Several factors come into play during the College Football Playoff selection process, but one of the most significant is strength of schedule. Measuring by this metric is more difficult for football than basketball because teams only play 12 or 13 games in football while the slate is three times as heavy in basketball. Regardless of how it is measured mathematically, better scheduling will always feature more quality opponents.
Because conference games make up at least two-thirds of a team’s schedule in football, it’s important for the superior teams in the league to have played league mates with good records. As such, in a sense, it’s better for non-CFP contenders to schedule three or four nonconference wins — depending on the league — and let the conference games fall where they may. For example: Ohio State’s strength of schedule is better if Rutgers is 4-8 with three nonconference wins than 1-11.
Teams feeling they have a chance to make the CFP should try playing at least one good nonconference game to prove their worth to the committee. Everyone else in their league should just try to schedule wins so they have as good a record as possible for their opponents. That’s not easy in football, however, because most games are scheduled years in advance.
With that in mind, here is an evaluation of each league’s nonconference schedules as we prepare for the 2023 season. Listed below are the strongest and weakest in each conference along with a ranking of the toughest in the FBS this season.
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