Which AP top ten team has the toughest football schedule in 2023?

By Kevin Kelley -

The preseason AP Poll for the 2023 college football season was released earlier this month, and it features many of the usual schools in the top ten of the rankings.

The Georgia Bulldogs, who won the last two College Football Playoff National Championships, lead the rankings. Georgia is followed by Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, and LSU.

Now that the rankings have been revealed, we can compare the teams with their strength of schedule (SOS) ranking, as provided by Phil Steele in his annual college football preview.

Below are the preseason AP Top Ten teams ranked by their schedule strength:


Phil Steele SOS rank: 67th
AP Rank: 2nd

Michigan opens the season with a trio of non-conference games at home, which includes East Carolina, UNLV, and Bowling Green.

In Big Ten action this season, Michigan gets 3rd-ranked Ohio State at home and 7th-ranked Penn State on the road. Other matchups include Nebraska and Michigan State on the road.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 60th
AP Rank: 7th

Penn State opens the season with a Power Five non-conference contest at home against West Virginia. The remainder of the Nittany Lions’ non-conference schedule, home games against Delaware and UMass, is lackluster.

Ranked opponents for Penn State in 2023 include (25) Iowa and (2) Michigan at home and (3) Ohio State on the road. The Nittany Lions will also visit Maryland and Michigan State.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 56th
AP Rank: 1st

Georgia opens their quest for a third consecutive national title with, ugh, UT Martin and Ball State at home, the latter of which was a replacement for the SEC-canceled Oklahoma road trip. The Bulldogs will also host UAB and visit Georgia Tech in non-league play.

Ranked SEC opponents for Georgia include (22) Ole Miss at home and (12) Tennessee in Knoxville. The Bulldogs will also visit Auburn and battle Florida in their annual contest in Jacksonville, Fla.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 52nd
AP Rank: 10th

Washington, headed to the Big Ten next season, opens the season with non-conference games at home against Boise State and Tulsa before visiting future conference foe Michigan State.

The Huskies are slated to play four of the AP’s preseason Top 25 teams in 2023, including (15) Oregon and (14) Utah at home and (6) USC and (18) Oregon State on the road.

6. USC

Phil Steele SOS rank: 50th
AP Rank: 6th

USC’s 2023 slate begins with two Mountain West opponents at home, San Jose State and Nevada. The Trojans will later travel to face 13th-ranked Notre Dame.

In Pac-12 play, USC gets 14th-ranked Utah and 10th-ranked Washington at the Coliseum before a visit to face 15th-ranked Oregon. The Trojans will wrap up their regular-season slate one week before most teams on Nov. 18 at home against rival UCLA.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 41st
AP Rank: 8th

Florida State looks to continue their resurgence this season, beginning with LSU in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando, Fla., in Week 1. FSU also hosts Southern Miss and visits rival Florida in non-conference play.

The Seminoles will only face one preseason AP ranked team, the No. 9 Clemson Tigers on the road. Florida State will also host Duke and visit Pitt and Miami.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 27th
AP Rank: 3rd

Ohio State kicks off their 2023 slate with a Big Ten game on the road against Indiana. The Buckeyes will also host 7th-ranked Penn State and visit 19th-ranked Wisconsin and 2nd-ranked Michigan.

A road game at 13th-ranked Notre Dame highlights the non-conference schedule for the Buckeyes.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 25th
AP Rank: 9th

An ACC road matchup against Duke on Labor Day kicks off the season for Clemson in 2023. The Tigers will also host ranked ACC foes Florida State (8th) and North Carolina (21st). Other matchups include Miami and NC State on the road and Wake Forest at home.

In non-league play, Clemson hosts (13) Notre Dame and will visit rival South Carolina.

2. LSU

Phil Steele SOS rank: 13th
AP Rank: 5th

LSU opens their season against 8th-ranked Florida State in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando, Fla. A home matchup with Army also stands out on the non-conference slate.

Preseason AP ranked SEC opponents for LSU this season include (23) Texas A&M at home and (22) Ole Miss and (4) Alabama on the road. The Tigers will also host Arkansas, Auburn, and Florida and visit Mississippi State.


Phil Steele SOS rank: 8th
AP Rank: 4th

Alabama’s non-conference schedule this season includes a big game at home against 11th-ranked Texas in Week 2 before a trip to Tampa, Fla., to face South Florida.

The Crimson Tide will face four preseason AP Top 25 teams this season — (22) Ole Miss, (12) Tennessee, and (5) LSU at home and (23) Texas A&M on the road. Alabama will also visit Mississippi State and Auburn, while Arkansas will visit Tuscaloosa.

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Comments (2)

Also, AP #11 Texas has the #10 SOS, so they are just barely behind Alabama and ahead of LSU. Also, they have an OOC game with that Bama.

(And AP #12 Tennessee and #13 Notre Dame would be squeezed in above #3 Clemson on this list).

Interesting list, and I know you have to set a limit about how far to go in any list or article. Just wanted to see where my Longhorns would fit into this, and ended up noticing TN and ND would be pretty high as well.

Shame on Michigan for not scheduling a Power 5 Non conference opponent for the 2nd year in a row. The committee needs to put a huge red flag in their permanent file because of this.