In the middle of February. So far only the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12 and CUSA have announced their schedules with dates for 2023. Last year I waited until April when all the conferences had their official schedules updated. The good news is that for the remaining 4 conference’s they have announced their opponents for 2023 just not what dates the games are on. I would like to thank FBSchedules.com for having the matchups complete and also a shout out to Jeremy Guy over at the MAC for helping me track down this years’ opponents. I also would like to thank Ken Willinger who proofs the schedules and records for me every year. Only two schools are lacking a 12th game at this point, and they are Marshall and Tulane so their numbers will change slightly when their final foe is signed.
Now that all have been released the debate over which team plays the toughest schedule can begin.
There are many ways to calculate schedule strength. The most commonly used method is to combine opponents’ records from the previous season. Using this metric the toughest 2023 schedule belongs to South Carolina, whose opponents won 66.0% of their games in 2022. Michigan State (62.7%) comes in at #2 and West Virginia (62.4%) is number three. You can see by using this measurement Ohio (39.5%), New Mexico St (39.7%) and Temple (41.3%) have the easiest schedules for 2023 based on using 2022’s final records for opponent strength.
I want to remind you that this is the NCAA’s method, not mine. My schedule strength is based on my 9 sets of power ratings for THIS years’ teams and not last years. Prior to 2019, the method used for this article said that Arizona St was facing the 113th most challenging schedule (17th easiest) as their opponents won only 45.3% of their games in 2018. I had Arizona St 64 spots higher in my strength of schedule rankings in the magazine and 7 of 12 of their opponents went on to play in bowl games, they faced four ranked teams and ended up taking on the 44th toughest schedule. It is clear that there were not 112 schedules tougher than Arizona State’s.
There are other ways to measure schedule strength. Who plays the most teams that had a winning record last year? Well, that method came up with seven teams at the top. #1 on that list are Alabama, Boise St, Houston, Iowa St, Missouri, Ohio St and West Virginia which each play 9 teams that had winning records in 2022. This is interesting as almost every year folks downgrade either the Alabama or Ohio State schedule and this year both face 9 teams that had winning records last year.
Another way to measure schedule strength is to see how many opponents made the post season the previous year. A quick note here I added two teams to the bowl list that were not in bowls in 2022-23. James Madison basically won the Sun Best East and they were 8-3 on the season and one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. They were not eligible for a bowl as it was their first year moving up from FCS, but they clearly were a stronger team than many bowl squads. Appalachian St was 6-6 but not eligible for a bowl due to two of their wins being vs FCS squads. App won in College Station vs a then top ten team in Texas A&M and defeated the Sun Belt Champ Troy with Gameday on hand and were +108 ypg on the season. I counted those two as bowl teams. Army was 6-6 and defeated two FCS teams so also were not eligible but I did not count them as their other wins were over ULM, UConn, UMass and Navy and none of those teams finished with a winning record. I also counted FCS teams that made the FCS playoffs.
Four teams (all from the Big 12) draw ELEVEN opponents that qualified for the postseason last year and they are Iowa State, Kansas St, Texas, and West Virginia! Interestingly there are teams from the Big 12 that face just 8 bowl teams and they are Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, and TCU. Three teams face just 3 teams that were in the post season last year and they are Eastern Michigan, New Mexico St, and Northern Illinois,
Another way to look at schedule strength would be how many opponents that finished in the Top 25 the previous year does a team face? In 2021 Florida St, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Purdue, Kansas, and Baylor all led the way with five games vs teams that finished in the Top 25 in 2020 and only ONE of the six teams managed to have a winning record in 2021 (Baylor)! Last year six teams faced five teams that finished 2021 ranked. Those six teams were Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, BYU, and Louisville. Those six, fared better with 5 making it to a bowl. This year there are six teams who face SIX teams that that finished ranked in 2022. Those six teams with rugged schedules are Arizona, Arizona St, California, Colorado (welcome to the FBS Deion Sanders), Florida and Stanford.
Interestingly there are 25 teams that do not face a single foe that finished ranked last year including Sam Houston St which is #39 and Tulane which is #40 using the method of opponent’s records for 2023.
I will have MY final schedule strength for 2023 in this year’s magazine. I send the last page of the magazine to the press on June 8th this year and it should hit the newsstands by July 4th. If you PRE order the magazine you get it before everyone else, get the digital version for FREE, get 4 months of Phil Steele Plus ($80 value) for FREE, get the FCS magazine for FREE and get 4 weeks of Inside the Pressbox ($80 value) FREE as well. You can order right now CLICK HERE. The Pre Orders will be shipped out on the FIFO method meaning the first to order as the first to go out. We are still on DAY ONE orders or those that are shipped as soon as the magazine arrives at the office. If you wait, the price will go up, the bonus’s will drop, and you would fall into either Day 2 or Day 3 so don’t delay get your order in today and be the FIRST to get the 2023 Phil Steele Magazine.
Here is the complete list of all 133 FBS teams (Welcome Jacksonville St and Sam Houston St!) with their cumulative record for each opponent they face this year, the total amount of ranked teams, bowl teams, and teams with a winning record.