2023 College Football season preview
🏈 How it works
With only 13 weeks until conference titles, bowl games, and playoffs, the fight for national glory has already begun in the NCAA’s Division I (DI) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), where the cream of the college football crop competes.
- The FBS is made up of 10 conferences: the Power Five and the Group of Five. Of those 10 conferences, the Power Five — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC — generally house future NFLers and College Football Playoff (CFP) contenders.
All teams will play 12 regular season games. Then, on December 3rd, the 13-member CFP selection committee will announce which four squads will battle for the natty after assessing teams’ records, strength of schedule, and rankings.
- The semifinals — the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl — will take place on New Year’s Day before the January 8th, 2024, national championship. Mark your cal.
And unlike the NFL, there’s no script, but there are some new rules this season. To keep play moving, the game clock will now continue ticking down after a team completes a first down, except during the last two minutes of each half.
- And icing the kicker more than once is a thing of the past — there are no more back-to-back team timeouts allowed.
💫 The favorites
🐶 No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs: The reigning back-to-back national champs are the top early pick for this season’s title, and if they can pull off the three-peat, they’ll become the first team to do so since Minnesota in the mid-1930s.
- Even with a shiny new first-string quarterback (QB), these ’Dawgs boast four preseason All-Americans, including stellar junior tight end Brock Bowers, primed to make gridiron history.
🔵 No. 2 Michigan Wolverines: The Wolverines must cope without suspended head coach (HC) Jim Harbaugh for their first three games, but with senior star RB Blake Corum back from injury and better than ever, this veteran-laden squad is looking tough. This back-to-back CFP semifinalist roster is arguably Michigan’s best natty hope in years.
🐯 No. 5 LSU Tigers: Last year’s SEC West division champs Tigers outperformed expectations, and this season’s team is hungry for more. Sophomore linebacker Harold Perkins — arguably the country’s top defensive player — leads LSU’s standout defense. Needless to say, breaking through LSU’s red zone will be difficult for Tiger opponents.
🛡️ No. 6 USC Trojans: A disappointing end to an otherwise stellar 2022 season had the Trojans raiding the transfer portal, aiming to bolster their defense while retaining reigning Heisman (MVP) winner, QB Caleb Williams. USC’s opening win last Saturday didn’t wildly impress, but if their defense starts to settle, these Trojans will be warring in the CFP.
💪 The contenders
SOURCE: BARRY REEGER, AP VIA YDR.COM
🌰 No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes: The Big Ten’s traditional powerhouse has played second fiddle to arch-nemesis Michigan in recent years — the Wolverines trounced the Buckeyes by at least 15 points in the last two editions of “The Game.”
- To recapture conference bragging rights and make a championship run, they’ll need big seasons from new QB1 Kyle McCord and star wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
🌊 No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide: With HC Nick Saban finally deciding yesterday that Jalen Milroe will be QB1 for Bama's opener, the Tide's offense is starting to take shape. Bama’s brightest spot, though? Junior cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, whose defense is as cool as his name.
🦁 No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions: Contending with Michigan and Ohio State is a rough road to Big Ten or CFP success, but this could be Penn State’s year. In addition to their standout defense, the Nittany Lions’ productive run game and veteran offense, led by junior lineman and future top NFL Draft pick Olu Fashanu, should help new QB Drew Allar roar.
- In their Thursday season opener, the Utes chomped the Florida Gators 24–11, all without star QB Cam Rising. Underestimate Utah at your own risk.
🏇 The dark horses
🐕 No. 10 Washington Huskies: The Pac-12 could go out in style this year, with multiple squads set to contend for conference or even national titles. With star QB Michael Penix Jr. back on the Huskies’ field alongside a pair of preseason All-Americans, expect the team that averaged nearly 40 points per game last season to go big before leaving home.
🐸 No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs: In 2022, TCU was projected to finish seventh in the Big 12, but instead these Frogs leapt all the way to the championship game. The natty runners-up are starting this season without a massive boost in respect — they’re predicted to snag just fifth in the conference — but a chip on their shoulder could spur another Cinderella run.
🦫 No. 18 Oregon State Beavers: Last year’s 10-win season — Oregon State’s most impressive in over 15 years — included beating their always-tough intrastate rivals Oregon and nearly topping conference leaders USC and Washington.
- So with the addition of a hungry-for-redemption ex-Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei and the return of standout sophomore RB Damien Martinez, these Beavs are looking dam good.
🏴☠️ Texas Tech Red Raiders: If the Horned Frogs don’t wear their 2022 glass slippers again, these pirates could usurp them as the NCAA’s spoiler. In Joey McGuire’s first season ever as a college HC, the Raiders stunned behemoths Oklahoma and Texas and finished the year on a four-game win streak.
- Tech returns 14 starters from their dominant bowl game dub over Ole Miss, and if they can swing their swords early, even the fiercest of foes may fall.
📺 What to watch
SOURCE: KEN RUINARD/USA TODAY NETWORK
Week 1 spreads the college football love across five glorious days, but Day 3 (today!) features the most teams in action. Start carving your weekend couch dent by catching new Colorado HC Deion Sanders’ revamped roster in their first test against host No. 17 TCU at 12 p.m. ET on Fox in the US and on FuboTV in Canada.
- Then join the College GameDay party to determine the best Carolina when No. 21 UNC takes on South Carolina on ABC in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight.
And don’t sweat your long weekend plans because Week 1’s lone Top-10 matchup, No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State, will bring fire tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC in the U.S. and TSN+ in Canada. Let the gridiron glory begin!