2023 College Football Conference Power Rankings: SEC at the top, but Pac-12 takes No. 2 spot (2024)

While The Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Poll preseason rankings gave us our early looks at the pecking order for individual teams, the time has come to debate which conference reigns supreme entering the 2023 season.

As has been the case for more than a decade, the SEC is top-loaded with teams ready to push for the College Football Playoff Championship. The Big Ten has two teams who can contend for the sport's top spot, while the Pac-12's quarterback depth could vault it into the discussion in its last season before its collapse. Meanwhile the Big 12 is coming off its first-ever CFP semifinal win last season.

It's talking season, so let's break down where the FBS conferences rank for 2023.

1. SEC

The SEC boasts three legitimate national championship contenders in No. 1Georgia, No. 4Alabamaand No. 5LSU. What does the beefy middle of the conference look like, though? It's pretty strong. Tennessee -- which spent time at No. 1 in the CFP rankings last year -- chimed in at No. 12 in the AP Top 25. Ole Miss (No. 22) and (No. 23) both got some love from the voters, and South Carolina and Arkansas just missed out of cracking the rankings. The poll isn't the only thing that matters, though. Arkansas' offense is almost impossible to prepare for with big KJ Jefferson taking the snaps and Raheim Sanders toting the rock. We know just how powerful Tennessee's offense can be with Josh Heupel running things. Speaking of offense, coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels have running back Quinshon Judkins -- a first-team All-American in the recently released CBS Sports All-America Team -- behind an offense that will undoubtedly "click" from the time toe meets leather.

2023 College Football Conference Power Rankings: SEC at the top, but Pac-12 takes No. 2 spot (1)

2. Pac-12

This might come as a shock to people on the East Coast, but the Pac-12 is loaded and may be the most entertaining league to watch in 2023. The conference boasts at least four teams that have a legitimate shot at making the CFP: No. 6 USC, No. 10 Washington, No. 14 Utah and No. 15 Oregon. Can any of them actually win it? Probably not. But the conference's depth is as strong as it has been in more than a decade. When you throw in No. 18 Oregon State and a well-coached UCLA squad, "Pac-12 After Dark" is going to be must-see TV in 2023.

3. Big Ten

There's no question that the Big Ten's top end is incredible. No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Ohio State are as deep and as talented as those in the SEC, and it'd be a total shock if at least one of them doesn't make the CFP. The Wolverines boast one of the best running back rooms in the country, and the Buckeyes' wide receivers are second to none in the sport. No. 7 Penn State -- which is chronically on the cusp of making noise -- has a quarterback in Drew Allar. It'll be fascinating to see what Luke Fickell does in his first season with No. 19Wisconsin. The primary reason that the Big Ten trails the Pac-12 is depth. Outside of Michigan and Ohio State (and maybe Penn State), there aren't many teams with a real shot at the CFP.

4. ACC

As is the case with the Big Ten, the ACC boasts two legitimate CFP contenders in No. 8 Florida State and No. 9 Clemson. Both boast studs at quarterback with Jordan Travis and Cade Klubnik, respectively, and are experienced enough to not only lead their teams to the national title, but put themselves in position to win the Heisman Trophy. No. 21 North Carolina has potential first-round draft pick Drake Maye taking the snaps, but will need to get much better defensively to make a run at a CFP spot. Outside of those three teams, it's hard to make a case for any of the rest to be relevant on the national scene.

5. Big 12

The phrase "Texas is back" has dominated the offseason lexicon for more than a decade, and it'll be fascinating to see if the 11th-ranked Longhorns can finally live up to the hype in their last season in the conference before jumping to the SEC. There's no doubt that they have the offensive firepower. Texas returns nine starters on that side of the ball including quarterback Quinn Ewers and left tackle Kelvin Banks Jr. No. 17 TCU lived on the edge of disaster for the majority of its run to the national title game, but heavy roster attrition raises serious doubts for a repeat performance. The conference also boasts No. 16 Kansas State and No. 20 Oklahomaamong other competitive teams. However, the Big 12 is more likely to cannibalize itself than send a team to the CFP in 2023.

6. AAC

If you're looking for entertainment, keep your eye on the AAC this season. No. 24 Tulane was a monster last season en route to a win vs. USC in the Cotton Bowl, and the Green Wave are set up for success again this year. SMU should be a tough out with Preston Stone leading the charge alongside one of the best receiving corps in the conference. UTSAis one of the best-coached teams in the country, and look out for Memphis to make some noise as well.

7. Sun Belt

Coastal Carolina should be strong with Grayson McCall under center, and it would be a shock if they don't make the Sun Belt Championship Game despite a coaching change from Jamey Chadwell to Tim Beck. Marshall's defense should be rock solid after making the jump to the conference last season, and James Madison could be a dark horse to win the title. Keep an eye on South Alabama and Troy as well. Those two could make some noise in a deep West division.

8. Mountain West

It'll be an interesting season in the MWC. Boise State, Air Force, Fresno State and San Diego State are all capable of earning a berth in a New Year's Six Bowl, while San Jose State and Wyoming will serve as the second tier of the league. After that, the Mountain West drops off in a big way. Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico should be staples in my college Tom Fornelli's Bottom 25 week-in and week-out.

9. MAC

There isn't a team in the MAC that can make a run to a New Year's Six Bowl, but Miami (Ohio) and Toledo are the top contenders to win their respective divisions. Parity in the conference makes it much more likely to beat itself up rather than have a team emerge into a Group of Five power.

10. Conference USA

The conference was decimated by realignment and it'll show this season. Western Kentucky should be a force, and newcomer Liberty has been competitive over the last several years. However, its third best team is either Middle Tennessee or New Mexico State and neither do much to move the meter. It's hard to imagine FBS newcomers Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State finishing anywhere outside of the final Bottom 25.

2023 College Football Conference Power Rankings: SEC at the top, but Pac-12 takes No. 2 spot (2024)


What is the toughest college football conference? ›

Since 2000, the SEC has claimed 14 titles. So when you look at the strength of schedule across college football, it is no surprise that the SEC leads the way in terms of the toughest slates.

What is going to happen to the Pac-12? ›

After some 108 years of college athletics, the league is going out of business and the family is splitting up. Following the basketball season, the Pac-12 will play its last spring sports season and close up shop.

Why is the SEC the best football conference? ›

The SEC pumps lots of money into its football programs, giving them the best stadiums and training facilities. A lot of their schools dress players in some of the hottest-looking uniforms and combos. It's been home to some of the best coaches in football history too. The aforementioned Nick Saban is just one of them.

Who has the hardest schedule in the SEC 2023? ›

SEC Football Strength of Schedule 2023
  1. 1 Alabama 432. It's sneaky-tougher than it might look on the surface. ...
  2. 2 Florida 440.5. ...
  3. 3 Vanderbilt 456.5. ...
  4. 4 Missouri 467. ...
  5. 5 LSU 483.5. ...
  6. 6 South Carolina 499.5. ...
  7. 7 Mississippi State 507.5. ...
  8. 8 Ole Miss 529.

Which conference is doing best in college football? ›

2023 College Football Conference Power Rankings: SEC at the top, but Pac-12 takes No. 2 spot - CBSSports.com.

What is the richest conference in college sports? ›

The Big Ten saw its revenue surge by $36 million year over year. It's now poised to see an even bigger jump; the conference's new $7 billion television deal kicked in immediately after fiscal year 2023 ended, meaning it could soon become the first billion-dollar college football conference.

Is Oregon State leaving Pac-12? ›

Oregon State and Washington State have finalized a settlement over financial distributions with the 10 schools leaving the Pac-12.

What will happen to Pac-12 in 2024? ›

Oregon State and Washington State are the only schools that will remain in the Pac-12 starting with the 2024-25 academic year. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are set to join the Big 12. UCLA, Oregon, USC and Washington will move to the Big Ten. The ACC is set to add California and Stanford.

Which 2 Pac-12 teams are leaving? ›

Which Teams Are Leaving The Pac-12? USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington have decided to go to the Big Ten, and Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah have chosen to head to the Big 12. Then news broke that Cal and Stanford would be going to the ACC in 2024.

Who is number 1 in college football SEC? ›

2Ole MissW3
4Texas A&ML2
3 more rows

What is the largest football stadium in the SEC conference? ›

#1: Kyle Field - Texas A&M Aggies

Kyle Field barely edges out the Tiger Stadium for the top spot in the list of the largest SEC stadiums. With a mammoth seating capacity of 102,733 people, the Aggies' home ground stands tall at the heart of College Station, Texas.

What SEC college has the most NFL players? ›

In addition, 97 former SEC players are listed on reserved/injured lists and practice squads. Alabama led the SEC with 58 former players on NFL active rosters, followed by Georgia (46), LSU (43) and Florida (34).

Who has the toughest SEC football schedule in 2024? ›

Playing in the SEC is no joke and things are about to get a lot tougher in 2024. Oklahoma and Texas are set to arrive, making a gauntlet of conference schedule that much more difficult for everyone involved.

Who has the toughest 2023 college football schedule? ›

Ten Hardest College Football Schedules of 2023
  1. 1 Purdue 402. Hardest Game: Michigan.
  2. 2 Colorado 414. Hardest Game: Oregon. ...
  3. 3 Iowa State 419.5. Hardest Game: Kansas State. ...
  4. 4 Stanford 421.5. Hardest Game: USC. ...
  5. 5 West Virginia 429.5. Hardest Game: Penn State. ...
  6. 6 Alabama 432. Hardest Game: LSU. ...
  7. 7 Utah 433.5. ...
  8. 8 Washington 434.5. ...

Who has the easiest SEC schedule? ›

The Tigers are coming off an 11-2 season, face Murray State, Buffalo, Boston College and UMass in the non-conference, and have the easiest league schedule in the SEC, per Phil Steele's metrics.

Which conference is harder AFC or NFC? ›

The top-end teams at the NFC are still strong, but in totality, the conference is much weaker than where the AFC is. Just look at the quarterback talent on the fringe teams in the NFC. Carr and Winston, Sam Howell, Baker Mayfield, Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke. The AFC fringe teams are quarterbacked by C.J.

Who is the toughest schedule in college football? ›

College football's 10 hardest schedules in 2024, ranked
  • USC. ...
  • Georgia Tech. ...
  • Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt's schedule: vs. ...
  • Mississippi State. Mississippi State's schedule: vs. ...
  • Georgia. Georgia's schedule: vs. ...
  • South Carolina. South Carolina's schedule: vs. ...
  • Oklahoma. Oklahoma's schedule: vs. ...
  • Arkansas. Arkansas' schedule: vs.
Mar 28, 2024

What is the toughest HS football conference? ›

Football. The Trinity League is one of the most competitive high school football leagues in the country. St. John Bosco was declared winner of the 2022 and 2019 High School Football America National Championship, and Mater Dei were national champions in 1994, 1996, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2023.

What is the strongest college football team? ›

Georgia Bulldogs


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