Of the 133 FBS programs set to compete this season only 16 – or 12 percent – won’t play an FCS opponent. That’s up two from the 14 who didn’t do so in 2022 and plus one vs. the 15 who went FCS free in 2021.
Of the 16 teams on this year’s honor roll, 14 hail from a Power 5 conference while only two represent a Group of 5 league. The Big Ten leads the way with seven representatives (six are members of the West division) while the Big 12 and Pac-12 are tied for second with three clubs apiece. That leaves the ACC, the American, and C-USA, each contributing one honoree to the list.
The SEC, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Independents are not represented.
Missing from the list for the first time since Division I-AA (now FCS) was formed in 1978 is Notre Dame, which before this season’s game vs. Tennessee State, hadn’t faced a team that was considered a “non-major” at game time since playing a roadie at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh in 1941.
2023 non-conference schedule: at TCU, Nebraska, Colorado State
This is the second-straight season that the Buffs haven’t played an FCS foe, last year booking games vs. TCU and at both Minnesota and Air Force (all losses) in a 1-11 campaign. Moving forward, the only FCS opponents on a future schedule are North Dakota State (2024) and Colgate (2027).
2023 non-conference schedule: UTSA, at Rice, Sam Houston
Like Colorado, this is the second-consecutive season that Houston opted not to book an FCS foe. Last year the Cougars had games at Texas Tech and UTSA and home dates vs. Kansas and Rice in non-AAC play, going 2-2 in what became an 8-5 finish. As of now, they don’t have any future dates vs. FCS programs.
2023 non-conference schedule: Toledo, at Kansas, Florida Atlantic
Illinois last went FCS free in 2021, playing UTSA, at Virginia and Charlotte in non-conference action, posting a 1-2 record that was a part of a 5-7 campaign. Looking ahead, the Illini will stick to the Big Ten practice of playing FCS opponents in alternate years with Eastern Illinois slated for 2024, Southern Illinois in 2026, and Illinois State in 2028.
2023 non-conference schedule: Utah State, at Iowa State, Western Michigan
Like Illinois, Iowa didn’t book an FCS foe as recently as 2021 when it played at Iowa State, vs. Kent State, and Colorado State out of conference – all wins – on its way to a 10-4 record. Also like the Illini, the Hawkeyes have FCS opponents booked in 2024 (Illinois State) and 2026 (Northern Iowa).
2023 non-conference schedule: Bowling Green, at Buffalo, Old Dominion, UMass
This is the first time Liberty hasn’t played an FCS foe since it ascended to the FBS ranks as an Independent in 2018. The Flames are 8-0 vs. the FCS since moving up, playing two such opponents consecutively from 2018-20. Though their future scheduling is still transitioning to conform to C-USA standards (with only four non-conference fixtures), as of now they do have Campbell slated for 2024 and East Tennessee State for 2025.
2023 non-conference schedule: East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green
This is the thirteenth consecutive season that Michigan hasn’t squared off with an FCS foe, last doing so in 2010, scoring a narrow 42-37 win over UMass, which was still two seasons away from moving up to the FBS at the time. The Wolverines currently don’t have any future dates set with FCS programs.
2023 non-conference schedule: Eastern Michigan, at North Carolina, Louisiana
Like fellow Big Ten West members Illinois and Iowa, this is Minnesota’s first FCS free season since 2021 when it drew games vs. Miami Ohio (a win), at Colorado (also a win), and vs. Bowling Green (a shocking loss) in what was a 9-4 campaign. Looking ahead, the Gophers have Rhode Island booked in 2024, Eastern Illinois in 2025, and North Dakota in 2028.
2023 non-conference schedule: at Colorado, Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech
Unlike most of the Big Ten West contingency, this is Nebraska’s first season to not schedule an FCS club since 2019 (though it didn’t play such an opponent in the pandemic compromised 2020 campaign, it did have South Dakota State booked). The Huskers scored wins over South Alabama and Northern Illinois in ’19 and lost narrowly, 34-31, at Colorado. It was part of a 5-7 finish, also the best outcome of the Scott Frost era in Lincoln. Nebraska has Northern Iowa slated for 2024, North Dakota in 2026 and South Dakota State in 2028 and 2030.
2023 non-conference schedule: Arkansas State, SMU, at Tulsa
This is Oklahoma’s second-straight season without an FCS opponent, playing UTEP, Kent State, and at Nebraska last season – three of only six wins in what was its worst finish since 1998. Prior to that, the Sooners hadn’t gone FCS-free since 2018, when they played FAU, UCLA, and Army – all home games resulting in wins – on their way to a 12-2 finish that included a Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff berth. The only future booking vs. an FCS foe is a 2025 date vs. Illinois State.
2023 non-conference schedule: Fresno State, at Virginia Tech, Syracuse
Though Purdue booked an FCS opponent as recently as last season, prior to that it hadn’t done so in five seasons, or since 2016 when it opened with Eastern Kentucky. That game also marked the end of a seven-season run of consecutive FCS foes. Looking ahead, the Boilermakers will join the rest of the Big Ten West in scheduling FCS clubs every other season with Indiana State on the books in both 2024 and 2026 and Western Illinois in 2028.
2023 non-conference schedule: Rice, at Alabama, Wyoming
A consistent scheduling honoree, this is Texas’ 17th consecutive season without an FCS opponent. The Longhorns last played an FCS club in 2006, scoring a 56-3 win over Sam Houston State, part of a 10-3 campaign. As of now, Texas doesn’t have an FCS team on a future schedule.
2023 non-conference schedule: Boise State, Tulsa, at Michigan State
This is the first time Washington hasn’t had an FCS foe on its slate since 2010 when it traveled to BYU (a loss) and hosted both Syracuse (a win) and then (8) Nebraska (a loss) in what was ultimately a 7-6 finish in Steve Sarkisian’s second year at the helm. The brief pause won’t last long with Weber State on the books next season, UC Davis in 2025, and Eastern Washington in both 2026 and 2028.
2023 non-conference schedule: Buffalo, at Washington State, Georgia Southern
Prior to hosting Illinois State in last season’s opener and then booking Southern Illinois in 2020 (a game that was never played due to the pandemic), Wisconsin hadn’t scheduled an FCS foe since a 2014 game vs. Western Illinois, at the time it’s sixth-straight such opponent. The Badgers currently have South Dakota booked for 2024, Western Illinois in 2026, and Southern Illinois in 2027.
2023 non-conference schedule: San Jose State, Nevada, at Notre Dame
Earning top honors in this specific facet of scheduling, the Trojans haven’t played a club that was considered a “non-major” at game time in 71 seasons. The year was 1952 and USC hosted San Diego Navy, one of ten wins in a 10-1 finish. The only blemish came in the regular-season finale, a 9-0 loss at (7) Notre Dame. Like Texas, USC doesn’t have any future plans to play an FCS opponent.
2023 non-conference schedule: at Houston, Texas State, Army, at Tennessee
This is UTSA’s first FCS-free schedule since 2018, when it stepped up to the plate with games at Arizona State and Kansas State and vs. Baylor and Texas State for a 1-3 start that morphed into a 3-9 finish. The only FCS club on a future Roadrunners’ slate is Houston Christian which is scheduled to visit in 2024.
2023 non-conference schedule: Old Dominion, Purdue, at Rutgers, at Marshall
Virginia Tech hasn’t gone FCS free in 14 seasons, or since 2009 when it opened vs. (5) Alabama in Atlanta (a loss) and then beat Marshall, (19) Nebraska, and East Carolina in what was ultimately a 10-3 finish. Moving forward, the Hokies look to be making a somewhat permanent scheduling shift with only one FCS club – VMI in 2026 – appearing on a future slate.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.
Would be interesting to revisit this in December to see how these schedules helped/hurt these teams in 2023. Deion is going to get quite the wake-up call early on in his tenure.
I know Michigan does not schedule FCS teams, but they make up for it by scheduling weak FBS teams. UNLV and Bowling Green are layups, while East Carolina is a good ramp-up game. The only reason they had FCS’s Delaware State and UMass on their schedule in 2009 and 2010, respectively, is because an FBS backed out of a H & H at the last minute (can’t remember who it was).
exactly…there are FCS schools that are better than any team on Michigan’s non conference schedule
As the article stated Notre Dame is jumping the shark this year and leaves USC as the only FBS school that has not played a FCS school. UCLA jumped the shark last year.
Kudos to Notre Dame though like UCLA did in playing an HBCU. If you’re going to go FCS, share the wealth with an HBCU.
Share the wealth with an HBCU so the president of the school can take that money for themselves instead of giving it to the school.
I’m adding “jump the Shark” 2 my 1A 🏈 Lexicon.
I’ve not 👂 it B4. It’s most certainly my ignorance.
Playing 4ward; I’d like my BYU Cougars to not play a 63 scholarship Team unless, as happened with TN Volunteers in 2022 offseason, they canceled their contracted 2023 return Game @ BYU for a Home regional $$$ Game VS Bronco Mendenhall-less UVA who’s back to their bottom Spaces in the ACC.
BYU had to put newly minted 1A in name only Sam Houston State Bearkats ( yawn) in the Spot. No offense 2 SHSU but they won’t have a Defense.
you think they deserve credit for playing an FCS school as long as that school has racist admission policies?
A big round of Golf Tournament applause for all 16 of these teams. While I would not call any of these schedules really tough it does point the wierdness that self scheduling 3 or 4 games can bring the Major College football.
I want to call for a ACC / Big Ten challange style game or two to be put into future schedules. Play a home game in either odd or even years, but the exact opponent will be picked right before preseason media days.
Let’s call out Notre Dame or fail to even mention that Tennessee State is an HBCU
LOL…you think they deserve credit for playing an FCS school just because that school is racist?
there are several FCS schools that are better than any team on Michigan’s non conference schedule