

But to say that it does not make a difference is ignorant.

I believe Florida’s travel to Utah will be a factor, just like BYU’s trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in Week 3 will be a factor for the Cougars.

That’s what makes it fun.

For prognosticators, it’s definitely in the algorithms.

For those on the field, it’s just a deal-with-it ordeal.

Utah Utes wide receiver Devaughn Vele, wearing white, tries to push Florida Gators long snapper Marco Ortiz as Utah and Florida play.
Utah Utes wide receiver Devaughn Vele (17) tries to push Florida Gators long snapper Marco Ortiz (45) as Utah and Florida play in Gainesvillle, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. After Utah made a visit to The Swamp last year, the Gators will play the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium to kick off the 2023 season. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News