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Ranking the FBS Conferences from Worst to First

July 21, 2023
big 10 football may win it all in 2023

It’s an annual argument, but it usually only contains the conferences at the top of the heap. What about the rest of FBS? What makes 2023 unique is that this season involves some conference realignment as well as the addition of two new teams to the FBS.

Sam Houston State (Texas) and Jacksonville State (South Carolina) will join the ranks of the FBS this season. That gives the FBS a total of 133 teams. Those teams are organized into 10 different conferences with a handful of independents (Notre Dame, Army, UConn, UMass). 

How do those conferences stack up against each other? Let’s take a look starting with the worst.



If you didn’t know, MAC stands for Mid-American Conference. It consists of six schools from Ohio, three from Michigan, and one each from Illinois, Indiana, and New York. Of the 12 programs, eight finished with records below .500 last season. Interestingly, the conference went 4-2 during bowl season in 2022.

The league didn’t lose or gain any teams, but the teams continually find themselves on Power 5 schedules. Four of the six East Division teams will play Big Ten teams in 2023. Power 5 schools like to schedule MAC opponents since the conference had the lowest FPI (Football Power Index) rating of all conferences in 2022.

See the 2023 MAC football schedule here


Conference USA

The conference lost six teams from 2022 but gained Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State. There will be just nine teams with no divisions this season. Western Kentucky (9-5) is the favorite to win the conference title along with Liberty (8-5), which will have a new head coach in Jamey Chadwell.

Middle Tennessee (8-5) actually beat Miami 45-31 last season. Don’t expect much of that this year. The Blue Raiders open the season at Alabama. From top to bottom, C-USA rivals the MAC as the nation’s weakest conference.


Sun Belt

The Sun Belt, aka the Fun Belt, ranks ahead of C-USA and the MAC based on its performance last year in Week 2. Three Sun Belt teams pulled upsets of Power 5 programs. Appalachian State beat Texas A&M, Marshall topped Notre Dame, and Georgia Southern sent Scott Frost packing in a win over Nebraska.

Troy finished the season 12-2 and ranked in the final AP Top 25. Coastal Carolina is 31-7 over the past three seasons and Troy should build on its 2022 season. 

See the Sun Belt 2023 football schedule


Best of the G5

The two best Group of 5 conferences are the American Athletic (AAC) and the Mountain West. Tulane and UTSA represent the best of the AAC, which saw three teams, including Cincinnati, leave for the Big 12.

Boise State is a perennial power from the MWC. Fresno State (10-4) won the conference last year and San Diego State has had its share of great seasons. Air Force is coming off a 10-3 campaign as well. 

The AAC lost Cincy (9-4), UCF (9-5), and Houston (8-5) but brought in UTSA, which has gone 23-5 over the last two seasons. The league likes to think of itself as part of a “Power 6,” though it may struggle without Cincinnati.

2023 AAC football schedule

2023 Mountain West football schedule


Worst of the Power 5

Florida State is the only ACC school ranked in the preseason top-10. Clemson is a legitimate power, but the rest of the conference…meh. North Carolina has a great offense led by QB Drake Maye, but the Tar Heels don’t play defense. 

The bottom half of the conference – with Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Georgia Tech – is pretty bad. Those five schools combined to go 19-38 last year.

2023 ACC football schedule


The Big 12

TCU was a huge surprise last year, playing for a national title. The Horned Frogs did, however, lose two of their last three games and got absolutely smoked in the CFP national championship game. 

Kansas State ended up as the conference champion and returns a ton of starters from last year’s team. Texas is ranked in the preseason top-10, but after that can any other school compete with the best in the country?

2023 Big 12 football schedule


Pac-12 Makes a Move

The Pac-12 routinely gets left out of the CFP discussion, but that might be about to change. The arrival of Lincoln Riley at USC has the Trojans in the mix. Washington finds itself ranked in the preseason top-10 with the nation’s leading passer, Michael Penix Jr., returning to lead the nation’s best offense.

Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State are all ranked in the preseason top-25, giving the conference some depth. 

2023 Pac 12 football schedule


The Big Two

There is still no question that the top two FBS conferences in the nation are the SEC and the Big Ten. The SEC has won the last four straight national titles and has had at least one team play for the national championship in all but the very first CFP title game.

Georgia and Alabama are among the favorites to make the CFP this season and LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and South Carolina are all ranked in the preseason top-25.

The Big Ten has come down to Ohio State and Michigan the last several years. Both schools are favored to win the conference again. Penn State is also a top-10 team. Wisconsin, with new head coach Luke Fickell, and Iowa are also in the preseason top-25. From top to bottom, there is no question, the SEC and Big Ten are the two best FBS conferences in the country.

2023 Big Ten football schedule

2023 SEC football schedule