Where ESPN Preseason FPI And College Football Futures Conflict

Written By Brett Gibbons on April 14, 2022
College Football Preseason FPI

On Thursday, ESPN released its first College Football Preseason FPI rankings for 2022. FPI (Football Power Index) is used to project win totals, playoff probability, and is used in handicapping weekly. Which teams top the rankings? Which teams are over and undervalued? What do these rankings project as far as conference standings go?

Click on any of the odds in this post to bet now and compare college football futures across sportsbooks at the bottom of this post.

College Football Preseason FPI

Odds are reflective as of Apr. 14 at 10:30 a.m. ET at DraftKings Sportsbook.

FPI RankTeamFPICFB Futures
2Ohio State28.3+500
5Notre Dame17.5+3500
12Penn State13.6+6000
13Oklahoma State13.0+4000
14Texas A&M12.8+2500
16Michigan State12.4+6000
17Ole Miss12.3+6000
18Miami (FL)12.3+6000
22North Carolina10.9+10000
24Mississippi State9.9+10000

Teams Undervalued By FPI

Right off the bat, there’s some pretty major discrepancies between the FPI rankings and sportsbooks’ futures evaluation of the teams. Notable teams that are seemingly undervalued in futures by the FPI include:

  • Texas (sixth in FPI, 21st in odds)
  • Pitt (ninth in FPI, t-22nd in odds)
  • Auburn (10th in FPI, t-22nd in odds)

It’s important to understand the FPI isn’t necessarily reflective of rankings. For starters, zero Group of Five programs appear in the top 30, with Cincinnati (32) being the highest-ranked representative. In 2021, Cincinnati was the only Group of Five team in the top 30 (10th), but five programs landed in the final College Football Playoff ranking.

Texas () is a perennial pick in the top 10 for FPI and rankings, but they often underachieve with a talent-laden roster. This year, they landed a few heavy transfers, notably quarterback Quinn Ewers and receiver Isaiah Neyor. However, the Longhorns have finished inside the top 25 just three times in the last nine seasons. In terms of lost production, though, Texas gains more than they lose.

Pitt’s an interesting case study this coming season. They notably lose star quarterback Kenny Pickett, but gain former USC standout Kedon Slovis. While Clemson is the top dog in the ACC and Pitt has a tough road to the CFP, teams like Baylor and Miami sit ahead of Pitt () on odds tables to win the championship.

Auburn () is currently dealing with lots of internal turmoil with head coach Brian Harsin. Between players transferring in and out, a major question mark at quarterback, and a coordinator circus with hires and fires, the Tigers likely have a long way to go before making a championship run.

Heisman Trophy Odds

Teams Overvalued By FPI

No, the above table doesn’t have a mistake in it. USC is listed 37th in the FPI– behind Louisville, UCLA, UCF, and Florida State. Books, however, have the Trojans in the top five in futures odds. This could be looked at two ways: Maybe it’s smart to fade USC this coming season and the books have them overvalued, or the FPI is doing them a major disservice. As always, be careful with trendy preseason teams.

Other teams seemingly overvalued in futures by the FPI include:

  • Oregon (23rd in FPI, t-11th in odds)
  • Wisconsin (21st in FPI, t-ninth in odds)
  • Texas A&M (14th in FPI, t-fifth in odds)

The Ducks have a lot of turnover this season. They have an entirely new coaching staff, return 63% of offensive and defensive production (75th nationally), and lose foundational pieces Kayvon Thibodeaux and CJ Verdell. Sportsbooks value what Oregon () brings in though: An upstart coach in Dan Lanning (previously Georgia DC) and a flashy playmaker in Bo Nix (from Auburn). However, with an entirely new coaching staff, this could be a team off to a slow start.

Sportsbooks are more bullish on Wisconsin than FPI (). While the Badgers don’t return a ton of production (61% is 85th nationally), they bring back an extremely experienced defensive crew; 10 of 11 starters are at least a true junior, and nine of them are in their fourth year or later. However, without an electric receiving crew, a wild card transfer at running back (Braelon Allen), and some serious struggles from Graham Mertz last year, the FPI has its doubts.

Texas A&M () just signed the highest-graded recruiting class of all time. While these players will need a year or two to integrate into the system, oddsmakers already like what they see. However, they lost a ton of playmakers to the NFL Draft this year, notably on the defensive line. They also have an uncertainty at quarterback with LSU transfer Max Johnson and Haynes King, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.

Conference Winners And College Football Preseason FPI

According to the FPI, these are the Power Five teams most equipped to win their conference (and their rank among only conference rivals in futures to win the College Football Playoff, perhaps an indicator of conference championship futures when those markets open):

  • SEC: Alabama (first)
  • Big Ten: Ohio State (first)
  • ACC: Clemson (first)
  • Big 12: Texas (fourth)
  • Pac-12: Utah (third)

What’s worth noting is the FPI takes into account roster talent and coaching prowess. It does not take into account scheme or, over the course of the year, schedule. It’s simply a raw metric to determine which team is better in a matchup and generally how many points a team should win by.

Utah– while they are pegged as having the most talent in the conference– play a brutal road schedule. They travel to Florida, to UCLA, and to Oregon while handling USC at home. Conversely, Ohio State handles Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan at home while traveling to Michigan State and Penn State.

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Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

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