College Teams’ Last Road Trip Win
With the current talk about how the revised college football playoff is going to work, one of the questions implicit in such an endeavor is how to compare teams across conferences. The biggest problem with comparing college football teams across conferences is they’re typically very poorly connected. Take, for instance, the question of whether Alabama or Oklahoma State should have been LSU’s opponent last year. They didn’t play each other. They didn’t play any of the same teams. There were actually 13 second-order, but 11 of those were non-BCS games, and the BCS and non-BCS tiers of Division I-A are hardly on the same level. If you discount those games as not particularly meaningful, you have, in total, 0 zeroth-order datapoints, 0 first-order datapoints, and 2 second-order datapoints. It’s hard to speak of those teams as playing in anything like the same league; you’re probably better off comparing middle-tier clubs in the English Premier League to middle-tier clubs in Italy’s Serie A.
The way to solve this problem is by playing more intersectional games. Because I was bored this afternoon, I decided to look up when each team won their last road game in a state played where a member of that team’s conference was not playing. For instance, Iowa got no credit for playing at Pitt, because Iowa is in the same conference as Penn State, which is also in Pennsylvania (and I’m ignoring, for the purposes of this post and any future post where I don’t highlight the distinction as something I’m not ignoring, that four states, including Pennsylvania, are officially commonwealths). I’m also only including true road wins; no credit directional state in an NFL stadium in a big metropolitan area where you have more alumni than they do.
Here are your results by conference:
Boston College-2010, Syracuse
Florida State-2009, BYU
Georgia Tech-2011, Middle Tennessee State
Miami-2008, Texas A&M
North Carolina-2010, Rutgers
North Carolina State-2002, Texas Tech
Virginia Tech-2011, Marshall
Wake Forest-2008, Baylor
Summary: Clemson! Yes, Tigers fans, I neglected your glorious triumph over Duke in Tokyo in 1991, because it doesn’t fit my criteria. That’s a really impressive streak of non-accomplishment, though. Beyond that, not much of interest here. The opponents aren’t all the greatest, but you don’t have to go back very far to find wins.
Indiana-2010, Western Kentucky
Michigan State-2000, Missouri
Minnesota-2010, Middle Tennessee State
Northwestern-2011, Boston College
Ohio State-2007, Washington
Penn State-1999, Miami-FL
Summary: It’s been a while for two of the conference’s historical heavyweights, as neither Michigan nor Penn State has won a foreign true road game in the 2000’s. Both have had, though, a number of opportunities to get the win; they just haven’t won.
Baylor-2009, Wake Forest
Iowa State-2011, Connecticut
Kansas State-2011, Miami-FL
Oklahoma-2011, Florida State
Oklahoma State-2010, Louisiana-Lafayette
Texas Tech-2011, New Mexico
West Virginia-2011, Maryland (as a member of the Big East, 0 seasons in B12)
Summary: A pretty strong record, with Kansas the only outlier. A couple uninspiring opponents, but road games are road games.
Arizona State-2006, Colorado (not then a member of Pac-X)
Colorado-2002, UCLA (as a member of the Big 12, also beat Washington State at Seattle in 2005 before joining)
Oregon State-2009, UNLV
Southern California-2011, Notre Dame
Washington State-2005, Nevada
Summary: I expected the Pac-X to grade out fairly well here, just because of the number of relatively close opponents outside the conference’s footprint. The surprise on this list, though, is that the above list has only three pseudo-scrubs on it and one of those (Toledo) isn’t even western. Keep in mind as well that the Pac-X plays one more conference game than everybody else, which means, on the whole, 25% fewer chances to play (and win) foreign true road games.
Alabama-2011, Penn State
Florida-1977, Rice (beat Rutgers in 1986 at Giants Stadium)
Georgia-2008, Arizona State
Kentucky-2003, Indiana (beat Miami-OH in 2009 at Paul Brown Stadium)
LSU-2011, West Virginia
Mississippi-1998, Southern Methodist
Mississippi State-2010, Houston
Missouri-2009, Nevada (as a member of the Big 12, 0 seasons in SEC)
South Carolina-2009, NC State (beat East Carolina in 2011 in Charlotte)
Tennessee-2001, Notre Dame
Texas A&M-2008, New Mexico (as a member of the Big 12, 0 seasons in SEC)
Summary: S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C! Only Clemson’s streak prevents the SEC from taking the top three places on this list in Florida, Auburn, and Ole Miss. The Gators stand in a class by themselves, as they haven’t had an opportunity for a win that counts in the past two decades.