With college football kicking off next week, for the second consecutive year, Georgia has the most expensive average price on the secondary ticket market, according to TicketIQ. While fans in Athens remain excited about the prospect of a championship run, these prices are largely as the result of Notre Dame’s first-ever visit Athens. The 3rd-ranked Bulldogs have an average asking price of $487 for games at Sanford Stadium, which is over $100 more expensive than Ohio State, the team with the second-highest average.  Despite being ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, Clemson has just the 11th-most expensive ticket in the nation. Alabama, ranked No. 2, has the fifth-highest average asking price on the secondary market for college football tickets. After Georgia and Ohio State, midwest schools rounds out the TicketIQ preseason top 25, with Michigan and Notre Dame as the 4th and 5th most expensive teams. Below is the full top 10 list. For Full 2019 College Football Top 25 preseason Rankings visit the TicketIQ blog.

One interesting side-note to the 2019 rankings is that in addition to high demand for the top schools, for many teams there’s another factor playing into higher prices on the secondary ticket market: less tickets available on the secondary market. In 2019, there’s more diversity in ticket selling strategies for power conference teams than ever before. Of the top five teams in the 2019 TicketIQ top 25, in fact only UGA is completely sold out, meaning that the secondary ticket market is the only place to get tickets.  Even blue chip programs like Notre Dame and Ohio State have tickets available for sale directly through Ticketmaster or Paciolan, their primary ticketing platforms. Most of those tickets are in the upper level of the stadiums, which means that the cheap seats not actually getting onto the secondary ticket market. As a result, prices on sites like TicketIQ and Seatgeek are higher than in previous years for some schools, despite lower demand.  Alabama may be the biggest beneficiary this trend. Despite a weaker schedule than 2018, secondary market prices are up close to 20% for Alabama football tickets at Bryant Denny Stadium. As on example, the Tide have close to 1,000 upper-level endzone tickets available for the Arkansas game, with prices starting at $75. Unsold tickets against New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina start at $45.

Historically, teams have not focused on selling face value single-game tickets, and instead focused on filling seats through season ticket membership, that require fans to pay for their season ticket in addition to a school donation. Over the last two years, however, college football attendance has dropped to historically low levels, as a result of greater competition from TV and other events. Last season, it was revealed in a report published by the Wall Street Journal that teams have also been inflating actual attendance numbers by as much as 50% compared to ticket scanned on gameday. The result is that in 2019, teams are taking more control of the ticket selling process than ever before, which means there are less tickets available on the secondary market and more tickets available directly through the team’s websites. Not only does this direct distribution allow teams to more effectively manage prices across all channels, but it also creates a more direct relationship with the fan, and a business model that lines up with the broader consumer trend toward Direct to Consumer (DTC) business models. The DTC model has been popularized by companies like Warby Parker for Eyewear, Casper for Mattresses and Dollar Shave Club, and created billions of dollars in market value without 3rd-party distribution.

While some schools, like Florida, have adopted an single-game on-sale model that more closely resembles the NFL, other teams, like Alabama, are focused more on making tickets to the best games available as part of mini-plans. Of the schools in the TicketIQ top 25 almost every school has some mini-plan option which often incentivize fans to buy multiple tickets at once in order to get the best seats for the best games.

College sports and sports overall continue to face more competition than ever, not only from TV and phones, but also from an event marketplace that’s more crowded than ever. For colleges, add to that the loss of tax benefits for ticket-related ‘donations’ passed as part of President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, and athletic directors across the nation have no choice but to get more creative to fill seats on Saturday. For fans, that means it’s more important than ever to shop around and make sure that you check all the different buying options—including from schools themselves.