When the 2023 college football regular season is complete, it's likely only two or three teams will be undefeated. Last season, there were three unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season (pre-conference title games) in Georgia, Michigan and TCU.
While having a perfect record isn't a requirement to make it into the College Football Playoff, it certainly doesn't hurt. Georgia and Cincinnati were the only undefeated teams left standing at the end of 2021's regular season. Spearheaded by their dominant regular seasons, the Dawgs have won two consecutive national titles.
As we look ahead toward the 2023 season, let's see which teams have the best shot at ending the regular season with an unblemished record. We'll look at key games for each team, which matchups look the toughest and briefly peek at the talent that teams have returning in 2023.
James Madison Dukes
Key games: at Virginia (Sept. 9), at Troy (Sept. 16), App State (Nov. 18) at Coastal Carolina (Nov. 25)
We've gotta show some love to the non-Power Five schools, too! That's why we're picking James Madison as the non-P5 school with the best shot at finishing 2023 undefeated.
The Dukes, in their first full season as a D-I school, went 8-3 last season. In fact, JMU could have had an even better record if it had played in the Sun Belt title game and a bowl game. But NCAA rules prohibit schools in their first two seasons at the D-I level from playing in conference title or bowl games.
JMU gets two of its toughest road games early in the season. First, the Dukes go on the road to face Virginia—which is just a little over an hour south from JMU's campus—on Sept. 9. The next week, they go on the road to play Troy. Virginia hasn't finished above .500 since 2019, so the Cavaliers might be underdogs in that one.
Troy is coming off a 12-win season under first-year head coach Jon Sumrall, so this will likely be JMU's toughest test all year. Had JMU been able to play in the Sun Belt title game, the Dukes would have faced the Trojans, who won the West division.
JMU will close out its regular season with a home game against App State and on a road tilt against Coastal Carolina. The Dukes won at App State 32-28 last season and throttled Coastal 47-7 at home.
JMU gets several starters on defense back in 2023. Replacing quarterback Todd Centeio will be a challenge, but landing transfer signal-callers like Jordan McCloud from Arizona and former Wake Forest QB Brett Griffis should help.
The Dukes look primed for a big season in their second year in the FBS. JMU head coach Curt Cignetti previously led them to an 18-1 record in conference play from 2019 to '21 and an undefeated FCS regular season in 2020.
Unfortunately they'll need a waiver from the NCAA to compete in the postseason.