Just about everything in college football can be ranked into oblivion, and argued to infinite limits. If countless bests — teams, coaches, uniforms, mascots, stadiums, traditions, whatever — can be parsed at the start of every season, why not something any paying fan will face: Value.
Not that being a college football fan is rational, but sometimes you have to ask yourself: Is it worth the price?
It is not an entirely objective measure. After all, what some folks value above all is winning (the popular term for them is “Alabama fans.”). Others want the full stadium experience on a college campus. But just suppose that pure entertainment value is what matters most. Where can a college football fan see a relevant home team play a competitive schedule at a decent price?
Enter the StubHub Season Ticket. The concept is simple: Find the cheapest single-game ticket on the secondary market site for each game of a team’s home schedule, add up the totals for every Power Five school plus more than a dozen more from the Group of Five, and suddenly there are some numbers to size up — and rank, and argue over.
Let’s start with a few caveats:
- All of the data included here was collected between 9:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10. On the plus side, every school was evaluated roughly at the same time — three weeks out from the first full Saturday of the season, give or take an hour. Thanks to the wonders of market forces, these numbers will have changed by the time you read this. So, no, it’s not perfect. But it’s equitable.
- Neutral-site games not included in season ticket packages (such as Florida State’s opening game against Boise State in Jacksonville, Fla.) are not referenced in this rundown. But neutral-site games included in season-ticket packages (such as Colorado’s meeting with Colorado State in Denver) are factored into the calculation.
- StubHub’s various ticket fees are not included. Rest assured, the true get-in price for every game is at least a little bit higher than what’s listed in these charts. But also know there are people more than happy to unload Kentucky-Vanderbilt tickets for $6.
- Parking isn’t included in this assessment, and neither is the process of traveling to the games. You’re on your own there.
10 good season values
|Stanford: $271||Mississippi St.: $258||Michigan St.: $184||BYU: $172||Purdue: $148|
|Northwestern: $23||Southern Miss.: $8||Tulsa: $25||Utah: $79||Vanderbilt: $19|
|Oregon: $38||Kansas St.: $9||W. Michigan: $27||Southern Cal: $34||TCU: $20|
|Washington: $36||Kentucky: $17||Arizona St.: $43||Washington: $25||Minnesota: $20|
|UCLA: $24||LSU: $49||Indiana: $34||Boise St.: $22||Maryland: $21|
|Arizona: $21||Alabama: $70||Penn St. $39||Liberty: $6||Illinois: $20|
|California: $39||Abilene Christian: $6||Illinois: $9||Idaho St.: 6||Nebraska: $23|
|Notre Dame: $90||Mississippi: $39||Maryland: $7||Indiana: $25|
Stanford (seven games, $271): It’s less than $40 per game for a slate that includes four games against teams in the top 25 of the preseason coaches’ poll (Northwestern, Oregon, Washington and Notre Dame), plus a late-season encounter with Bay Area rival California. The Cardinal might not be flashy, but it is reliably good. It’s a good sign when UCLA and Arizona are the teams filling out a home schedule.
Mississippi State (seven games, $198): It’s the cheapest StubHub season ticket in the SEC, and while getting to Starkville isn’t easy, there’s a lot to like about the perennially solid Bulldogs’ home slate. There’s an in-state opponent (Southern Mississippi), a beatable Power Five foe (Kansas State) and visits from SEC West powers Alabama and LSU. Plus, the Egg Bowl will be played in front of plenty of cowbells on Thanksgiving.
Michigan State (seven games, $184): Granted, a Spartans fan might not see their team score a point for every dollar spent, but this is still a good value for a preseason top-20 team. Michigan State gets Penn State as its marquee home game, and Arizona State is an interesting early-season visitor. Conversely, it’s fair to quibble with a conference slate that includes Illinois, Indiana and Maryland.
BYU (six games, $172): Utah, Southern Cal, Washington and Boise State all make the trek to Provo, which is more than enough to ignore the November slate of Liberty and Idaho State. It’s about as family-friendly as college football is going to get, and it comes with mountain views. The Holy War (BYU-Utah) is one of college football’s underrated rivalries. Not bad for less than $30 a game.
Purdue (seven games, $148): The Boilermakers face seven Power Five opponents in West Lafayette, with Nebraska and TCU the most noteworthy names. Plus, the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket against Indiana is a home game this season. There might not be a Big Ten game to command a high-profile TV slot like last year’s visit from Ohio State, but for a little more than $20 a game, this is a solid slate.
|Boston College: $119||S. Florida: $107||Duke: $103||Miami: $82||Arizona: $60|
|Virginia Tech: $15||Wisconsin: $25||N.C. A&T: $11||Beth.-Cook.: $8||N. Arizona: $6|
|Richmond: $17||S. Carolina St.: $8||Pittsburgh: $10||C. Michigan: $6||Texas Tech: $11|
|Kansas: $10||SMU: $12||Georgia Tech: $10||Virginia Tech: $26||UCLA: $10|
|Wake Forest: $25||BYU: $18||Notre Dame: $42||Virginia: $12||Washington: $15|
|N.C. State: $12||Temple: $15||Syracuse: $10||Georgia Tech: $15||Oregon St. $9|
|Florida St.: $40||Cincinnati: $14||Miami: $20||Louisville: $15||Utah: $9|
Boston College (six games, $119): There are bookends against Virginia Tech ($15) and Florida State ($40), plus a Friday night game (granted, it’s against Kansas). A.J. Dillon and the Eagles might not be likely to knock off Clemson (who is?), but the Dudes in Chestnut Hill have become a consistent seven-win team under Steve Addazio.
South Florida (seven games, $107): There are bargains to be found in the American Athletic Conference, but the best of the lot (in part because of the ample ticket supply at Raymond James Stadium) belongs to the Bulls. Wisconsin, BYU, Temple, Cincinnati and Memphis all visit Tampa, none with a get-in price of more than $25.
Duke (six games, $103): The least expensive get-in price for a Notre Dame game is the Irish’s Nov. 9 trip to Durham ($42). The Blue Devils’ four home ACC games list at a combined $50, with Miami ($20) the priciest of that bunch. Even without former quarterback Daniel Jones, Duke should be competitive enough to make a hair over $100 a good deal.
Miami (six games, $82): It is, to be sure, not the greatest home schedule for the Hurricanes. They get Virginia Tech coming off a rare losing season, plus two ACC teams expected to struggle (Georgia Tech and Louisville). As a point of comparison, Miami’s “road” game against Florida International (at Marlins Park) had a get-in price of $85 a few days after the rest of the data was collected.
Arizona (six games, $60): As an indicator of fan enthusiasm for the 2019 Wildcats, this is not good. But we’re talking value here, and a season ticket for a Power Five team with a dreadful home schedule would be a steal at $60. Texas Tech, Washington and Utah all pay visits to the desert, so there are some intriguing games. The Wildcats weren’t great last year (5-7), but they scored 40 or more points in three of their last four games.
Five bad season values
|Georgia: $1,071||Notre Dame: $615||Nebraska: $551||W. Virginia: $341||Virginia Tech: $332|
|Murray St.: $42||New Mexico: $56||S. Alabama: $59||James Madison: $51||Old Dominion: $59|
|Arkansas St.: $41||Virginia: $88||N. Illinois: $58||N.C. State: $59||Furman: $32|
|Notre Dame: $519||Bowling Green: $54||Ohio St.: $182||Texas: $85||Duke: $57|
|South Carolina: $114||Southern Cal: $224||Northwestern: $65||Iowa St.: $51||Rhode Island: $29|
|Kentucky: $75||Virginia Tech: $75||Indiana: $40||Texas Tech: $52||N. Carolina: $60|
|Missouri: $80||Navy $48||Wisconsin: $73||Oklahoma St.: $43||Wake Forest: $49|
|Texas A&M: $200||Boston College: $70||Iowa: $74||Pittsburgh: $46|
Georgia (seven games, $1,071): Not only the highest total price of any of the 79 programs surveyed, but more than 40 percent higher than No. 2 Ohio State ($757). That’s a lot of money to dole out for just seven games, even if the home team is fantastic (which it is) and the atmosphere between the hedges is exceptional. Notre Dame’s visit on Sept. 21 accounts for nearly half of the Bulldogs’ season total.
Notre Dame (seven games, $615): The problem isn’t how good the Irish will be, or the experience of taking in a game at Notre Dame Stadium. It’s a home schedule (New Mexico, Virginia, Bowling Green, Southern Cal, Virginia Tech, Navy and Boston College) that doesn’t warrant $90 a game. Take out the marquee date with USC (in a year the Trojans could be as down as they were last season), and the per-game average dips to about $65.
Nebraska (seven games, $551): The inclusion of the Cornhuskers here is a tribute to their devoted fan base more than a complaint. It’s far from a terrible schedule (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all come to Lincoln), but this is still an amazing level of demand to see a team coming off consecutive 4-8 seasons even if hopes are high.
West Virginia (six games, $341): Another tip of the hat to a rabid fan base, this one with a team in a bit of a transition phase. Still, an average ticket of $57 is a bit steep even with Texas included in the six-game slate.
Virginia Tech (seven games, $332): Two of the opponents are FCS schools, a second one tacked on as part of the fallout from hurricane-related scheduling with East Carolina last season. The Hokies get Miami and Virginia on the road this year. Wake Forest is the ACC Atlantic Division crossover opponent. The priciest game of the bunch isn’t overly onerous (North Carolina at $60), but the collective set of foes do not provide much bang for the buck.
5 notable pricey games
LSU at Texas (Sept. 7), $563: Had it not been for this price blowing up the equation, the Longhorns might have been a value candidate — their other five true home games total $118. Granted, there’s not another marquee opponent in the bunch, but the Longhorns are a legitimate Big 12 title threat and Austin is, well, Austin.
Nebraska at Colorado (Sept. 7), $270. If this was 1989, when both teams were undefeated and ranked in the top three nationally entering their November meeting in Boulder, the price (presumably adjusted for inflation) wouldn’t stand out. Now, it’s one of the year’s head-scratchers.
Appalachian State at North Carolina (Sept. 21), $94. The Mountaineers’ average get-in price for their six home games is $54.33, so maybe it isn’t a surprise their trip to Kenan Stadium looks like a hot ticket. What is surprising, though, is that it edges out Clemson ($86) as the most expensive game in Chapel Hill this season on the secondary market.
Murray State at Georgia (Sept. 7), $42; Murray State at Toledo (Sept. 14), $44. Is it possible Murray State travels well?
5 notable cheap games
Central Florida at Cincinnati (Oct. 4), $18. The inside track for the Group of Five’s berth to a New Year’s Six game could be at stake during this Friday night game. That alone gives it some appeal.
TCU at Iowa State (Oct. 5), $16. The best bargain on a home schedule with a few (there’s also a $15 ticket to see Oklahoma State) and perhaps the best deal in the country this season. The Cyclones were picked third in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs fourth.
Virginia Tech at Miami (Oct. 5), $26. A solid price for a game with a reasonable chance to have ACC Coastal Division implications. Then again, any conference game involving a Coastal team feels like it has a reasonable chance to have title implications.
Utah at Washington (Nov. 2), $21. It’s not as if the Huskies have a depressed local market; games against Southern California ($52), Oregon ($86) and Washington State ($93) require increasingly hefty financial sacrifices. But the Utes are the Pac-12 South favorites and the Huskies are more than capable of winning their half of the league. Here’s guessing attendance is still better than the last time these teams met (35,134 in last year’s Pac-12 title game).
Minnesota at Northwestern (Nov. 23), $6. Okay, it’s November in Evanston, and a bitter wind could well be blowing off Lake Michigan. Still, it’s not outlandish to think the Wildcats could again be in the Big Ten West chase in the regular season’s penultimate week.
If you must know: Rutgers or Kansas?
Just in case there’s morbid curiosity over how two of the sport’s most downtrodden teams fared in this exercise over a full 12-game schedule:
Rutgers’s seven-game home slate checks in at $200 (with a cheapest ticket for the Ohio State game at $96). The Scarlet Knights travel to Illinois ($10), Indiana ($17), Iowa ($21), Michigan ($28) and Penn State ($14) for a grand total of $290.
Kansas checks in at $163 for its seven home games. Toss in Boston College ($10), Iowa State ($7), Oklahoma State ($15), Texas ($15) and TCU ($36), and you can see a full season of the Les Miles Experience for $246.
Both, it turns out, are more expensive than at least one Power Five school. That would be Illinois, which has a $128 total for its home schedule. Toss in visits to Connecticut ($18), Iowa ($22), Michigan State ($9), Minnesota ($38) and Purdue ($20), and it’s a mere $235 to get a dozen looks at Lovie Smith’s magnificent mane.