The FPI, a college football ranking system created by ESPN and the College Football Playoff selection committee, released its updated list on Tuesday.
The college football rankings 2020-2021 is the latest update to FPI’s rankings. Alabama and Clemson are at the top of the list, with Ohio State coming in third.
Editor’s note: We just found that the Football Power Index’s prior preseason publication in April had data and modeling issues. We’ve fixed the problems and are re-releasing FPI in time for the 2021 season. ESPN Analytics apologises for the oversight.
Alabama or Clemson has won the national championship in college football five of the last six seasons. The rivalry between the two heavyweights is already spreading to preseason predictions, as Football Power Index and Allstate Playoff Predictor have a split choice between Nick Saban’s and Dabo Swinney’s teams less than two months before the season begins.
Alabama is the greatest team in the nation, according to FPI. Even without Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith, Alabama is projected to have a top-3 three offense and a top-two defense with Bryce Young at the helm, behind only Clemson.
While our model favors the Crimson Tide (slightly) over the Tigers overall, Clemson has the greatest chance to win the national title with a 28 percent probability, barely ahead of Alabama with a 27 percent chance. Clemson’s schedule is considerably easier than Alabama’s, ranking 51st in the FBS and far behind the Crimson Tide’s 7th-ranked SOS. Alabama has just a 50 percent probability of winning the SEC, while Clemson has an 80% chance of winning the ACC. Clemson has a 78 percent to 72 percent probability of reaching the playoffs.
It’s a tight race regardless of how you look at it: by rank or by chance of winning the championship. The remainder of college football is still looking up at Alabama and Clemson, even after each graduated a first-round draft choice quarterback. For the uninitiated, FPI stands for Football Power Index, which is a statistical evaluation and prediction methodology for every FBS club in college football. It drives the Allstate Playoff Predictor, which uses historical data to model the College Football Playoff selection committee and predict which teams will advance to the CFP. You may learn more about FPI’s operations here. You may always go to espn.com/fpi to get the complete list of FPI rankings and predictions. Here are FPI’s current top ten teams and their chances to win it all as of July:
Chances to place in the top ten and win the national championship
|Team||FPI Rank||Chances of Making the Playoffs||Chance at a National Championship|
|Ohio State is a university in the state of Ohio||4||59%||13%|
|Notre Dame is a Catholic university in the United States.||8||23%||2%|
|Iowa State University||9||9%|
Changes that are significant
We wanted to highlight a few teams who were disproportionately impacted by the aforementioned issues in FPI’s first release. Mississippi State University is a public university in Mississippi., maybe more than any other team, drew the most attention from the start, when we (inadvertently, as we now know) placed the Bulldogs in the top ten. In our most recent edition, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 24.
This was the consequence of data and modeling mistakes, and the adjustment has nothing to do with what’s going on in Starkville. Nonetheless, considering the attention the Bulldogs’ initial ranking got, we believe it is important to point it up. Other notable teams affected by the errors and their subsequent movement include Miami (up from No. 20 to No. 10), Oklahoma State University is a public university in Oklahoma City (down from No. 9 to No. 19), Washington (up from No. 59 to No. 25), Utah (up from No. 57 to No. 30), UCF (up from No. 70 to No. 34), BYU (up from No. 63 to No. 38), Coastal Carolina (down from No. 35 to No. 60), and Kansas (down from No. 35 (down from No. 44 to No. 67).
We expect FPI to make one additional (small) change before the season based on finalized roster data.
Oklahoma leads a loaded Big 12 conference.
The SEC leads in average FPI rating, but our model predicts that the Big 12 will overtake the SEC in 2021 to become the nation’s second-best league. And it all begins with Oklahoma, which under Lincoln Riley has the greatest chance to win a national title yet.
The Tigers and Crimson Tide may still be at the top of the polls, but the Sooners are catching Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State, who are all coming off seasons in which they lost their starting quarterback, while Oklahoma has kept its standout quarterback in Spencer Rattler. And don’t think this squad is all offensive just because it’s in the Big 12: FPI forecasts the Sooners will have the 9th-best defense this season after having the fifth-best defensive efficiency in the FBS last season.
As a consequence, Oklahoma is ranked third overall in the FPI and has a 17 percent probability of winning the national title, which is also third best. Despite the fact that the Big 12 is stacked this year, the Sooners remain 68 percent favorites to win the league.
Within the league, who is Oklahoma’s greatest rival? It’s now the state of Texas. After a 7-3 2020 season, FPI has great expectations for the Longhorns, and it all boils down to one thing: recruiting talent. Only Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and Clemson have more total recruiting talent on their rosters than Texas, thus the model predicts a top-12 offense and defense for the Longhorns.
However, Iowa State, a possible competitor, sits just behind Texas. In contrast to Texas, the Cyclones’ bright future is powered by returning offensive talent, including quarterback Brock Purdy, receiver Xavier Hutchinson, tight end Charlie Kolar, and running back Breece Hall.
The Big 12 not only boasts several top-10 teams, but it also has depth: TCU and Oklahoma State both rank in the top 20 on the FPI, with defense leading the way for both schools following top-15 defensive efficiency seasons in 2020.
When you add it all together, the Big 12 has an 81 percent probability of returning to the playoffs this season, with a 7 percent possibility of sending multiple teams in.
Chances of Making the Conference Playoffs
|Conference||One Playoff Team’s Chance||Multiple Playoff Teams Possibility|
Ohio State an overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten
Even after Justin Fields left Columbus for Chicago, FPI thinks that Ohio State, not Oklahoma, will have the top offense in the country this season.
Is it even possible?
While the Sooners have the advantage at quarterback and overall offensive output, according to our opponent-adjusted efficiency rankings, the Buckeyes have been the superior offense in each of the past two seasons and have brought in stronger offensive prospects over the last four seasons.
As a result, Ohio State ranks first in offensive FPI, fourth in total FPI, and is the overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten, with a 70 percent probability of winning the conference, well ahead of Wisconsin (11 percent) and Penn State is a university in Pennsylvania. (11 percent) (6 percent ). With a 13% probability of winning it all, the Buckeyes are also the last big national title candidate. Which may leave some people perplexed…
What about Georgia, for example?
Why are the Bulldogs so far behind if there’s a significant drop-off after Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State?
Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the FPI, roughly a field goal behind Ohio State on a neutral field. The difference between Georgia and Alabama, which we make larger than a score, is considerably more significant for national title aspirations since the Crimson Tide can be (though not usually) a postseason blocker. Because Alabama and Georgia do not meet during the regular season, any possible meeting would take place in the SEC title game or the postseason.
While FPI recognizes how brilliantly JT Daniels performed in his four games for the Bulldogs last season – his QBR of 89.1 would have only behind Mac Jones, Fields, and Matt Corral if he had kept that pace for the whole season – it won’t anoint anybody based on such a tiny sample size. If it was the same Daniels we saw last season, Georgia’s offensive FPI ranking will almost certainly rise from No. 13 to No. 1.
However, we now estimate that Georgia has a 1-in-4 probability of making the CFP and a 4% chance of winning the national title.
JT Daniels’ performance will determine how far the Georgia Bulldogs can go this season. Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire photo
The Pac-12 has a bleak outlook.
The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference not represented in FPI’s top ten. Our model is pessimistic about the Pac-12’s prospects of fielding a team in the postseason this season. It’s not out of the question; Oregon has an 8% chance, but it’s a long shot.
The Pac-12 is beset by two issues. First and foremost, it is missing an outstanding team. The Ducks are ranked No. 12 by FPI, which means they’ll almost definitely have to outperform expectations if they want to make the CFP. Then there’s the fact that its two biggest playoff contenders, Oregon and USC, both have tough out-of-conference games against Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively. As a consequence, the Ducks have a 9% probability of finishing with 0 or 1 losses (including a possible conference title game), while USC has a 3% chance.
In the end, there’s a 91% probability that the conference’s postseason drought will continue this season.
|North Carolina is a state in the United States.||14|
|Virginia Tech is a university in the state of Virginia||26|
|Arizona State University||29|
|Appalachian State University||33|
|West Virginia is a state in the US.||35|
|Texas Tech is a university in the state of Texas||39|
|Florida State University||44|
|Michigan State University||45|
|Boston College is a public university in Boston, Massachusetts||50|
Cincinnati is the club to defeat in Group 5.
The Bearcats are the only non-Power 5 team in FPI’s Top 25, and it’s simple to understand why. On offense, Cincinnati returns Desmond Ridder, who finished one place behind Rattler in QBR last season, while the Bearcats’ defense is coming off a season in which they were rated 9th in opponent-adjusted efficiency.
The Bearcats have a 47 percent probability of winning the American (UCF is ranked No. 34 in our poll), but any hopeful supporters expecting for a playoff berth should readjust their expectations now: the Allstate Postseason Predictor believes the Bearcats have a 2% chance of making the playoff. That’s more than any other Group of 5 squad (the others are in the single digits), but it’s still a lottery ticket.
A&M (Alabama) vs. Texas A&M (Texas A& is the most important game on the schedule.
Alabama’s trip to College Station in Week 6 has a bigger effect on the College Football Playoff race than any other game. It’ll be Alabama’s hardest scheduled game (the Crimson Tide have a 66 percent probability of winning), Texas A&M is a playoff candidate in its own right, and the two teams are in the same division, so it may decide the SEC West championship.
An Alabama defeat would reduce the Crimson Tide’s chances of making the playoffs to only 51 percent (down from 72 percent) and the Aggies’ chances to 39 percent (up from 22 percent ). If Alabama wins on the road, though, its odds of making the playoffs rise to 83 percent, while A&M’s fall to 14 percent.
Week 6 has a lot of big games: Georgia-Auburn, Virginia Tech-Notre Dame, and the Red River Showdown are all in that week, and they’re all in the top 15 most important games of the season in terms of the CFP race.
Week 1 isn’t to be taken lightly! Clemson-Georgia is the year’s second-most-important game, while Alabama-Miami is also in the top 15.
The Top 15 Most Influential Games in the CFP Race
|5||Iowa State University vs. Oklahoma||12|
|7||Ohio State vs. Penn State||12|
|8||Ohio State vs. Oregon||2|
|10||Texas State vs. Iowa State||10|
|11||Notre Dame-North Carolina||9|
|14||Notre Dame-Virginia Tech||6|
The college football rankings: top 100 is a list of the top 100 college football teams in the United States.
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