Of the 68 members of a Power 5 conference coming into 2023 only 22 – or 32 percent – will kick off vs. a fellow Power 5 club. While it makes the 11 matchups Week 1’s version of “must-see TV” it also means that each team highlighted won’t have much time to ramp up for the season.
Indeed, compare the opening challenge each of these programs will face with the 29 P5 members that will start 2023 with a Group of 5 foe and, in the best-case scenario, the 17 lucky squads that will ease into the season with an FCS opponent.
By conference, the solid start honor roll is led by the ACC and Big Ten – each with seven members represented apiece – followed by the SEC with four and then, coming in last, the Big 12 and Pac-12 with only two representatives apiece.
CLEMSON at DUKE – Monday, Sept. 4
One of five in-conference matchups on our list – and the first of two ACC games – this is the fifth consecutive season that Clemson has started off with a Power 5 opponent. The Tigers haven’t opened a campaign with a loss to an ACC foe since 1996 when they got blanked 45-0 at North Carolina. For Duke, it’s the first season opener vs. a Power opponent since 2020 when it traveled to then (10) Notre Dame and suffered a 27-13 loss. The Blue Devils haven’t kicked off a season with a win over a Power foe since 1994 when they scored a 46-16 home victory over Maryland. This is Clemson and Duke’s first meeting since 2018, the Tigers lead the all-time series 37-16-1, have won five-straight and ten of the last 11.
COLORADO at TCU – Saturday, Sept. 2
Deion Sanders’ first game as a head coach at the FBS level comes not only on the road, but against the runner-up in last year’s national title race. It’s also Colorado’s third time in the last four years to open vs. a Power 5 foe, the only win coming in a 48-42 defensive juggernaut at home vs. UCLA in 2020 (which wasn’t played until November due to the pandemic). After beginning their 2016-19 seasons vs. an FCS opponent, the Horned Frogs kicked off 2020 at home against Iowa State (a 37-34 loss) and visited Colorado last season (a 38-13 win). This is Colorado and TCU’s second-ever football meeting.
FLORIDA at UTAH – Thursday, Aug. 31
This one features the reigning Pac-12 champs hosting a Florida club that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2020. The Gators have opened with a Power club three of the last four years and haven’t lost a season opener – to anyone – since falling 33-17 to then (11) Michigan in Arlington, Texas in 2017. Utah has also faced a trio of Power 5 opening foes since 2019 but suffered a loss as recently as 2020, also a 33-17 decision, vs. then (20) USC, a game that was not played until Nov. 21. This is Florida and Utah’s third-ever meeting, before last year’s game in Gainesville the two hadn’t clashed since the 1977 regular season. The Gators have never lost to the Utes.
FLORIDA STATE vs. LSU at Orlando, Fla. – Sunday, Sept. 3
Even though Florida State opened with a Power foe as recently as 2021 – suffering a narrow 41-38 loss vs. then (9) Notre Dame – it hasn’t kicked off with a win over a P5 team since 2016, a 45-34 victory over then (11) Ole Miss in Orlando. Similarly, while this is LSU’s fourth-consecutive opener vs. a Power club, the Tigers haven’t beaten a P5 team to kick off a season since 2018, a 33-17 win over (8) Miami Fla. in Arlington, Texas. FSU and LSU have met ten times previously, most recently last season in New Orleans, a 24-23 win for the ‘Noles in what was their second game of the season. Florida State leads the all-time series 8-2 and has won five straight.
GEORGIA TECH vs. LOUISVILLE at Atlanta, Ga. – Friday, Sept. 1
Georgia Tech has kicked off three of its last four seasons vs. a Power 5 opponent, drawing top-ranked Clemson on two of those occasions. The Yellow Jackets’ most recent opening win came in 2020, a 16-13 upset victory at Florida State. Louisville has only missed out on beginning a season vs. a P5 foe once in the last six years, the only win coming in 2017, a 35-28 victory over Purdue in Indianapolis. Georgia Tech and Louisville have only met twice previously, in 2020 and 2018 – both wins for the Yellow Jackets.
NEBRASKA at MINNESOTA – Thursday, Aug. 31
The first of three Big Ten conference games in Week 1, this is Nebraska’s fourth-consecutive season to open with a league opponent. The Cornhuskers haven’t beaten a Power foe on opening day since 2003, when they were still in the Big 12, a 17-7 home win over then (24) Oklahoma State. Minnesota kicked off with a Power opponent as recently as 2021, falling 45-31 at home to then (4) Ohio State. The Gophers last opened with a win over a P5 club in 2016, scoring a 30-23 victory at home vs. Oregon State. Minnesota leads the all-time series with Nebraska 36-25-2 and has won four-straight, the two unofficially play for the Broken Chair Trophy.
NORTH CAROLINA vs. SOUTH CAROLINA at Charlotte, N.C. – Saturday, Sept. 2
Prior to last season’s opener vs. Florida A&M, North Carolina had kicked off against a Power foe consecutively since 2015. Its most recent win came in 2020, a 31-6 victory at home vs. Syracuse. South Carolina hasn’t opened against a P5 club since the COVID-compromised 2020 season and hasn’t kicked off with a win over a Power foe since 2017 when it edged NC State 35-28 in, ironically, Charlotte. UNC and USC last met in the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl – also in Charlotte – the Tar Heels won that game 38-21 and lead the all-time series 35-20-4 but the Gamecocks have won three of the last four.
NORTHWESTERN at RUTGERS – Saturday, Sept. 2
Northwestern has opened the season with a Power 5 opponent consecutively since 2018, with four of the five games coming vs. a fellow Big Ten member. The most recent win came last year, a memorable 31-28 victory over Nebraska in Dublin, Ireland. Rutgers opened vs. a Power 5 club as recently as last season, visiting Boston College, and squeezing out a 22-21 win. This is only the sixth-ever football meeting between the Wildcats and Scarlet Knights and only the second Big Ten clash. Rutgers leads the all-time series 3-2 but Northwestern has won two-straight.
OHIO STATE at INDIANA – Saturday, Sept. 2
This is Ohio State’s fourth-consecutive year to kick off vs. a Power 5 opponent. The Buckeyes have won 23-straight season openers, last losing in 1999, a 23-12 loss to then (12) Miami Fla. in East Rutherford, N.J. It’s also Indiana’s fourth-straight year to open vs. a P5 club, the most recent win coming last season, a 23-20 home victory over Illinois. Ohio State leads the all-time series with Indiana 78-12-5 and has won 27-straight.
TENNESSEE vs. VIRGINIA at Nashville, Tenn. – Saturday, Sept. 2
Tennessee hasn’t kicked off vs. a Power foe since 2020 when it opened the season at South Carolina on Sept. 26, scoring a 31-27 win. Virginia opened its last two seasons vs. FCS opponents making its most recent P5 opener also in 2020, a 38-20 home win over Duke. The Cavaliers have won six straight openers, last losing a Week 1 game in 2016, a shocking 37-20 upset at the hands of FCS Richmond. Tennessee and Virginia haven’t met since the 1990/91 Sugar Bowl, a 23-22 win for the Volunteers. UT leads the all-time series 3-1, the Cavaliers only-ever win came in 1980 in Knoxville.
WEST VIRGINIA at PENN STATE – Saturday, Sept. 2
This is the third-consecutive season that West Virginia has kicked off with a Power opponent. The Mountaineers haven’t won an opener vs. a P5 club since 2018 when they dominated Tennessee 40-14 in Charlotte. For Penn State, it’s the fourth-straight opener vs. a Power 5 foe, most recently visiting Purdue at the beginning of the 2022 season and winning 35-31. Penn State and West Virginia played consecutively from 1947-92 but haven’t met since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993. PSU holds a commanding 48-9-2 lead in the all-time series and has won four-straight.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.
22 teams deserve accolades for scheduling in this manner. Even Florida who is beginning to see the light and advantage of playing in the stadiums of non-conference teams outside the south.