ESPN’s College Football Power Index STINKS: Ohio State At 1? Penn State Over Georgia, Alabama, AND Washington?

Jim Harbaugh
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As if we needed more proof that so many of these “statistics” thrown at us by networks are complete garbage, let me present to you Exhibit A.

ESPN’s College Football Power Index is “a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward.” They go on to say it’s meant to be used to handicap games and shouldn’t be used to determine which teams qualify for the College Football Playoff, but going a bit deeper into the stats calls that qualifier into question.

Quoting from ESPN’s website, FPI ratings are “composed of a predicted offensive, defensive and special teams component. These ratings represent the number of points each unit is expected to contribute to the team’s net scoring margin on a neutral field against an average FBS opponent.”

To me, that basically means they are trying to measure how well a specific team will perform against an unnamed, but constant, opponent. Given each team is judged against that same opponent, it logically follows that the FPI rating given to each individual team can be used to measure who the best teams are and by what margin.

All of that makes sense so far, but if we take a look at where the FPI ratings currently stand, all of that understanding goes out the window.

Right now, the number one team based on FPI is Ohio State followed by Michigan. 11-1 Oregon is in the number three slot followed by 2-loss Penn State at number four.

Okay, let’s take a moment to think about this…

The undefeated and consensus number one team in the country, Georgia, is ranked behind Penn State and Oregon and sits outside of the Top 4. Ohio State is ranked above Michigan, despite having lost to them just a few days ago.

Penn State is ranked above Georgia and Alabama (Who are playing for the SEC Championship), undefeated Florida State (playing for the ACC Championship), and 11-1 Texas (Playing for the Big 12 Championship), as well as 11-1 Oklahoma, who handed Texas their only loss.

And where the heck is Washington? As of last week they were 4th in the College Football Playoff rankings but only scrounged up a measly 13 on the FPI rankings. You’re telling me Kansas State, Notre Dame, and LSU are better teams?

Does this really make any sense to anyone? Do we really think that, all external factors equal, Penn State will outperform Georgia, Alabama, Washington, and Texas? I’m a big Nittany Lions fan and love a good biased opinion of our team, but come on, are we being serious? What about 7-5 Texas A&M clocking in over Louisville and Missouri? 5-7 TCU and 7-5 Duke over 10-2 Iowa?

The more I look at this list the more insane it becomes.

And sure, there may be some nerd that can come in and explain why these rankings are the way they are and if you do the calculations the math adds up and shows that this is correct and the system’s predictions have a good winning percentage, or whatever, but if you just clear your head and think about it for a second, it’s obvious that this is a bunch of malarkey.

Next time they flash some weird sounding stat during a game, take a moment before you believe it, because if this list proves anything, it’s statistics don’t have to be correct to be accurate.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock