Will Oregon football’s travel distance be an issue in 2024? Jonathan Stewart weighs in

There will be a lot of newness for the Oregon Ducks at the start of the 2024 college football season as they prepare to become members of the Big Ten Conference for the first time.

While they will have to get used to games against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, rather than Colorado, Washington State, and Arizona, it will also be the travel required to get to these games that could take some getting used to.

As members of the Pac-12, travel was not a major concern for the Ducks. In 2023 alone, Oregon traveled to five away games and flew approximately 8,500 miles roundtrip. The longest trip was a non-conference game vs. Texas Tech (approximately 2,700 miles roundtrip) but the average distance was just 1,600 roundtrip miles per away game.

That’s going to change in 2024. While the Ducks still hit the road five times, they are projected to fly over 15,000 miles roundtrip, with the longest being to Ann Arbor, Michigan — about 4,800 miles roundtrip.

Those numbers present an average of about 3,000 miles per trip, but when you take away the 47 miles north that the Ducks will drive to face Oregon State in Corvallis, it averages out to just under 4,000 miles per trip. That’s almost double the numbers from 2023.

Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not, but it could be a cause for concern.

On this week’s episode of the Bleav in Oregon podcast, I talked with Ducks’ legend Jonathan Stewart, and we went over potential obstacles that the Ducks need to focus on in 2024. Traveling distance was concern No. 1.

“When it comes to distance and traveling, we’ve got to talk about fatigue,” Stewart said. “Distance is not just fatigue, but it’s a process, and it takes time. How are we going to get our equipment there? What days are we going to travel, are we going to leave a day early? Where are we going to practice when we get there?”

As a former NFL Pro Bowl running back, Stewart knows a thing or two about traveling long distances for games. Flying multiple hours before a matchup isn’t a complete hindrance to success on the field, but it plays a factor, for sure.

“There’s just a lot that has to go right in order for things to be seamless, and that’s what you need as far as a team that’s traveling,” Stewart said. “You don’t want any hiccups that can be a distraction for the team, because you want the team to be focused and you want things to be seamless like they are at home.”

It’s not only the logistics of flying, and planning out the travel that acts as an obstacle, but also the physical impact that it has on your body. For athletes who need to be in peak physical condition to be ready to perform at their best, sitting stagnant on a plane for ours on end at high altitudes isn’t ideal.

“You’re talking about being up in an airplane where you are exposed to dehydration,” Stewart said. “Being up in the air for so long, you have to hydrate continuously. And when you hydrate, you’re taking your body through this whole digestive state that is actually draining energy. You’re putting your body through the ringer, and let’s not forget that we’re already putting our bodies through the ringer through our training, through practice, through studying.”

Of course, when you’re talking about programs in the world of college football that are properly equipped to handle this type of stress and keep their players in a position to succeed and thrive, the Oregon Ducks have to be near the top of the list. Based on the equipment and resources that the University has, plus the detailed precision with which Dan Lanning runs the who organization, Oregon should be able to manage this change adequately.

“I’m not too concerned about it, but there are a lot of variables that have to go right to where it’s not a distraction.”

A lot of variables, but a lot of resources and people to look after those variables and make it all work for the Ducks in the end.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire