Rating the 2023 Non-Conference Slate

Buckle up, let’s go. For more about what this is, see the intro post.


  1. Pittsburgh (2 legit, 1 FCS): Wofford, Cincinnati, @West Virginia, @Notre Dame. This is a pretty solid schedule, and of course we adore the return of the Backyard Brawl. I also like that they got another Ohio River Valley team on the schedule in Cincy. Of course, there’s still a lot of questions about what to do regarding Notre Dame and the ACC, but for now it still counts.
  2. Florida State (2, 1): N-Louisiana State, Southern Mississippi, North Alabama, @Florida. Once again, the opening weekend helmet game is going to be FSU-LSU. And those helmets are likely going to be sweaty, because that game is going to be in Orlando in September.
  3. Louisville (1.75, 1): Murray State, N-Indiana, Notre Dame, Kentucky. Mostly up here for having three power-5 teams, even though we usually discount traditional rivals and. That said, while we don’t like the neutral site (it’s in Indianapolis) intersection matchups, while that still has any meaning, is something we like.
  4. Georgia Tech (1.75, 1): South Carolina State, @Mississippi, Bowling Green, Georgia. Obviously, I’ll talk more about us in the Week 1 preview next week, but I’m actually kind of excited about this season? I think at a minimum the Ole Miss game is going to be more competitive this year.
  5. Clemson (1.25, 1): Charleston Southern, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, @South Carolina. This is strictly just fine, and Clemson-Notre Dame should actually be a banger.
  6. Virginia (1, 1.5): N-Tennessee, James Madison, @Maryland, William & Mary. Virginia playing Maryland is going to do nothing to help me remember that Maryland is still technically not in the ACC anymore. Also, again, bleh to the neutral site (this one is in Nashville).
  7. Miami (1, 1): Miami, Texas A&M, Bethune-Cookman, @Temple. Miami is not playing themselves, no. (Though arguably part of the issue with the Canes the past several season is that they do tend to beat themselves.) Instead, no, we get Miami (a medium-sized liberal arts school in Ohio) versus Miami (a medium-sized liberal arts school in Florida) for only the fourth time in history. (Again, more on this next week.) TAMU heading down to Miami should also be, well, interesting. The Temple game in Philadelphia is odd: it appears to be a straight-home-and-away, where I would’ve normally expected it to be a 2-for-1.
  8. Wake Forest (1, 1): Elon, Vanderbilt, @Old Dominion, @Notre Dame. Wake keeps the part of the schedule they can control manageable.
  9. Duke (1, 1): Lafayette, Northwestern, @Connecticut, Notre Dame. As does Duke.
  10. North Carolina State (1, 1): @Connecticut, Notre Dame, VMI, Marshall. The Huskies don’t appear to be on the cusp of joining the ACC, but they’ve got a couple of games in North Carolina to start their season. While I like their chances against Duke, um, the Wolfpack not so much.
  11. North Carolina (0.5, 1): N-South Carolina, Appalachian State, Minnesota, Campbell. This schedule didn’t grade out very well, but I think it could be fun. I sorta feel like North Carolina and South Carolina should play every year. And of course App State gave Mack Brown and company a huge headache last year. The Gophers are here as well! This is fun as a neutral, but as a Carolina fan you may be wondering what your AD was thinking.
  12. Virginia Tech (0.25, 0): Old Dominion, Purdue, @Rutgers, @Marshall. Virginia Tech is in real danger of losing multiple of these games. It may be a long year in Blacksburg.
  13. Syracuse (0.25, 1): Colgate, Western Michigan, @Purdue, Army. There could be some points scored in that Cuse-Purdue game. Depending on how the season is going for these teams, that may be one to keep an eye on.
  14. Boston College (0, 1): Northern Illinois, Holy Cross, Army, Connecticut. Travel isn’t really a consideration for BC since they’re all home games here, but even then getting three regional opponents is definitely one way to do this.

Big Ten

  1. Ohio State (1 legit, 1 FCS): Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, @Notre Dame. Okay, Ohio State playing Notre Dame again is extremely legit, but overall I don’t feel like we’re starting that strong here in the B1G compared to some other conferences.
  2. Michigan State (1, 1): Central Michigan, Richmond, Washington. Naturally, most of the intrigue of a B1G vs. Pac-12 matchout outside of the Rose Bowl is gone since, well, this will be a conference game in the near future. Alas.
  3. Nebraska (0.5, 0): @Colorado, Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech. While it doesn’t count for much on our scorecard, these days Nebraska playing any of their old Big 8 rivals feels right. They’ll play the Buffs again next season, but eschew their former conference-mates until they crank up the Oklahoma series again in 2029.
  4. Minnesota (0.5, 0): Eastern Michigan, @North Carolina, Louisiana. Apropos of nothing, UMN and Carolina have never played before! If there’s anything I like more than traditional rivalries, it’s at least thinking outside the box.
  5. Purdue (0.25, 0): Fresno State, @Virginia Tech, Syracuse. While the Boilermakers will take a trip out to Blacksburg, they should consider playing their true ACC engineering rivals down in Atlanta. Or inviting them to join the conference. Just saying.
  6. Iowa (0.25, 0): Utah State, @Iowa State, Western Michigan. Iowa has had basically no good news this offseason. For starters, their nepo-tastic offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz, has a contract that the entire college football universe will be watching closely: whether Iowa, as a team, can score 25 points per game. Note: we’re not talking about offensive points, we’re talking the whole team. Will Brian’s job as OC be saved by Iowa’s usually competent special teams and usually very good scoring defense? (Reminder: the term “Iowa touchdown” was coined last season when the Hawkeyes beat South Dakota State 7-3 with two safeties and a field goal.) Then there’s the latest craze that has recently taken over the only state in  the Union with exactly 99 counties: gambling on amateur athletics. By said amateur athletes. Now, while normally I would say this is a case of NCAA overreach (which, well, we don’t get to say a lot these days) the issue is that more than a few of the players involved where gambling on their own sport (bad) and on games they were involved (real bad!). Iowa has 11 players being investigated currently. There’s more to come on that story for sure.
  7. Maryland (0.25, 1): Towson, Charlotte, Virginia. Maryland playing Virginia is going to do nothing to help me remember that Maryland is still technically not in the ACC anymore.
  8. Pennsylvania State (0.25, 1): West Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts. The Big Ten East will presumably not exist after this season (they’re going to have to integrate the new Big Ten Actually West somehow, hence the “presumably”), and while I like them playing WVU, this is really to set up Penn State taking one last shot at not finishing third in the East.
  9. Rutgers (0.25, 1): Temple, Virginia Tech, Wagner. Speaking of teams that I keep forgetting are in the Big Ten, Rutgers may actually be somewhat competent this year. This normally would lead me to say something like “so keep an eye on events in Piscataway” but let’s face it, by the time November rolls around and they’re losing by 30+ to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State again you’ll be able to safely forget them.
  10. Wisconsin (0, 0): Buffalo, @Washington State, Georgia Southern. Y’all. This, once again, should be a legendary drinking matchup on the Palouse.
  11. Illinois (0, 0): Toledo, @Kansas, Florida Atlantic. Okay, I may have said something earlier about odd matchups, but Illinois-Kansas stretches credulity for me.
  12. Indiana (0, 1): Indiana State, N-Louisville, Akron. Just going ahead and getting the “wrong sport!” joke out of the way for Indiana-Louisville, because, um, also it’s been a minute since even the basketball angle of that matchup would’ve made sense?
  13. Northwestern (0, 1): Texas-El Paso, @Duke, Howard. I don’t really have an opinions left about these schedules. Well, okay, one more:
  14. Michigan (0, 0): East Carolina, Nevada-Las Vegas, Bowling Green. So even though none of these teams are technically FCS, I still ranked Michigan last because come on. And of course it just works out so for Harbaugh’s self-imposed three game suspension it doesn’t even involve any conference games. (Also, the only reason Michigan is sort of even “getting away” with the Harbaugh thing in the first place is because, well, the investigation is really dumb.)

Big 12

  1. West Virginia (1.25, 1): @Pennsylvania State, Duquesne, Pittsburgh. West Virginia doubles-down on their northerly neighbor rivalries this season. But that said, Penn State doesn’t produce quite the same feeling. Also, there’s a fair chance the Nittany Lions will beat the pants off of the ‘Neers.
  2. Texas (1, 0): Rice, @Alabama, Wyoming. Somehow, it was all the way back in 2010 when I first referenced JFK’s most famous speech, where one of the concepts compared to doing things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” was “why does Rice play Texas?” That was before Texas A&M and Mizzou left the conference! That was before I knew that the “A&M” in “Texas A&M” doesn’t actually stand for anything! Maybe more importantly, this somehow serves to drive home the point of how long I’ve been writing this series. Oh, and also, speaking of things robbed of some joy by pending conference realignment, Texas and Alabama play again this year, and if it’s anything like last year, well, we’ll still think about how rad of a one-off that game is before we realize that it’ll stop being special soon.
  3. Texas Tech (1, 1): @Wyoming, Oregon, Tarleton State. This doesn’t seem like the kind of schedule if you want to hit the ground running at Texas Tech, especially that trip up to Laramie.
  4. Baylor (1, 1): Texas State, Utah, Long Island. We’re going to get to Utah in a moment. The rest of this schedule is going to be 2 wins for the Bears, but, yeah, Utah coming to Waco is going to be thing. Again, more in a moment.
  5. Iowa State (0.75, 1): Northern Iowa, Iowa, @Ohio. Iowa State plays UNI a lot, and as far as I know, UNI is not included in the wide-ranging investigation into Iowa public university athletes being investigated for gambling. Iowa State has now had multiple players dismissed, if that helps give you an idea. Also, as far as I can tell Iowa State-Ohio is a home-and-home, which seems odd. I need to see if there’s a way if I can figure if that’s becoming more common or if there were some non-con games in 2020 that were canceled.
  6. Texas Christian (0.5, 1): Colorado, Nicholls State, Southern Methodist. TCU and SMU don’t want to play for the Iron Skillet anymore, which makes me sad.
  7. Brigham Young (0.25, 1.5): Sam Houston State, Southern Utah, Arkansas. Wow, we got all the way down here before we got to the first of the Big 12’s new arrivals? Well, howdy. The Stormin’ Mormons start off pretty easy with a team moving up from FCS, and then a team still solidly in FCS. There could definitely be some beef on both sides in that Arkansas game too, so I wouldn’t discount them.
  8. Central Florida (0.25, 1): Kent State, @Boise State, Villanova. I’m sure Boise won’t be bitter at all that UCF got called up before they did. Not at all.
  9. Cincinnati (0.25, 1): Eastern Kentucky, @Pittsburgh, Miami. Again, we endorse Pitt playing other Ohio River Valley schools. Feels correct. In fact, you almost sort of wonder if Pitt, Cincy, WVU, and, I dunno, Syracuse and UConn could be in a conference? It’d make a certain amount of sense, and the basketball would be good too. Alas, that’s probably just too pure for this world.
  10. Oklahoma (0, 0): Arkansas State, Southern Methodist, @Tulsa. A perfectly cromulent schedule for Brent Venable’s second season in charge of the Sooners. The question is if the defense is still going to be fixed in the three games after these ones.
  11. Kansas (0, 1): Missouri State, Illinois, @Nevada. So KU goes to Reno this year and the Wolf Pack return in… 2029? I, or more correctly, fbschedules.com, must be missing something.
  12. Oklahoma State (0, 1): Central Arkansas, @Arizona State, South Alabama. As usual, another team will consider Arizona State, and again, I’ll wonder how many players want to pull a “Cuban national team visits the US and half the team defects” and stay in Tempe after the game.
  13. Kansas State (0, 1): Southeast Missouri State, Troy, @Missouri. The wrong Kansas is playing Mizzou.
  14. Houston (0, 0.5): Texas-San Antonio, @Rice, Sam Houston State. I had to rate this schedule lower than Oklahoma State and K-State because none of these are Power 5 teams, but if UTSA is still has any magic left this could be fun. Also, I think it’s kind of funny Houston will go across town to play in the Rice Bowl Stadium.


  1. Utah (1.5, 1): Florida, @Baylor, Weber State. Okay, I personally think we underrate Baylor a little bit, because for a schedule that doesn’t involve any traditional rivals this is crazy pants. There just has to be story out there how this happened… was one of the games put off because of 2020 and this was the only year that worked? Either way, Florida and Baylor’s likely pain (because the Utes love to bring it on defense) is going to be our gain. If they go undefeated against this schedule, we have to be looking out for national title contender Utah, right?
  2. Colorado (1, 0): @Texas Christian, Nebraska, Colorado State. Plausible Texas trip and two traditional rivals, you love to see it. Though I suspect it’s going to be a quick introduction to Deion that things are a tad different up at FBS and in Boulder.
  3. Washington (1, 0): Boise State, Tulsa, @Michigan State. In a game some (not just me (really)) are already dubbing “The Chris Peterson Classic”, I expect to see plenty of Broncos blue when I’m in Seattle next weekend. I otherwise already covered my feelings about that trip to East Lansing.
  4. Southern California (1, 0): San Jose State, Nevada, @Notre Dame. By USC standards, this isn’t that ambitious of a schedule, since Notre Dame is a yearly game.
  5. California (1, 1): @North Texas, Auburn, Idaho. I really need to start looking into tickets for that Cal-Auburn game. Oh and also, that Cal-UNT is a home-and-home, though the first game was in 2019, so there definitely could’ve been scheduling issues.
  6. Washington State (1, 1): @Colorado State, Wisconsin, Northern Colorado. Another one! I’m going to stop commenting on the P5-G5 straight-up home-and-homes now. Again, I will adore the idea of the Badgers on the Palouse on a September night, and I hope to the game lives up to that.
  7. Stanford (1, 1): @Hawaii, Sacramento State, Notre Dame. Stanford goes to Hawaii and doesn’t take advantage of being able to schedule an extra game. I know that doesn’t happen a lot these days, but still.
  8. Arizona State (0.75, 1): Southern Utah, Oklahoma State, Fresno State. Arizona State is not projected to be good this year, and this schedule isn’t going to help dispel that notion.
  9. Arizona (0, 1): Northern Arizona, @Mississippi State, Texas-El Paso. I have no idea how that trip to Miss State will pan out for Arizona, but regardless between that and heading to UTEP this is fine even if it’s not rated super highly.
  10. Oregon (0, 1): Portland State, @Texas Tech, Hawaii. Meanwhile, I wonder what the heck Oregon is thinking. The Ducks usually do pretty well in these ratings, so this is… well, it’s not very exciting.
  11. California-Los Angeles (0, 1): Coastal Carolina, @San Diego State, North Carolina Central. While Coastal and SDSU don’t rate in our ratings, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. UCLA might be playing with fire here, especially against the Aztecs.
  12. Oregon State (0, 1): @San Jose State, California-Davis, San Diego State. On the one hand, “undefeated Oregon State in the last year of the Pac-12 as we know it” is something that I think a lot of us in college football are rooting for; on the other, playing the Aztecs and a very game UC-Davis squad from FCS doesn’t strike us helping the cause. Well, you know, unless it does.


  1. Florida (2, 1): @Utah, McNeese State, Charlotte, Florida State. What up Gators?!? Not only are you actually venturing west of the Mississippi River for once (excepting those trips to Baton Rouge) you’re going all the way to Salt Lake to play a team that very, very much wants to hit you in the sternum repeatedly. Um, good luck with that!
  2. South Carolina (1.5, 1.5): N-North Carolina, Furman, Jacksonville State, Clemson. Again, that is the Jacksonville that’s in Alabama.
  3. Alabama (1, 1): Middle Tennessee State, Texas, @South Florida, Tennessee-Chattanooga. We already extolled the virtues of Bama-Texas, so, um, well… at least the Blue Raiders and Mocs have pretty straightforward drives to Tuscaloosa?
  4. Texas A&M (1, 1): New Mexico, @Miami, Louisiana-Monroe, Abilene Christian. The trip to south Florida should be fun for the Aggies, and the heat and humidity shouldn’t be a surprise. Nonetheless, the main thing for them through these first three games is any sign that there’s improvement on the offense.
  5. Louisiana State (1, 1): N-Florida State, Grambling State, Army, Georgia State. Let’s see, we already talked about the sweat aspect of FSU-LSU, so for this one let’s see if the main thing that really throws LSU’s 2023 campaign off kilter isn’t an SEC opponent, but Army.
  6. Mississippi (0.5, 1): Mercer, @Tulane, Georgia Tech, Louisiana-Monroe. Ole Miss throws in a couple of former SEC rivals, well, actually one because we never played Ole Miss a lot. But at any rate, Ole Miss-Tulane was a thing back in the day, and I think it’s cool they’ll make the trip down to New Orleans. As for Lane and Co, they’ll be fine this year, but it remains to be seen if it’ll be fine enough to finally get Lane that actual big time job he wants.
  7. Missouri (0.5, 1): South Dakota, Middle Tennessee State, Kansas State, Memphis. Mizzou almost put together a schedule featuring teams entirely from bordering states, and yet, they still picked the wrong Kansas team. The mind boggles.
  8. Tennessee (0.25, 1): N-Virginia, Austin Peay, Texas-San Antonio, Connecticut. I’m just going to warn you know: I’m going be talking about Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton’s arm a lot this year. It is really the Arm of Destiny in college football this year, and it’s perhaps the only thing that can stop both Bama and Georgia. No pressure.
  9. Vanderbilt (0.25, 1): Hawaii, Alabama A&M, @Wake Forest, @Nevada-Las Vegas. Scheduling two out-of-conference road games as a SEC team seems kind of hard, especially considering that one of them is UNLV. That said, the previous matchup against UNLV was 2018, so I’m willing to admit it was probably a 2020 thing. I knew I said I wasn’t going to revisit this, but it’s the only explanation.
  10. Georgia (0.25, 1): Tennessee-Martin, Ball State, Alabama-Birmingham, @Georgia Tech. This is not exactly an ambitious schedule for a national title contender.
  11. Auburn (0, 1): Massachusetts, @California, Samford, New Mexico State. Neither is this, though granted Auburn isn’t trying to win a national title this year. Well, at least according to any reasonable fan.
  12. Mississippi State (0, 1): Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona, Western Michigan, Southern Mississippi. While we’re talking about the bottom of the barrel for the SEC, at least getting a Pac-12 team to head to Starkville is neat.
  13. Arkansas (0, 1): Western Carolina, Kent State, Brigham Young, Florida International. I don’t know that having BYU come to Fayetteville is necessarily a good idea, but y’all do you, Arkansas.
  14. Kentucky (0, 1): Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, Akron, @Louisville. And finally, the main drama in Kentucky’s schedule is mostly whether or not Jeff Brohm has the Cardinals looking like a competent outfit by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

And now we’re just going to go ahead and wrap this thing up, because up next is going to be the Week 0 preview!

The usual admonishment for playing more than 1 FCS team doesn’t apply this year. While several are marked as “1.5” above, I use that to indicate that one of teams is moving up from FCS and so they may not count for bowl eligibility and the like.

Next up, teams that play more than one Power Five team, excluding Notre Dame and ACC teams as well as traditional rivalries:

  • Pittsburgh (Cincinnati, @West Virginia)
  • Virginia (@Tennessee, Maryland)
  • North Carolina (South Carolina, Minnesota)
  • Virginia Tech (Purdue, Rutgers)
  • Utah (Florida, @Baylor)
  • Colorado (@Texas Christian, Nebraska)
  • West Virginia (@Pennsylvania State, Pittsburgh)
  • Purdue (@Virginia Tech, Syracuse)

Thanks to all of the above for doing something interesting!

And finally, each conference’s average rating for their OOC schedules:

  1. ACC (0.263)
  2. Pac-12 (0.23)
  3. Big 12 (0.149)
  4. SEC (0.147)
  5. Big Ten (0.101)

The Pac-12 maintains a solid rating, but the ACC really stepped it up this season.

This likely does it for the concept of the “Power Five”, and for the last decade or so of college football it’s been a useful framework, even if the sport wasn’t, and isn’t, that easily split into two categories. There’s a lot of change in front of us in the college football world, and I still fear that it won’t quite be the same after this season.

That said, I still think of that as cause to go out and enjoy this season. I plan to see at least one game in person. Up next, we’ll preview Week 0, and then talk about a pretty packed Labor Day weekend slate. See you then!