Of the 133 FBS programs competing in 2023, only nine – or six percent – don’t have a Power 5 opponent scheduled.
The dishonor role includes seven Power 5 members (three from the Big 12, two from the Pac 12, and one apiece from the ACC and Big Ten), representing ten percent of the Power field, and only two Group of 5 members (one each from C-USA and the MWC), representing a mere three percent of the G5 contingency.
In each case it amounts to, at minimum, a one game competitive advantage over each of the subset’s league cohorts. It also, especially down the stretch, has the potential to change the trajectory of bigger goals such as bowl eligibility, divisional/conference titles, and yes, a shot at the CFP bracket.
Non-conference schedule: FCS Robert Morris, vs. Sam Houston (at NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas), at Navy, vs. Army (at Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.)
Compare with Wyoming: Texas Tech, FCS Portland State, at Texas, App State
A repeat offender, this is the sixth time in the last ten years that the Falcons haven’t scheduled a Power 5 opponent – also doing so in 2021, 2018, 2016 and 2013-14. That said, Air Force has won its last five consecutive games vs. Power teams: last season it beat Baylor in the frigid Armed Forces Bowl and crushed Colorado in a Week 2 home game, in 2021 it edged Louisville in the First Responder Bowl and in 2019 it downed Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl and scored another win over Colorado, this time in Boulder. Its most recent loss to a Power foe came early in the 2017 season, a 29-13 loss at then (7) Michigan.
Though the Falcons’ future schedule still has openings, there are no Power opponents currently booked in 2025, 2026, 2028, 2030, or 2032.
Non-conference schedule: Northern Illinois, FCS Holy Cross, at Army, UConn
Compare with Louisville: FCS Murray State, vs. Indiana (at Indianapolis), Notre Dame, Kentucky
This is the first time Boston College has failed to schedule a Power 5 opponent outside of ACC play since 2016, when it played UMass, FCS Wagner, Buffalo, and UConn. All four games resulted in wins amounting to 67 percent of that year’s six regular-season victories. Swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction, BC scheduled two Power non-conference opponents as recently as last season (losses to Rutgers and Notre Dame) and three in 2019 (a win over Rutgers and losses to Kansas and Notre Dame).
Looking ahead, the Eagles have at least one non-ACC Power foe booked through 2036 and have two such opponents scheduled in 2024 (at Missouri, Michigan State), 2025 (at Michigan State, Notre Dame), 2028 (at Stanford, at Notre Dame), and 2035 (at Ohio State, at Notre Dame).
Non-conference schedule: UTSA, at Rice, Sam Houston
Compare with BYU: Sam Houston, FCS Southern Utah, at Arkansas
Though Houston will be playing nine Power opponents for the first time since the Southwest Conference disbanded after the 1995 season, none will come in non-league action. It marks the first time that the Cougars haven’t faced a club that’s currently a Power 5 member in non-conference play during the regular season since 1949. They were independents 74 years ago, finishing 5-4-1 with wins over Wichita State, Louisiana, West Texas A&M, Trinity (Texas), and Saint Louis and losses to William & Mary, Midwestern Texas State, St. Bonaventure, and North Texas. The tie was a 27-27 decision vs. Hardin Simmons.
While the Cougars do have open dates in their non-conference schedule moving forward, they don’t currently have a Power 5 opponent booked until a 2025 home date vs. Colorado.
Non-conference schedule: Bowling Green, at Buffalo, Old Dominion, UMass
Compare with Middle Tennessee: at Alabama, at Missouri, FCS Murray State, Colorado State
This is the first time that Liberty has failed to book a Power 5 opponent since moving up to the FBS ranks in 2018. Up until this season the Flames had the flexibility of an independent to schedule freely. That said, their transition into a smaller Conference USA offers an eight-league game format which means a generous four non-conference slots to work with. Liberty vanquished two Power grade opponents as recently as last season, crushing BYU 41-14 at home, and then edging Arkansas 21-19 in a roadie the following Saturday.
The Flames aren’t scheduled to play another Power 5 opponent until a 2027/28 home-and-home with Virginia Tech.
Non-conference schedule: East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green
Compare with Ohio State: FCS Youngstown State, WKU, at Notre Dame
This is the second-straight season that Michigan has failed to book a Power opponent in non-league play. Last year’s perfect 12-0 regular season run included home wins over Colorado State (51-7), Hawaii (56-10), and UConn (59-0). Prior to that, the Wolverines had booked an opponent that’s now considered a Power program during the regular season for 58 straight years, or, since 1964 when they beat Air Force and then (6) Navy to open a 9-1 campaign that included a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl victory.
Michigan does have a visit from Texas on the books for 2024, the first of seven-consecutive Power opponents including Oklahoma, Washington, and Notre Dame.
Note: Michigan was previously scheduled to play a home-and-home series with UCLA in 2022 and 2023, but the Wolverines canceled the series.
Non-conference schedule: Arkansas State, SMU, at Tulsa
Compare with West Virginia: At Penn State, FCS Duquesne, Pitt
The last time Oklahoma failed to schedule a Power 5 non-conference opponent was also the last time it earned a National Championship. The year was 2000 and the Sooners opened with decisive home victories over UTEP (55-14), Arkansas State (45-7), and Rice (42-14). OU went on to edge then (8) Kansas State 27-24 in the Big Ten title game before icing (3) Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl to win the natty in what was Bob Stoops’ second year at the helm.
As of now, Oklahoma’s next non-conference Power opponent is a home-and-home vs. Michigan in 2025/26.
Note: Oklahoma was scheduled to host Georgia in 2023, but the SEC canceled the matchup.
Non-conference schedule: at San Jose State, FCS UC Davis, San Diego State
Compare with Colorado: at TCU, Nebraska, Colorado State
This is the second consecutive season that Oregon State hasn’t booked a Power club in non-conference action. The Beavers went 10-3 in 2022, their best performance since 2006, kicking off with wins vs. Boise State, at Fresno State and vs. FCS Montana State. Before that, OSU hadn’t failed to schedule a Power foe since 2013 and 2014.
The Beavers have a home game vs. Purdue next season followed by home-and-homes with Texas Tech (2025/26) and Ole Miss (2027/30).
Non-conference schedule: Kent State, at Boise State, FCS Villanova
Compare with Cincinnati: FCS Eastern Kentucky, at Pitt, Miami Ohio
Like Houston, UCF will make its debut as a Big 12 team without playing a Power club in non-conference play. The Knights moved up to the FBS ranks as an Independent in 1996 and joined the MAC in 2002, C-USA in 2005, and then the AAC in 2013. In all that time it never failed to book a Power club as a member of a G5 conference.
The Knights have a roadie at Florida booked for next year, the first of six consecutive non-conference Power 5 fixtures.
Non-conference schedule: Coastal Carolina, at San Diego State, FCS NC Central
Compare with Utah: Florida, at Baylor, FCS Weber State
This is the second-consecutive season that UCLA has failed to book a Power opponent outside of league play, opening 2022 with decisive wins over Bowling Green (45-17) and FCS Alabama State (45-7) before barely surviving a visit from South Alabama (32-31). The 9-4 result and No. 21 rank in the final AP poll were both the best outcomes since 2014. Last year was also the first time the Bruins hadn’t played a team now considered a Power club (plus Notre Dame and BYU) in 77 years, or since 1945 when they added San Diego Navy, Pacific, and Saint Mary’s Pre-Flight to its five-game PCC (Pacific Coast Conference) slate.
Beginning with a roadie at LSU next season, UCLA has non-conference Power 5 opponents booked through 2030.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.
College Football scheduling is arcane. Scheduling non-conference games upwards to 10 years out is crazy. When you control who, when, and where you play non-conference games gives an advantage.
After this current conference deck shuffling, I suspect in 10 years there will be 2 mega conferences similar to the NFL with perhaps 48 give or take, teams per conference.
No wonder I like watching FCS & P5 teams in person. More pure college football and doesn’t cost as much plus closer to the action with more ambiance and intimate setting.
Ohio State will the the 2024 listing since they Cancelled a series with Washington last week. Look for another directional school like Western Kentucky or Northern Iowa for their 3rd bodybag game.
Second straight season for Michigan to be in this club. Come on, guys. Man up and play someone.
ECU’s not a bad team, though.
FCS foes aside, Oregon State and UCLA won’t have an easy time out of conference. San Diego State is certainly capable of pushing both of them and could even beat them.
UCF at Boise is a nice test too.
Michigan two years in a row! All of you shame!