The 2023 football season launches this Saturday after a chaotic off-season that saw a massive amount of realignment news that will effect NEXT season.
Nearly lost in all of that hub-bub is the fact that 11 FBS programs have made a move that effects THIS season. The Big 12 adds 3 teams with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all moving over from the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which in turn plucked 6 schools from Conference USA (Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. In an effort to recover from its losses, CUSA added 2 former independents (Liberty and New Mexico State).
CUSA also added 2 former FCS schools (Jacksonville State and Sam Houston), bringing the total number of programs at the FBS level to 133.
Jacksonville State, led by former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, plays its FBS and CUSA debut game this week when the Gamecocks host UTEP as a 1.5-point underdog at most sportsbooks, but a 7.5-point favorite in the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com.
That's just one of the 7 "Week Zero" games that will take place before the rest of the crowd shows up for the party over the Labor Day weekend when 87 games are on the docket. Every game this week pairs FBS teams against each other, as opposed to Week 1 when nearly half of those matchups - 42 to be exact - will pit a FBS school against a FCS program.
There are also 3 games this week between FCS schools as a precursor to next week's 91-game slate.
The very first game of the 2023 season is also the head coaching debut for Brian Newberry who jumps straight into the fire when Navy faces Notre Dame in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic in Dublin, Ireland. His team is a hefty 20.5-point underdog at FanDuel, and an even-wider 26.16-point computer underdog. That game was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but Covid blew up those plans.
In all, 25 programs will begin the 2023 season with a different head coach than the guy who was in that position at the start of the 2022 campaign.
Newberry was the defensive coordinator under his former boss, Ken Niumatalolo, who was fired after the Midshipmen lost to Army in overtime to fall to 2-5 in the last 7 meetings with their arch-rival. Newberry was the DC and secondary coach at FCS member Kennesaw State from 2015-18. He has been widely considered to be one of the best DC's in the nation over the last several years. The odd thing in this move is that the offense will keep the same triple-option attack that it has been running for years. Paul Johnson was the architect and Niumatalolo had perfected it. But it now seems like most teams have figured out how to defend it, considering that Navy is just 11-23 over the last 3 seasons.
Louisiana Tech, ranked 128th by the computer, hosts No. 129 FIU in another Conference USA clash. The computer has this as the only conference win for the Bulldogs this season as they are projected to finish 2-10 over-all and 1-7 in league action. The Panthers are picked to go 1-11, 0-8.
Louisiana Tech was 3-9 in 2022 and FIU was 4-8. Both schools went 2-6 in CUSA games.
The Bulldogs are in their second year under head coach Sonny Cumbie, the 2004 Texas Tech quarterback who led the nation in passing that season. The Panthers also have a second-year head coach in Mike MacIntyre who, in 1992, was the head coach of the German American Football League's Deggendorf Blackhawks - a fact that is somehow omitted from his FIU athletics website bio.
One of most interesting matchups this week sends the MAC's Ohio Bobcats to face the San Diego State Aztecs. The home team is favored by 3-1/2 at the sportsbooks and the computer puts it at 3.52. Ohio is picked to capture the MAC East. San Diego State could easily make a run at the Mountain West crown, but is projected to finish in a tie for 3rd with Wyoming as the conference moves to a no-division format. Only three conferences continue to use a divisional model - the MAC, the SEC and the Sun Belt.
The FBS was 112-8 (.933) vs. the FCS last year, and is 1,686-148 (.919) since we began tracking this in 2003. 116 of the 131 FBS schools played at least one such game while Appalachian State, Army, Marshall and New Mexico State each played two.
Here are the FCS wins in 2022:
September 2: William & Mary 41, Charlotte 24
September 3: Delaware14, Navy 7
September 10: Weber State 35, Utah State 7
September 10: Incarnate Word 55, Nevada 41
September 10: Holy Cross 37, Buffalo 31
September 10: Eastern Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 57 (7 OT's)
September 17: Southern Illinois 31, Northwestern 24
September 24: Sacramento State 41, Colorado State 10
This season has 117 of the 133 FBS schools facing one FCS opponent, and Army playing two such games for a total of 118 FBS-FCS matchups.
Of the 16 schools that do NOT play a FCS program, 7 are in the B1G (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin). 6 more are evenly split between the Big 12 (Houston, Oklahoma, Texas) and Pac-12 (Colorado, USC, Washington). The other three are Liberty (CUSA) , UTSA (American), and Virginia Tech (ACC).
GEORGIA - Won 17 straight over-all. Won 11 straight true road games.
Last: Won 65-7 over TCU in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Inglewood, California on Monday, January 9.
Next: Hosts FCS member UT-Martin on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
ALABAMA - Won 20 straight home games.
Last: Won 45-20 over Kansas State in Sugar Bowl on December 31.
Next: Hosts Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
NORTHWESTERN - Lost 11 straight over-all, and 8 straight at home.
Last: Lost 41-3 at home to Illinois on Saturday, November 26.
Next: Visits Rutgers on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
USF - Lost 13 straight conference games.
Last: Lost 46-39 at home to UCF on Saturday, November 26.
Next: Visits Western Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
MASSACHUSETTS - Lost 15 straight to FBS schools, and 24 straight road games.
Last: Lost 44-7 at home to Army on Saturday, November 26.
Next: Visits New Mexico State on Saturday, Aug. 26 to kick-off 2023 season.