We’re back with some predictions for the 2023 season as previously done in 2021, 2017, and 2016 although we have decided to provide 15 this year instead of
25 26. The first five predictions covering the Group of 5 conferences for the 2023 season can be found here. This post will feature the final five predictions focused on the Power 5 Conferences of the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC. Predictions 15 through 11 for the Group of 5 conferences can be found here and predictions 10 through 6 focused on the Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC can be found here.
Predictions 5 Through 1
Prediction 5 – ACC
Syracuse Will Reach a Bowl Game – It may be hard to believe but Syracuse hasn’t been to back-to-back bowl games in a decade. The last occurrence was when Doug Marrone reached the Pinstripe Bowl in 2012 and Scott Shafer made the Texas Bowl in his first season in 2013. Prior to that, you’d have to go back to the end of the Donovan McNabb era with the 1998 season (Orange Bowl) and the 1999 season (Music City Bowl). There hasn’t been much consistency for the Orange over the last 25 years.
This year’s squad has 14 starters back with 7 on offense and 7 on defense. Quarterback Garrett Shrader (2,640 yards and 17 touchdowns passing) should be able to match last year’s output. He’ll be throwing the ball to tight end Oronde Gadsden, who had 61 receptions for 969 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2022 and is set for another big season. The Orange will need to develop a top running back after the departure of Sean Tucker (1,060 yards and 11 TDs).
On defense, Syracuse has 9 of the top 11 tacklers back from 2022. It’s the front 7 that will need to do the heavy lifting with 5 of the 7 returning starters there and a former Alabama defensive lineman in the mix as well (Braylen Ingraham). The secondary loses two starters from a group that allowed 185 passing yards per game, which was the best performance in the last 7 years.
The schedule is the key as always. They open with back-to-back home games against Colgate and Western Michigan. They have a road game at Purdue in week three and another home game in week four against Army. The ACC start is brutal: Clemson (home), North Carolina (road), and Florida State (road) with a bye in week 8. The final five games will determine if this prediction comes true. They play Virginia Tech off the bye (road), Boston College (home), Pittsburgh (neutral site in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium), Georgia Tech (road), and Wake Forest. A 3-1 or 4-0 start would set the Orange up for the last five games needing to win 2 or 3 games, which is within grasp for this squad.
Prediction 4 – Big Ten
Iowa Will Average at Least 25 Points per Game – If you didn’t hear, Iowa’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s contract depends on the offense producing points in 2023. The new contract stipulates Iowa must average 25 points per game and win 7 games or else Ferentz’s contract ends on June 30, 2024. It’s difficult to envision this not happening because the Hawkeyes have addition by subtraction. The entire offensive line returns but the key is a new quarterback in Michigan transfer Cade McNamara. He’s played in the Big Ten and knows what it takes to succeed. Having two good tight ends Luke Lachey and fellow Michigan transfer Erick All will also help as will Kaleb Johnson and Leshion Williams at running back. Iowa’s offense was a meme last season but let’s not forget the defense is likely to help score points putting this target well within reach with mediocre quarterback and offensive line play.
Prediction 3 – Big Ten
Wisconsin Will Win the Big Ten – There’s no doubt the favorites for the Big Ten are in the East Division with Penn State, Ohio State, and the two-time defending Big Ten champs Michigan. Whichever team wins the East will be favored against any West team. On top of that, Wisconsin is a program undergoing some big changes on offense but let’s take a closer look at what we expect.
With Luke Fickell taking over, the Badgers won’t have the typical “run-the-ball and grind-the-defense-down” offensive scheme. There will be more spread formations, which will take time to get used to see that coming from the offensive but the change will be softened by the new quarterback: Tanner Mordecai. In the last two years at SMU, Mordecai threw for 7,152 yards (66% completions) with 72 touchdowns against 22 interceptions. The top three receivers from 2022 also return and there’s no reason they can’t see two 1,000-yard receivers.
The big return in all this is Braelon Allen in the backfield. Allen ran for 1,242 yards and 11 touchdowns last year in an offensive scheme that had become somewhat predictable. He’ll be able to flourish again if Mordecai has even average games. The big concern for the offense is the line with all the new blocking schemes in a spread offense. With all the experience and talent, we aren’t too worried but it must be acknowledged.
Defensively, the Badgers have 8 starters back including four of the top five tacklers from 2022. Some of the defensive schemes used by Jim Leonhard are expected to remain, which will help. Last year, they had only 3 returning starters and gave up 20.2 points and 303 yards per game. The stats may be similar this year simply because they’ll be on the field more due to a quicker scoring offense but this will be a strength as usual.
The Big Ten schedule is favorable to Wisconsin as well. They will play Purdue (road), Rutgers (home), Iowa (home), Illinois (road), Ohio State (home), Indiana (road), Northwestern (home), Nebraska (home), and Minnesota (road). The three-game stretch against Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio State in October will decide if the Badgers play for the Big Ten title or not.
Prediction 2 – SEC
Missouri Will Finish With a Winning Record – Missouri is currently mired in a stretch of mediocrity. The Tigers haven’t had a winning record since 2018 when Barry Odom led them to an 8-5 record in his penultimate season. Missouri hasn’t been a real threat in the SEC since they put up back-to-back double-digit win totals in 2013 and 2014 and made the SEC Championship both times (and lost both times). 2023 will mark year 4 in Eli Drinkwitz’s reign and this is probably his best team.
The big concern on offense is at wide receiver with the loss of the top two from 2022 but there’s plenty of talent with Luther Burden (45 catches for 375 yards and 6 TDs as a freshman) and Oklahoma transfer Theo Wease (64 catches for 1,044 yards and 10 TDs in 4 years at Oklahoma). Running back Cody Schrader (744 yards and 9 TDs rushing) and a majority of the offensive line return as well. Quarterback Brady Cook threw for 2,724 yards with 14 TDs and 7 interceptions in 2022 and should improve if he can beat out the talented Jake Garcia and Sam Horn for the job. Overall, the offense is set to best the 2022 numbers of 24.8 points and 370 yards per game.
The defense was a strong point for the Tigers in 2022 surrendering 25.2 points and 341 yards per game. that was an 8-point and 90-yard-per-game improvement over 2021. For this season, eight starters return including five of the top six tacklers. All four starters are back in the secondary that allowed 215 passing yards per game, which may improve with the experience returning. The front four is a slight concern with only two of the starters returning but one of those back is 3rd Team All-SEC defensive end Darius Robinson (35 tackles and 3.5 sacks). Ty’Ron Hopper returns at linebacker to lead that group after claiming 2nd Team All-SEC honors following a 2022 campaign with 78 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Missouri’s season starts with 3 home games against South Dakota, Middle Tennessee, and Kansas State followed by a de-facto home game in St. Louis against Memphis. Missouri should start the season 3-1 or 4-0 before entering SEC play. They open at Vanderbilt followed by LSU at home, at Kentucky, and South Carolina at home. The last four games are the toughest with a bye week followed by Georgia (road), Tennessee (home), Florida (home), and Arkansas (road). If Missouri improves on offense, they can pick up a few wins from the SEC slate with the most likely wins coming from the group of Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, and Arkansas. There are no easy games in the SEC but Missouri has the pieces to put together its first winning season since 2018.
Prediction 1 – SEC
Two SEC Teams Will Make the CFB Playoff – Despite the SEC’s dominance of the college football landscape, they’ve only put two teams in the CFB Playoff twice (2017 and 2021). Those are also the last two seasons in which we provided preseason predictions. Coincidence? Yeah, coincidence. This year has some really SEC teams led by Georgia. They are the two-time defending CFB Champions and that schedule is very favorable despite all the experience they lost from last season.
Then there’s Alabama, who really started the idea of reloading and they’re a title contender every year. LSU is coming off a 10-4 season and that was in Brian Kelly’s first year. 2023 will feature 15 starters back and they have a legit chance to make the CFB Playoff. Texas A&M returns lots of starters and experience from a 5-7 team that is expected to improve if you believe the coaching staff can put them over the top n 2023. Tennessee lost some key offensive pieces and will play Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M as they are expected to take a slight step back but shouldn’t be counted out if the offensive gels early in the season. 2023 feels like another year where the SEC will have the fortune of Power 5 conferences beating themselves out of a CFB spot.
Bonus Prediction – FCS
At Least 4 FCS Teams Will Defeat an FBS Opponent by 10 or More Points – FCS over FBS wins are rare, which means large wins are even lower. According to data from Fear The FCS, there’s been 486 FCS wins against the FBS from 3,344 games played since 1978. Of those 486 wins, 211 have been by 10 points or more by the FCS team. That seems like a higher percentage but few of those have occurred in recent years. Since 2010, a total of 36 games resulted in an FCS win by 10+ points and 9 of those have been in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Fear The FCS noted in its 2022 recap that the FCS teams scored an average of 39.1 points in the 8 wins for 2022. Of the 118 games between the FCS and FBS in 2023, we like there to be at least 4 teams that end in a double-digit win for the FCS.
That concludes our
15 16 predictions for the 2023 college football season! We hope you enjoyed reading as the predictions were posted and be sure to check back in January to see how well or poorly we did.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics