Of the 70 FBS clubs now recognized as Power teams, only six, or eight percent, will play all but one of their 2023 regular-season fixtures vs. Power 5 opponents.
The honor roll consists of two clubs apiece from the ACC and Pac-12 and one each from the Big Ten and Big 12. Completely missing is the SEC, which is not represented.
For the ACC members mentioned (which play an eight-league game format) it means playing three of their four non-conference games vs. Power 5 foes, while for the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12 honorees (all of which play nine league games), it amounts to playing two of their three non-conference games vs. Power 5 members.
It is a significant, and completely non-required, competitive disadvantage which could compromise goals such as bowl eligibility, divisional/conference titles, and, in the most extreme case, a spot in the College Football Playoff bracket. It’s also one of the covert factors which wields the power to get the coaching carousel spinning.
Power opponents: at TCU, Nebraska, at Oregon, USC, at Arizona State, Stanford, at UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona, at Washington State, at Utah
Non-Power opponent: Colorado State
Not only are the Buffaloes playing 91 percent of their schedule vs. Power 5 opponents, they’re one of only two programs listed who also won’t play an FCS school in 2023. It adds up to a legitimate uphill Battle Royale for new head coach Deion Sanders as he tries to right the ship at a program that’s only posted a winning record twice (with one coming during the COVID compromised 2020 season) since 2006.
It’s also Colorado’s third straight season to play all but one of its games against Power foes. Last year the sole exception was a game at Air Force (a 41-10 loss), in 2021 it was a visit from FCS Northern Colorado (one of only four wins that season), and in 2020 it was a home date vs. San Diego State (a 20-10 win).
Looking ahead, the Buffs are scheduled to play 11 Power foes again in 2025, adding Houston (a Big 12 member as of 2023) and Georgia Tech, in 2027 (Northwestern and K-State), and 2028 (Florida and K-State). In 2026, they’re set to play all 12 of their regular-season games vs. Power opponents adding Georgia Tech, Houston, and Northwestern to their nine-game conference schedule.
Power opponents: vs. Georgia Tech (in Atlanta), vs. Indiana (in Indianapolis), Boston College, at NC State, Notre Dame, at Pitt, Duke, Virginia Tech, Virginia, at Miami Fla., Kentucky
Non-Power opponent: FCS Murray State
Outside of its ACC slate, Louisville is set to face a Big Ten program at a “neutral” site, an SEC club, and Notre Dame. Though the Cardinals did play just one non-Power foe during the pandemic-compromised 2020 season (beating WKU in the opener, also one of only four wins), this is the first time in program history that they’ve played 11 Power 5 opponents during the regular season.
Louisville is scheduled to appear on the honor roll again in 2026 when it adds Georgia, Kentucky, and Notre Dame to its eight-game ACC slate.
Power opponents: Cincinnati, at West Virginia, North Carolina, at Virginia Tech, Louisville, at Wake Forest, at Notre Dame, Florida State, Syracuse (at Yankee Stadium), Boston College, at Duke
Non-Power opponent: FCS Wofford
Cincinnati joining the Big 12 in 2023 makes this the first time in history that Pitt has played 11 regular-season opponents who were Power 5 members at game time. The closest it’s come recently was in 2018 when it added non-conference dates vs. Penn State, Notre Dame, UCF (as members of the AAC), and FCS Albany to its eight-game ACC slate. As of now, the Panthers don’t have any future plans to reappear on the honor roll.
Power opponents: at Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Illinois, at Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Michigan, Minnesota, at Northwestern, Indiana
Non-Power opponent: Fresno State
Along with Colorado, Purdue is one of only two Power clubs playing 11 Power opponents plus a Group of 5 program as opposed to an FCS team. But where the Buffs add Colorado State, a program that’s won only seven games over the last three seasons, the Boilermakers draw a Fresno State team fresh off back-to-back ten-win campaigns. The Bulldogs are also the reigning MWC champs.
A consistent super-scheduler, Purdue played 11 Power opponents during the regular season consecutively from 2017 to 2021 (minus the COVID-compromised 2020 season when its slate consisted of six Big Ten games). In 2021 it added Oregon State and Notre Dame to its nine-game Big Ten lineup, in 2019 it was Vandy and TCU, in 2018 it was Mizzou and Boston College and in 2017 it was Louisville and Mizzou.
The Boilermakers are set to make the honor roll again in 2024 (Notre Dame, Oregon State), 2026 (Wake Forest, Notre Dame), 2027 (Notre Dame, North Carolina), and 2028 (Wake Forest, Notre Dame).
Power opponents: Florida, at Baylor, UCLA, at Oregon State, Cal, at USC, Oregon, Arizona State, at Washington, at Arizona, Colorado
Non-Power opponent: FCS Weber State
The last (and only) time Utah technically played 11 Power opponents during a regular season was in 2011 when it added Pitt (then a member of the Big East) and BYU (in its first season as an independent) to what was its first-ever nine-game Pac-12 slate.
The Utes have plans to up the ante again in 2024 when they’ll add BYU (now a member of the Big 12) and Baylor to its nine Pac-12 opponents, in 2027 (Houston and BYU) and 2028 (BYU and Wisconsin). In 2026 they’ll play 100 percent of their schedule against the Power 5, adding Houston, Arkansas, and BYU to get to 12 Power foes.
Power opponents: at Penn State, Pitt, Texas Tech, at TCU, at Houston, Oklahoma State, at UCF, BYU, at Oklahoma, Cincinnati, at Baylor
Non-Power opponent: FCS Duquesne
West Virginia adds Penn State and Pitt to its standing nine-game Big 12 slate making it the sixth consecutive season that its scheduled 11 Power opponents. Last season the Mountaineers added Pitt and Virginia Tech, in 2021 it was Maryland and Virginia Tech, in 2020 Florida State and Maryland were on the schedule but the games weren’t played due to the pandemic, in 2019 it was Mizzou and NC State and in 2018 it was Tennessee and NC State (which was postponed, and ultimately cancelled due to Hurricane Florence).
As of now, West Virginia looks to be taking its foot off the gas in scheduling with 2024 as the only future slate featuring 11 Power opponents, a repeat of this season’s Penn State/Pitt combo.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.
When you control who, when, and where you play your non-conference games you have an advantage.
Congrats to the AD’s at these institutions! I like to see the other 92% follow their lead. May The Committee reward them for their efforts! (Not counting on that).