The discharge of Phil Steele’s preview magazine – probably the most complete preseason publication – means we’re one essential step nearer the kickoff of the 2023 season.
Among the many dizzying array of statistical wizardry on supply is Steele’s power of schedule rankings. Moderately than relying solely on upcoming opponents’ win/loss data from the earlier season (the NCAA’s methodology), his metrics additionally embrace such components as groups’ energy rankings for this season and the combo of house and away video games.
What follows are, in keeping with Steele’s calculations, probably the most and least troublesome schedule in every of the ten FBS conferences.
The disparity between every pair of applications’ schedules is important sufficient to change the course of the season.
Hardest: EAST CAROLINA (No. 65 nationally)
Not solely does East Carolina have the hardest schedule within the AAC – it has probably the most troublesome slate amongst all Group of 5 golf equipment. The Pirates open with a roadie at top-ranked Michigan and go to Appalachian State – predicted to compete for an additional Solar Belt title – in Week 3. From their very own convention they draw 4 of the 5 high groups from Steele’s predictions – No. 1 UTSA, No. 2 SMU, No. 3 Tulane, and No. 5 FAU – avoiding solely No. 4 Memphis.
Best: CHARLOTTE (No. 111 nationally)
Whereas Charlotte does have roadies at Maryland and Florida in non-league play, it meters that by drawing 4 of the underside seven groups within the AAC – No. 7 Navy, No. 10 Rice, No. 13 USF, and No. 14 Tulsa.
Hardest: DUKE (No. 22 nationally)
Contemporary off its finest season since 2014, Duke should combat to realize 9 wins once more this season. The Blue Devils’ non-ACC slate consists of visits from Northwestern and Notre Dame whereas it’s league schedule – within the new wide-open ACC with out divisions – encompasses a season-opener at house vs. mighty Clemson, a roadie at Florida State in October, and one other robust away sport at North Carolina in November. Add within the finale vs. Pitt and Duke attracts all 4 of Steele’s high canine within the ACC.
Best: BOSTON COLLEGE (No. 70 nationally)
Just one Energy 5 membership in your complete nation has a better rated schedule than does Boston Faculty. The Eagles are one in every of solely 9 P5 groups not enjoying a P5 opponent in non-conference play in 2023, as an alternative scheduling the likes of Northern Illinois, FCS Holy Cross, Military (the one highway sport) and UConn. In ACC motion BC does get Florida State (at house) and has a roadie at Pitt, but additionally attracts all its fellow members of Steele’s backside 5 – No. 10 (tie) Syracuse, No. 10 (tie) Virginia Tech, No. 13 (tie) Georgia Tech, and No. 13 (tie) Virginia.
THE BIG TEN
Hardest: MICHIGAN STATE (No. 3 nationally)
After posting a 5–7-mark final season, Mel Tucker’s quest to show he’s the best man in East Lansing will probably be made harder with the third-toughest schedule within the nation. The Spartans have Washington – which must be a Prime 15 group – in non-league play after which get Ohio State on the highway in Columbus the place they’ve misplaced four-straight. From the West, MSU attracts Iowa and Minnesota, each amongst Steele’s high three within the division.
Best: IOWA (No. 68 nationally)
Iowa has the third-easiest schedule amongst P5 groups, tied with Oregon (No. 68) and simply forward of Michigan (No. 67). In non-conference play the one risk is a roadie at Iowa State, the place they’ve gained five-straight whereas in Large Ten play the one actual battles are roadies at Wisconsin and at Penn State. The Hawkeyes completely keep away from Michigan and Ohio State in regular-season motion.
THE BIG 12
Hardest: IOWA STATE (No. 4 nationally)
Iowa State provides a highway sport at Ohio (College not State) to its bi-annual go to from Iowa in non-league motion. Whereas this won’t look like an enormous deal do you know that Ohio (additionally Steele’s high contender within the MAC East) beat a Large 12 visiting group as just lately as 2017 when it hosted Kansas and prevailed 42-30? In Large 12 play, the Cyclones draw your complete high tier of the league with video games vs. No. 1 Texas, at No. 2 Oklahoma, at No. 3 Ok-State, vs. No. 4 TCU, at No. 5 (tied) Baylor and vs. No. 5 (tied) Oklahoma State. The one higher group they keep away from is No. 5 (tied) Texas Tech.
Best: OKLAHOMA STATE (No. 62 nationally)
Whereas Oklahoma State does get a roadie at Arizona State, the Solar Devils are contemporary off a 3-9 marketing campaign and are anticipated to complete among the many backside three groups within the Pac 12. In Large 12 play the Cowboys draw the underside seven golf equipment within the league: at No. 8 UCF, at No. 9 Iowa State, vs. No. 10 Kansas, vs. No. 11 BYU, at No. 12 West Virginia, at No. 13 (tied) Houston, and vs. No. 13 (tied) Cincinnati. The one high groups slated are house dates with Oklahoma and Ok-State.
Hardest: JACKSONVILLE STATE (No. 104 nationally)
Jacksonville State’s first-ever season as an FBS membership gained’t be made any simpler with a schedule that options non-league roadies at South Carolina and Coastal Carolina (31-7 since 2020) together with league video games vs. heavy hitters Western Kentucky, UTEP, Center Tennessee, Liberty, and Louisiana Tech.
Best: LIBERTY (No. 133 nationally)
Liberty giving up its independence to change into a FBS convention member for the primary time in its historical past would possibly seem like a genius transfer. First up, the Flames don’t play a P5 membership in non-league motion as an alternative scheduling Bowling Inexperienced, Buffalo, Outdated Dominion, and UMass. If that weren’t sufficient, they get Center Tennessee and Louisiana Tech (each within the high half of the league) at house. It provides as much as Steele’s best ranked schedule among the many 133 applications taking part on the FBS degree.
Hardest: WESTERN MICHIGAN (No. 74 nationally)
Three of Western Michigan’s 4 non-conference video games come vs. P5 opponents: at Syracuse, at Iowa, and at Mississippi State. Past that, the Broncos get the hardest three contenders from their very own West division (Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Japanese Michigan) on the highway – and – draw the highest two canine from the East in cross-division motion – at Ohio and vs. Miami OH.
Best: OHIO (No. 131 nationally)
Solely two golf equipment in your complete FBS have a better rated schedule than does Ohio. The Bobcats do host Iowa State in Week 4 and have further non-conference challenges at San Diego State and at FAU – each of which can contend for league titles. All of that’s counterbalanced by a MAC schedule that features getting fellow East division contender and rival Miami OH at house and drawing two of the underside golf equipment from the West in Central Michigan and Western Michigan. They fully keep away from Toledo and Japanese Michigan in common season play.
THE MOUNTAIN WEST
Hardest: SAN JOSE STATE (No. 71 nationally)
San Jose State opens the season with what could be the hardest two-game combo within the G5 ranks – roadies at USC and at Oregon State, each of which must be ranked at sport time. Additionally they have a Week 4 highway journey to Toledo – a frontrunner within the MAC – on the books. In convention motion the Spartans draw all however one member of Steele’s high tier of the MWC – at No. 1 Boise State, vs. No. 2 Air Drive, vs. No. 3 San Diego State, and vs. No. 4 (tied) Fresno State. The one high canine they keep away from is No. 4 (tied) Wyoming.
Best: AIR FORCE (No. 128 nationally)
Air Drive gained’t play a P5 opponent outdoors of convention play this yr, including video games vs. FCS Robert Morris and Sam Houston State (a brand new member of the C-USA) to its fixtures at Military and vs. Navy (in Denver). In MWC motion the Falcons draw three of the league’s backside 4 in video games at No. 7 (tied) Colorado State, vs. No. 7 (tied) UNLV, and at No. 11 Hawaii.
Hardest: CALIFORNIA (No. 9 nationally)
Not solely does Cal get Auburn at house in Week 2, but it surely additionally will get your complete high half of the league in convention play: vs. No. 1 USC, at No. 2 (tied) Utah, at No. 2 (tied) Oregon, at No. 2 (tied) Washington, vs. No. 5 Oregon State, at No. 6 UCLA, and vs. No. 7 Washington State. The one group it’s scheduled to face from the underside of the Pac-12 is Arizona State, coming in at No. 10 in Steele’s predictions. Yikes!
Best: UCLA (No. 72 nationally)
Like Boston Faculty, UCLA is one in every of solely 9 P5 groups not enjoying a P5 opponent in non-conference play as an alternative reserving video games vs. Coastal Carolina, at San Diego State, and vs. FCS NC Central. In Pac-12 motion the Bruins do draw video games at USC, at Utah, and at Oregon State but additionally get all 5 of the underside groups within the league: vs. No. 8 (tied) Cal, at No. 8 (tie) Arizona, vs. No. 10 Arizona State, vs. No. 11 Colorado, and at (12) Stanford.
Hardest: FLORIDA (No. 1 nationally)
With the hardest schedule within the FBS, Florida has its work lower out for it to rebound from back-to-back 6-7 finishes. The Gators add a roadie at Utah – which must be within the preseason Prime 15 – within the season opener to their regular-season finale vs. Florida State, which can or could not nonetheless be a top-ranked group when the mud settles. In SEC motion, Florida will get Tennessee at house however should knock off each South Carolina and Kentucky on the highway. In cross-division play it will get permanent-for-now rival LSU in Baton Rouge (it hasn’t gained there since 2016) after which attracts a harmful Arkansas membership.
Best: GEORGIA (No. 56 nationally)
Solely 12 P5 golf equipment have a better schedule than do the defending champs. Georgia’s solely P5 opponent in non-conference play is its annual fixture at Georgia Tech the place it’s gained 11-straight, final dropping in 1999. Apart from that, it’s the sunny shores of house dates vs. FCS UT Martin, Ball State, and UAB. In league motion, the Bulldogs do should journey to Tennessee however get Kentucky and South Carolina at house. From the SEC West UGA provides Ole Miss to its standing date with Auburn (a highway sport), thereby fully avoiding Alabama and LSU.
THE SUN BELT
Hardest: ULM (No. 75 nationally)
By no means shy to over-schedule, ULM goes massive in 2023 with video games at Texas A&M and at Ole Miss, one of many hardest non-league slates within the land particularly provided that it’s solely posted one successful document since 1980, an 8-5 mark in 2012. In Solar Belt motion, the Warhawks draw top-ranked Appalachian State from throughout the convention within the East and get fellow West division members Louisiana and Southern Miss on the highway.
Best: LOUISIANA (No. 124 nationally)
Louisiana’s roadie at Minnesota is considerably metered by the steadiness of its non-league slate, winnable affairs vs. FCS Northwestern State, at UAB, and vs. Buffalo. In Solar Belt motion the Cajuns do get South Alabama and Troy (the opposite heavy hitters from their very own West division) on the highway however draw the underside two golf equipment – Georgia State and Outdated Dominion – from throughout the convention within the East. They fully keep away from App State, Marshall, Coastal Carolina, and James Madison in common season play.
Historic information courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.