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? ›

Most of college football's toughest schedules in 2024 reside in the SEC and Big Ten, two expanded leagues which each added several playoff-contending programs.

Why is Pac-12 ending? ›

The Pac-12 was the only Power Five conference that could not secure a long-term TV rights deal. That contributed to the departures of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten, which sealed the Pac-12′s fate.

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? ›

The No. 1 conference right now is not the SEC nor the Big Ten; it is the PAC-12. The “Conference of Champions” has eight teams in the top 25 and five in the top 14. The underlying quality of the PAC-12 is the excellence of the quarterbacks.

What is the richest conference in college sports? ›

And on the balance sheets, the conference is also tops in the nation. The Big Ten took in $880 million in revenue in the fiscal year 2023, according to tax returns obtained by Sportico. That number edged out the $853 million from the SEC to give the Big Ten the title of college sports' richest conference.

Is Oregon leaving Pac-12? ›

USC and UCLA announced their absconsion in 2022, and the Pacific Northwest universities followed suit last summer. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah announced their Big 12 move at the same time as Washington and Oregon announced their departure.

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.

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

Kyle Field - Texas A&M Aggies

As the SEC's largest stadium by seating capacity, the 30,000+ student section is liable to set up an upset for any opposing team that walks through the door.

Who is #1 SEC football? ›

3 more rows

Is the SEC the richest conference? ›

The Southeastern Conference took in $852.5 million of revenue during its 2023 fiscal year, setting a college athletic conference record for earnings—at least for the time being— according to a copy of its latest tax return filed this week.

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.

Which SEC team has the easiest schedule? ›

Ranking each SEC football schedule in 2024, easiest to hardest
  • Kentucky. USA Today Images.
  • Texas A&M. USA Today Images. ...
  • LSU. USA Today Images. ...
  • Auburn. USA Today Images. ...
  • Ole Miss. USA Today Images. ...
  • Texas. USA Today Images. ...
  • Tennessee. USA Today Images. Opponents' record: 78-69. ...
  • Missouri. USA Today Images. Opponents' record: 63-81. ...
Mar 20, 2024

Who has the toughest 2023 college football schedule? ›

2023 NCAAF Strength-of-Schedule Rankings
South Carolina Gameco*cks1128.1
Mississippi State Bulldogs2125.4
Alabama Crimson Tide3115.9
Florida Gators4112.0
127 more rows
Dec 7, 2023

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.

What is the best college football conference of all time? ›

Let's go through the Top 5:
  • SEC. Urban Meyer, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Joel Klatt and the rest of the crew unanimously selected the Southeastern Conference as the best conference in college football. ...
  • Big Ten. ...
  • Big 12. ...
  • ACC. ...
  • Pac-12.
Jul 17, 2020

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 most valuable college football conference? ›

Power Five conference revenue for 2022 fiscal year

The Big Ten followed suit in 2022, agreeing to a seven-year deal with NBC, CBS and Fox Sports that spans from 2023-30 and is worth more than $7 billion, believed to be the most lucrative in college sports history.

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