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Seven takeaways from ESPN's 2024 FPI rankings, projections

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton06/08/24


Earlier this week, ESPN released its latest 2024 Football Power Index ratings and projections, which have long been highly controversial but provide plenty of interesting offseason fodder. 

FPI breaks down every program’s win total, chances of winning a conference championship and probability to make (and win) a national title — which in the newly-expanded 12-team College Football Playoff means a lot more teams will figure into the mix this fall.  

In perusing the 2024 FPI ratings, here are seven notable takeaways… 

Kirby Smart
Kirby Smart (Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Georgia is top-dawg but the path to a title won’t be easy 

The Bulldogs come in at No. 1 overall with a rating of 26.8, meaning on a neutral field, they’d be nearly 27-point favorites over an average team. Kirby Smart’s team has the highest odds to win the national championship (20.7%). 

However, it won’t be smooth sailing for Carson Beck & Co., against what FPI deems is the No. 3 hardest schedule in the country. Georgia plays eight teams ranked inside the Top 34 — including at Texas (No. 3), Alabama (No. 5) and Ole Miss (No. 16).

A couple of interesting conference title favorites

No one is shocked to see Georgia or Florida State as the model’s projection to win the SEC and ACC, respectively, but it certainly jumps out that Oregon — and not Ohio State — checks in No. 2 overall and is the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten. 

The Ducks, which boasts one of the best rosters in the country, will have the most valuable offense in the nation, per FPI, and actually have the best odds of winning their conference among all power-conference schools. Their home game against Ohio State is carrying a lot of weight here, apparently.

Similarly, in a wide-open Big 12, it’s not Utah, Kansas State or Oklahoma State as the pick to win the league in 2024. It’s Kansas, which checks in at 19 overall — ahead of the likes of USC, Auburn and Miami.

A deeper pool of potential playoff teams 

Naturally, with the 12-team field, more schools have a realistic chance at a shot at a national title this season. But how many more? 

According to ESPN’s analytics, it has more than double from last season. In 2023, just eight schools had preseason odds of at least 20% of making the CFP. 

This year, that number balloons to 18 — Georgia (79%), Oregon (76%), Texas (68%), Ohio State (67%), Notre Dame (60%), Penn State (59%), Alabama (57%), Missouri (37.3%), Tennessee (36.9%), Oklahoma (36.6%), Florida State (36%), Michigan (29%), Clemson (27%), LSU (25%), Kansas (24%), Kansas State (21%), Texas A&M (21%) and Ole Miss (21%). 

Which Group of 5 teams stand the best shot at making the CFP?

With the 12-team field, at least one Group of 5 program is guaranteed to make the playoff, and according to FPI, Boise State has the best odds (16.4%) of any non-power conference team. 

The Broncos lost quarterback Taylen Green to Arkansas, but they’re still the favorites to win the Mountain West in 2024. 

Jeff Traylor’s UTSA Roadrunners have the second-best G5 chances at 15.6%, followed by Liberty (9.6%), which made the New Year’s Six last season, Memphis (7.9%) and App. State (7.0%). 

Cupcake schedules = Inflated win totals

In my analysis of every preseason over/under for all power conference teams, some were surprised to see Syracuse (7.5) and Rutgers (7.5) with win-totals closer to eight than five or six. Well, their baker’s dozen schedules are major reasons why. 

Fran Brown stuck gold with his first-year schedule, as the Orange project to play just two teams in the Top 30 of ESPN’s FPI, which ranks as the easiest slate among all power conference schools. 

Take away its game against FCS Holy Cross, and Syracuse has eight opponents ranked 50th or worse in ESPN’s FPI. Rutgers checks in with the No. 3 easiest slate, which is what happens when you get the good fortune of missing Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Oregon.

Schools’ FPI is higher on than some might expect

Critics, myself included, may be skeptical of Penn State, but FPI sure isn’t. The Nittany Lions are No. 6 overall, with a slightly higher probability to win 10 games than Texas. Their odds at a Big Ten title (22%) are only a few percentage points behind Ohio State. Is this the year James Franklin gets it done? FPI certainly sees a path. 

How about Florida, with the Gators checking in at No. 20 overall. And yet, FPI still gives Billy Napier’s team just a 58% chance to go bowling, which is good for 78th nationally. That’s what happens when you play the toughest-ranked schedule in the nation, though.

While most Way-Too-Early-Top 25 rankings excluded Lincoln Riley’s Trojans, USC is ranked two spots ahead of Florida at No. 18 in FPI. The Trojans’ defense still projects to be bad (worth just 1.6 points), but even without Heisman Trophy quarterback Caleb Williams, their offense is rated 8th overall.

Colorado comes in at No. 36 overall, a 41-spot jump from last season. The model predicts continued improvement for Deion Sanders’ team, giving the Buffs a 63% of going bowling. 

Schools’ FPI is lower than expected 

Ole Miss. It immediately jumps out that the Rebels, which are prominently featured anywhere between 6-10 in most preseason rankings, are all the way down at No. 16. FPI is clearly a bit skeptical about Lane Kiffin’s latest mercenary transfer haul. The Rebels slide in behind such SEC schools as Oklahoma (which at No. 8 overall is a bit eye-popping even for me, who has deemed the Sooners a potential playoff spoiler this fall), Tennessee, Missouri, LSU and Texas A&M. 

I noted that Kansas was the favorite to win the Big 12, which surprised me, but Utah’s ranking at 27 is a real head-scratcher. The Utes upgraded their entire offense this offseason — both with the return of quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe plus the additions of several perimeter playmakers. 

Similarly, NC State comes in one spot behind Utah — behind five other ACC schools. This might be Dave Doeren’s most complete team to date, with legitimate sights on an ACC title appearance for the first time in school history. Come season’s end, I don’t think these Wolfpack are finishing sixth in the ACC.