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College Football’s 5 Easiest Schedules for 2023 Contenders

Jul 10, 2023 EST

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It’s never too early to start looking ahead at the 2023 college football season. I mean, how else are we supposed to get through the next seven months of the offseason?

As we preview 2023 a bit, let’s run through the easiest schedules in college football as it relates to contenders.

What makes for an easy schedule? Three factors are which teams you’ll play in your out-of-conference schedule, which conference games you get home and away, and current winning streaks against opponents you’ll face.

It’s hard to be one of the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff, but it helps to have a more manageable schedule.

Oregon State Beavers

Out-of-conference opponents

      • At San Jose State, Sept. 2
      • Vs. UC Davis, Sept. 9
      • Vs. San Diego State, Sept. 16

Home conference games

      • Utah, Sept. 29
      • UCLA, Oct. 14
      • Stanford, Nov. 11
      • Washington, Nov. 18

Away conference games

      • Washington State, Sept. 23
      • Cal, Oct. 7
      • Arizona, Oct. 28
      • Colorado, Nov. 4
      • Oregon, Nov. 24

The Pac-12 is loaded heading into 2023, with several contenders that are capable of making the playoff. The favorites look to be USC, with returning Heisman winner Caleb Williams, and Utah, which gets back star quarterback Cameron Rising. But Oregon and Washington, who both finished with double-digit wins in 2022, are capable of winning the conference, too.

Oregon State looks like the dark horse to win the conference. The Beavers finished 10-3 last season, capped off with a dominant bowl win over Florida. It marked just the third time in school history that Oregon State finished with 10 wins. Given that there are a number of talented contenders within the conference, it was hard to pick a team with the “easiest schedule” in the Pac-12, but Oregon State looks like it has the most manageable one.

Oregon State beat a pair of Mountain West teams in Boise State and Fresno State last season—both of which finished with 10 wins. So San Jose State and San Diego State shouldn’t be too tricky.

As for the Beavers’ home games, getting Utah, UCLA and Washington in Corvallis is huge. Oregon State lost to Utah and Washington on the road last season. UCLA finished 9-4 in 2022, but playing the Bruins instead of USC like Oregon State did last season is a plus, too. Oregon State has won its last two meetings against Stanford, as well.

As for Oregon State’s away games, the Beavers will be favored in most of them. OSU beat Washington State for the first time in eight seasons last year, winning 24-10. The Beavers haven’t won in Pullman since 2013, so this will be a challenge for Jonathan Smith’s team.

Oregon State should be favored in its next three away games against Cal, Arizona and Colorado. All three teams finished with losing seasons the last two seasons, and with the exception of Colorado’s 4-2 finish in 2020, all three have been at the bottom of the Pac-12 for a while.

The biggest road test for Oregon State will come in the last week of the season against Oregon. The Ducks return starting quarterback Bo Nix from last season, along with several offensive playmakers. Oregon State upset the Ducks last season, winning 38-34 in Corvallis. But the Beavers haven’t won at Oregon since 2007.

With that said, Oregon has a much tougher schedule than Oregon State. Before playing Oregon State, Oregon will have played road games against Texas Tech, Washington and Utah, including a home game against USC two weeks prior. There’s a chance Oregon might have multiple losses and be much more beat up at that point in the season, giving Oregon State an edge.

Oregon State might not be one of the outright favorites to win the Pac-12. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the Beavers sneak into the title game come December because of their much more manageable schedule than some of the other contenders within the conference.

Michigan Wolverines

Out-of-conference opponents

      • Vs. East Carolina, Sept. 2
      • Vs. UNLV, Sept. 9
      • Vs. Bowling Green, Sept. 16

Home conference games

      • Rutgers, Sept. 23
      • Indiana, Oct. 14
      • Purdue, Nov. 4
      • Ohio State, Nov. 25

Away conference games

      • Nebraska, Sept. 30
      • Minnesota, Oct. 7
      • Michigan State, Oct. 21
      • Penn State, Nov. 11
      • Maryland, Nov. 18

The Michigan Wolverines did the unthinkable and beat Ohio State for the second straight time in 2022. Although the Wolverines lost to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal, it was a great season for Jim Harbaugh.

Despite some reports that he may be considering leaving for the NFL, Harbaugh is back at Michigan for 2023, along with starting quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Blake Corum. The 2023 schedule puts Michigan in a great spot to make it back to the playoff.

Michigan gets its first four games at home, and it’s likely that the Wolverines will be heavily favored in each of them. The Wolverines then close out the month of September with two road games vs. Big Ten West opponents in Nebraska and Minnesota. Jim Harbaugh has gone a combined 6-0 against these teams since he’s been in Ann Arbor.

As for the rest of U-M’s road opponents, a few stand out. The Wolverines travel to Michigan State on Oct. 21. Sparty won 37-33 the last time these two met in East Lansing, but Michigan State’s 5-7 record last year makes this game look less intriguing. Michigan also has to go on the road to face Penn State, but Harbaugh has won the last two over James Franklin. And Michigan has won seven straight against Maryland.

The biggest reason Michigan has an easier schedule in 2023? The Wolverines play Ohio State in Ann Arbor, where Michigan won for the first time since 2011 the last time this rivalry was played here. The Big Ten East has come down to Michigan-Ohio State in recent years. Michigan had no problems beating Ohio State on the road last season, so 2023’s game at home should make Michigan favored.

If Harbaugh is able to defeat Ohio State for a third straight season, it would mark the first time since 1995 to ’97 that Michigan has three straight wins in The Game. He did the unexpected last season by getting two straight wins over OSU. It might be time to stop counting out what Harbaugh can do in 2023.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Out-of-conference opponents

      • Vs. Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 2
      • Vs. Texas, Sept. 9
      • At USF, Sept. 16
      • Vs. Chattanooga, Nov. 18

Home conference games

      • Ole Miss, Sept. 23
      • Arkansas, Oct. 14
      • Tennessee, Oct. 21
      • LSU, Nov. 4

Away conference games

      • Mississippi State, Sept. 30
      • Texas A&M, Oct. 7
      • Kentucky, Nov. 11
      • Auburn, Nov. 25

Alabama missed out on the playoff for the first time since 2019 last season, losing on the road to Tennessee and LSU. As long as Nick Saban is in Tuscaloosa, the Tide will be a consistent playoff contender. In 2023, the schedule might help Alabama make it back to the playoff.

For starters, the two games that Alabama dropped last season will be played in Tuscaloosa this season. The Vols haven’t won in Tuscaloosa since 2003, and the last time LSU won at Alabama was in 2019, during Joe Burow’s magical season in Baton Rouge.

As for the rest of Bama’s SEC schedule, the Tide get both Ole Miss and Arkansas at home. Arkansas hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2006, and Lane Kiffin is 0-3 with Ole Miss against Saban. Two of Bama’s SEC road games shouldn’t be any trouble—Mississippi State has lost 15 straight to the Tide, and Kentucky has dropped its last seven to the Tide.

The two tricky road matchups are Texas A&M and Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies have played well against Bama in recent years, upsetting the Tide in 2021 and losing 24-20 last season.

But the Aggies’ 5-7 record last season, along with a whopping 24 Aggies scholarship players entering the transfer portal, makes that game look less intriguing. Alabama has a three-game winning streak over Auburn, and it’s hard to see a first-year head coach like Hugh Freeze knocking off Saban right away.

The rest of Alabama’s schedule works out nicely, too. The Tide barely won on the road last year against Texas, winning 20-19 in Austin. The Longhorns come to Tuscaloosa this year. Alabama hasn’t lost to a nonconference regular-season game since Louisiana-Monroe upset the Tide in 2007 during Saban’s first season at Bama. Middle Tennessee, USF and Chattanooga will be easy wins.

Alabama’s 2023 schedule has its challenges. But getting its bigger SEC games and Texas at home makes it look not too daunting.

Clemson Tigers

Dabo SwinneyDoug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Out-of-conference opponents

      • Vs. Charleston Southern, Sept. 9
      • Vs. Florida Atlantic, Sept. 16
      • Vs. Notre Dame, Nov. 4
      • At South Carolina, Nov. 25

Home conference games

      • Florida State, Sept. 23
      • Wake Forest, Oct. 7
      • Georgia Tech, Nov. 11
      • UNC, Nov. 18

Away conference games

      • Duke, Sept. 4
      • Syracuse, Sept. 30
      • Miami, Oct. 21
      • NC State, Oct. 28

Clemson has missed the playoff the last two years. Luckily for the Tigers in 2023, it looks like their schedule is pretty manageable.

2023 will mark the start of a new scheduling format within the ACC, as the conference is doing away with the Coastal and Atlantic divisions. Now, each team will play three primary opponents annually, then face the other 10 league teams two times during a four-year cycle, once at home and once away. Clemson’s primary opponents are Florida State, Georgia Tech and NC State.

The Tigers will get FSU and Georgia Tech at home in 2023. It’s big to get the Noles at home. This looks like the most talented Florida State roster in years, headlined by quarterback Jordan Travis. The Noles finished 10-3 last season with a Cheez-It Bowl victory over Oklahoma. But FSU hasn’t won at Clemson since 2013, so Clemson getting this one at home is huge.

Wake Forest and North Carolina will have to travel to Clemson as well. Wake nearly knocked off Clemson in double overtime last season in Winston Salem, and Clemson defeated UNC in the ACC title game last season. Clemson has a combined 19-game winning streak against both of these opponents, including winning the last 14 against Wake.

As for Clemson’s road games, two stand out—NC State and South Carolina in the last week of the season. The Wolfpack beat Clemson the last time this game was played in Raleigh, winning 27-21 in overtime. South Carolina handed Clemson its second loss of the season last year, winning 31-30 on the road to knock the Tigers out of the playoff hunt. Clemson will need to beat both of these teams to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Tigers should be favored in their games against Duke, which hasn’t beat Clemson since 2004, Syracuse and Miami. Clemson holds a combined nine-game winning streak against the Orange and Canes.

5th Easiest Schedules

Georgia Bulldogs

Out-of-conference games

      • Vs. UT Martin, Sept. 2
      • Vs. Ball State, Sept. 9
      • Vs. UAB, Sept. 23
      • At Georgia Tech, Nov. 25

Home conference games

      • South Carolina, Sept. 16
      • Kentucky, Oct. 7
      • Missouri, Nov. 4
      • Ole Miss, Nov. 11

Away/neutral-site conference games

      • Auburn, Sept. 30
      • Vanderbilt, Oct. 14
      • Tennessee, Nov. 18
      • Vs. Florida (in Jacksonville), Oct. 28

I mean, this is about as easy as a schedule can get for Georgia, which will look to win its third straight national title in 2023. Aside from the yearly in-state rivalry game against Georgia Tech, the Dawgs play zero Power Five opponents out of conference, and they get two important SEC East opponents, South Carolina and Kentucky, at home.

In the SEC West, the Dawgs will get Auburn, as they do every year. The Tigers just hired their third new head coach in four seasons in Hugh Freeze, and Auburn hasn’t beaten Georgia since 2017. Ole Miss looks like the hardest SEC West game on the Bulldogs’ schedule. But Georgia will play that one in Athens, and even if the Dawgs drop that game, it shouldn’t affect their SEC East standing too much.

The annual game against Florida in Jacksonville always has some intrigue, but the Gators are rebuilding again in 2023 and haven’t beaten the Dawgs since 2020.

The hardest game on Georgia’s schedule will be Tennessee on the road. The Vols had their best season in years in 2022, capping off an 11-2 campaign with an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. Georgia handed Tennessee its first loss of the year last season, winning 27-13 in Athens.

But this matchup looks a bit different in 2023, mainly due to when the Tennessee game is played. Instead of being played in early November like it was last year, Georgia will play Tennessee on Nov. 18. By that point, the Dawgs may already have the division clinched.

The Dawgs have over a 90 percent win probability in each game next season, except the Tennessee one:

End Easiest Schedules

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