College football power ranking projections for 2023
Over the past month or so, I’ve been collecting the key information I need to put together my college football power ratings for the 2023 season. This annually involves analyzing the returning players/coaches for the teams, making adjustments based upon last year’s finish and the current perception of teams, and then ensuring I have not assumed anything out of the window for normalcy for each team’s recent history or conference strength. That last point was a particular challenge this year, with massive realignment affecting the various conferences across the country for the upcoming season.
As I went through all of the teams, the status of the all-important quarterback position really stood out to me. For one, three of the top teams in the country, perhaps ranked #1-#3 depending on the poll you are browsing, are all starting over at quarterback after tremendous runs with the predecessor. Georgia moves on from Stetson Bennett, Ohio State looks to replace CJ Stroud, and Alabama searches for an answer for Bryce Young’s departure. All three of those players have moved on to the NFL, and yet, experts see enough talent remaining on these teams to expect continued elite play. Second, there is a ton of premier QB talent back across the country for expected contending teams this season. The Pac-12 is particularly loaded, with the likes of Caleb Williams (USC), Michael Penix (Washington), Bo Nix (Oregon), and Cam Rising (Utah) back for their respective clubs. And thirdly, the number of transfer quarterbacks moving on to new teams after extensive experience at prior schools is unprecedented. If you love studying QB play in college football and appreciate familiar names when prepping a team at its most important position, this could be the season for you.
If you think the coaching carousel was significant this season, the 24 changes to programs this season is a fairly typical number. However, the reasons for changes, including the one just this week at Northwestern, can cause some havoc for programs. I detailed all of the coaching changes in an article about a month ago, and it will run again in the VSiN College Football Betting Guide.
Before the 2021 season, I called for an “upset” to the College Football Playoff proceedings, as I figured some of the recent fringe playoff teams that were bringing back more super seniors that did not opt for the NFL draft could make a run at the playoffs. This came to fruition when Michigan and Cincinnati formed half of the final four. Sure, both teams lost as big underdogs in their playoff chances, but just making it there was an achievement, particularly for the Bearcats, then out of the American Conference. Last fall, I called for a return to normalcy, with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State playing as heavy favorites to make the CFP. Two of those did, with the Tide being the omission. For 2023, those three teams, along with Michigan, seem to be the ones to beat. As you study the ratings chart below, you’ll see this perception is reflected in the numbers.
I will continue to monitor teams and happenings across the country and make any tweaks necessary to the numbers again prior to the opening week kickoff. For now, I’ve taken my adjusted power ratings for 2023 and run them against the complete schedule to project the season standings. You will also find a listing of all 133 FBS teams and their schedules for 2023, with my projected power ratings lines for each game included. Note that there are changes to many of the conferences, both in terms of the teams now sanctioned in the league and the removal of some divisions to certain conferences.
Use these numbers as a foundation for determining your favorite season-win total bets. As a reference, I have included all of the teams’ win total props available at DraftKings on the season standings chart.
Before unleashing the projections, however, let’s look at some of the highlights from the analysis:
- According to my figures, South Carolina plays the nation’s toughest schedule, at least as it stands now. The Gamecocks are ranked just ahead of Michigan State, Purdue and Ole Miss in that regard, and besides facing their usual tough SEC East foes, they will take on North Carolina and Clemson in bookend non-conference play. Third-year head coach Shane Beamer’s program is coming off an 8-5 season, their most wins since 2017. However, my projections show South Carolina taking a step back at 6.0-6.0 against a DraftKings win prop of 6.5, with the tough slate expected to take a toll. Michigan State’s non-conference schedule includes a date with Washington on top of highly difficult Big Ten tilts with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. I have the Spartans winning 5.1 games against a 5.5 DraftKings prop.
- Florida International hands over the reins of the easiest schedule for 2023 to new Conference USA mate Liberty, a program moving on from a highly successful run under former head coach Hugh Freeze. It’s not expected to be a big drop-off under Jamey Chadwell, however, as my numbers show the Flames winning 8.7 games. The DraftKings win prop is 8.5. Another new C-USA team, New Mexico State, checks in at #132 in terms of schedule difficulty, a trait that second-year coach Jerry Kill hopes will take his team beyond the 7-6 mark achieved last year. My projections show just 5.7 wins, though. Other programs with lighter schedules in 2023 include Miami Ohio, Eastern Michigan, and Air Force, all three returning bowl teams.
- Georgia has the highest win projection of any team, with 11.3, distinctly better than Michigan (10.7), Ohio State (10.6), and Alabama (10.3). There are no other double-digit win projections, although USC is close with 9.8. The Trojans are the favorite in the Pac-12 but have to most past what was a gut-wrenching loss in the Cotton Bowl game this past January to Tulane. Interestingly, of the four top projected win teams, only one brings back its starting quarterbacks: Michigan, who will be led by Heisman Trophy candidate JJ McCarthy.
- Assuming the projections play out accurately, besides Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, and USC, the other Power 5 conference teams that would be expected to contend for a spot in the college football playoffs this year would be Penn State, Texas, Oklahoma, Clemson, Florida State, Oregon, and LSU, all of whom are projected to win at least 9.3 games. Some of the longshot contenders might include Washington, Utah, Notre Dame, and perhaps even Wisconsin, an interesting team to consider this season as it changes offensive schemes entirely under the direction of new head coach Luke Fickell.
- Tulane (9.2), Toledo (9.2), Air Force (8.8), Liberty (8.7), and Troy (8.6) have the highest projected win totals among the group of 5 teams, although each faces an early test or two that might prevent them from going undefeated and challenging for a CFP spot. Tulane, off the huge Cotton Bowl victory, faces season-defining home games versus South Alabama and Ole Miss in the season’s first two weeks.
- In terms of teams expected to improve from last season, South Florida and Oklahoma are each projected to win 3.4 more games than a season ago. The Sooners enter the second season under head coach Brent Venables, and this campaign figures to offer a whole lot more stability and, thus, promise than 2022 did. The Bulls of USF could be aided by the prospects of playing in a watered-down AAC, which loses Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF to the Big 12.
- No team is expected to drop off more in 2023 than TCU, the returning national runner-up. The Horned Frogs had it all come together last season, winning several close games to take the Big 12 title. They then went on to beat Michigan in an explosive CFP semifinal game. They’ll have to make do without starting QB Max Duggan and at least 11 other starters that have since moved on. Cincinnati, Troy, Houston, and UTSA are also teams that show projections that would represent significant declines in 2023. Cincinnati and Houston add the difficulty of a Power 5 schedule to the mix as they move to the Big 12.
- Regarding the projections and how they correlate to the Season Win Total Props offered up at DraftKings, here are the biggest differences. Teams expected to win more games than their DK win props include Jacksonville State (+1.4), LA Lafayette (+1.2), Ball State (+0.9), Memphis (+0.9), Virginia (+0.8), UCF (+0.7), and Kentucky (+0.7). Teams expected to fall short of their season win props by the biggest margins include Tennessee (-1.4), Texas State (-1.1), Virginia Tech (-0.9), Buffalo (-0.9), Utah State (-0.9), and Colorado (-0.9).
On the chart below, you will find my projected standings for each of the conferences. The teams are sorted by conference wins. You will also find their season win total from DraftKings, their 2023 Steve Makinen Power Rating, Home and Road Field Ratings, Schedule Strength and National Ranking, plus their overall and conference record projections.
Following that, you’ll find all of the team schedules with projected lines based on my power ratings. Use these to find betting options on the Games of the Year lines released at several books, including DraftKings. You’ll surely find some distinct differences when analyzing the numbers.