It’s time to kick off the 2023 season. In fact, Week Zero just got things going. There are some high profile games, including Thursday night in Salt Lake City where Utah hosts Florida, and LSU’s Sunday battle with Florida State in Orlando. The changing tides of conference expansion are overwhelming. Why wouldn’t the Big Ten and PAC-12 just merge? Call it the Big Pac. Division titles will soon carry the weight that conference championships once did. With the tripling in size of the playoff beginning in 2024, there needs to be reworking on byes going to the top four conference champions. Enjoy this season, and remember, as we head towards Labor Day weekend to enjoy every Saturday, because it will be Thanksgiving before you know it …
1. Georgia – The two-time reigning national champions open with UT Martin. The Bulldogs have had 25 players drafted over the past two years, but still a consensus No. 1 to start the campaign. Quarterback and kicker are the two most pressing questions in Athens.
2. LSU – While so many other superpower programs are breaking in new signal callers, LSU has talent and experience behind center, headlined by Jayden Daniels. Brian Kelly led the Tigers to the SEC Championship Game last year, and has high hopes in 2023.
3. Alabama – Nick Saban has another stacked roster and maybe a little ‘rat poison.’ The Crimson Tide missed Atlanta last year and are No. 4 in the preseason polls. Imagine such a thing. Alabama opens with Middle Tennessee then Texas comes to town.
4. Michigan – After back-to-back Big Ten titles and trips to the College Football Playoff, the Wolverines are expecting that, and then some. That loss to TCU left scars. It’s a soft start to the season, beginning with a visit from East Carolina to the Big House Saturday.
5. Ohio State – The Buckeyes jump straight into Big Ten play to kick off the season, as they venture to Bloomington to take on Indiana. Ohio State is stacked with talent, and whoever the new quarterback is, he’ll have a slew of talent to hand off and throw to.
6. Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish were extremely impressive in a 42-3 victory over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Sam Hartman is an outstanding quarterback and Notre Dame may have its best team in a decade. Tennessee State comes to South Bend Saturday.
7. Tennessee – The Volunteers jumped back onto the national stage and into the SEC’s elite a year ago, going 11-2 and winning the Orange Bowl. Tennessee plays Virginia in the opener Saturday in Nashville at the home of the Titans.
8. Clemson – The Tigers have won seven of the last eight ACC championships and are the slight favorites again this year. Clemson opens on Monday night at Duke, jumping straight into league play. Cade Klubnick is the quarterback.
9. Florida State – The Seminoles took a big leap last year, going 10-3, and it started with a win over LSU in New Orleans. The Tigers and Florida State open again this year, this time in Orlando. FSU is led by Jordan Travis, one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks.
10. Southern Cal – With Caleb Williams back at quarterback, Lincoln Riley’s Trojans are the popular pick to win the PAC-12. They beat San Jose State 56-28 this past weekend in Week Zero. Defensive questions loom. USC hosts Nevada Saturday in the Coliseum.
11. Oregon State – The Beavers open Saturday against San Jose State. Oregon State was 10-3 last year, capped with a 30-3 beating of Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl. The expectations are high, and DJ Uiagalelei is the new quarterback.
12. Utah – The Running Utes have won the last two PAC-12 Championship Games and played in the Rose Bowl. The next step would be a playoff berth. It’s a big stage Thursday night in Salt Lake City with the Florida Gators in town for the opener.