How accurate is ESPN's preseason Football Power Index?

ESPN's college football analytics, known as FPI, ranks the Wolverines 5th? But what is its track record?

ESPN's FPI, which the company introduced in 2015, loves the Wolverines this season. Ranking Michigan No.5 and giving the Wolverines a 60% chance or better to win all of their games this season except one -- with a 58% chance to win at Penn State. But is that a good omen for this fall? Let's look at its most recent track record:

In 2018, the preseason FPI had Notre Dame No.5, notably higher than anyone else, and proved to be right as the Irish went undefeated and made the college football playoff. The FPI was also more skeptical of Wisconsin and Miami than the preseason pollsters, who had them both in the top 10. However, FPI preseason No.6 Washington, No.7 Auburn, and No.8 Penn State all ended up losing four games.

In 2017, the preseason FPI had Auburn No.5, again notably higher than anyone else, and once more proved to be correct. The Tigers ended up going into the SEC Championship Game No.2 in the playoff rankings despite having two losses. The preseason FPI also correctly had three of the eventual playoff teams in its top four -- Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma. Clemson, the fourth playoff team, wasn't far behind at No.7. But like all the preseason polls that season, FPI was way off on Florida State. It had the Seminoles No.4, and they ended up just 6-6. By the way, ESPN's preseason FPI was more skeptical about Michigan than the preseason pundits, ranking the Wolverines No.18. And its skepticism was unfortunately prescient.

In 2016, the preseason FPI had LSU No.1, and Coach Les Miles didn't even survive the first month of the season before being fired. The only playoff team it had correct in its top 4 was No.4 Clemson. Washington, which ended up making the playoff, was only preseason No.13. Ohio State, which also made the playoff, was only preseason No.17. And it had Tennessee ranked higher than Alabama. The Crimson Tide would beat the Vols, 49-10, on the field that season. From there you get the idea -- this was not a great year for the FPI.

So what's the final verdict?

2016 was a wasteland for the FPI, which is probably why its perception from college football fandom is negative. But 2017 was a major bounce back, and it almost had the season nailed. 2018 was more of a mixed bag. But here's the good news for Michigan -- the last two seasons being preseason No.5 in the FPI has been a positive sign.

Comments