With little more than a month standing between fans and their college football we all await the pre-season rankings from the AP and Coaches Poll. Before that let’s look at ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI) rankings. The preseason FPI ranking is a predictive system that considers information from previous seasons and generates a forecast of offensive, defensive, and special team’s performance. Once the analysis is complete the power ranking of all 130 FBS teams is generated. The preseason FPI rankings predicts the record, probability of winning out, and the probability of winning the conference. If you want a more in-depth look at the process check out this article from a few years back.
So, how do the Virginia Tech Hokies and the remainder of the ACC look in the FPI rankings?
The Hokies are currently ranked as No. 31 with a predicted record of 7.8 – 4.3, which I think we can round to 8-4. FPI lists VPI’s probability of winning out as a depressing 0.0% and their likelihood of winning the conference as a paltry 2.9%. Suffice to say the Clemson game alone will make an undefeated season hard to achieve. Furthermore, any path to another ACC title will likely run through Death Valley or Tallahassee. That reality makes it difficult to imagine Coach Fuente taking the conference in his sophomore season. Honestly, the current FPI predictions are pretty in line with what I expect to occur in the Hokies’ 2017 efforts, but more detail on my season predictions at a later date.
Here is the entirety of the ACC’s current FPI rankings:
3. Florida State Seminoles
6. Clemson Tigers
15. Miami-Florida Hurricanes
17. Louisville Cardinals
22. N.C. State Wolfpack
28. North Carolina Tar Heels
31. Virginia Tech Hokies
36. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
44. Pittsburgh Panthers
45. Syracuse Orange
52. Duke Blue Devils
58. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
69. Boston College Eagles
73. Virginia Cavaliers
Much of the FPI makes sense. Seeing FSU and Clemson in the top ten is no surprise, nor is seeing BC and the Hoos bringing up the rear. What might be a bit of a head scratcher is NCSU and UNC being ranked above the Hokies. To be fair both NCSU’s and UNC’s projected win loss record is also around 8-4 (7.7-4.3 and 7.5-4.7 respectively). Both the Wolfpack and Tar Heels only have a 3.4% and 3.1% chance to win the conference, and only a 0.1% and 0.0% to win out. Considering the loss of starters and the time in service of the coaches, both of which are figured into the FPI, it isn’t that surprising that NCSU, UNC, and VT are bunched closely together.
The ranking I find the most surprising and interesting is that of Miami up at No. 15. They have a head coach only in his second year with the team and lost their starting QB, just like the Hokies. Yet they are somehow ranked higher than Louisville - the home of returning offensive weapon of mass destruction and Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. The ‘Canes have a projected record of 9.2-3.3, a 0.5% chance to win out, and a 17.3% chance to win the conference. Considering the Cardinals must face both Clemson and FSU I can see how Miami might have edged them… barely. Miami will also face Florida State in the third game of their season, but dodge Clemson. As many have already postulated, it is entirely likely that the ACC Coastal Championship will come down to the result of Virginia Tech’s trip to Coral Gables. It seems as if the FPI believes the Hurricanes will win that matchup. VPI will put that to the test on November 4th.
You can see the full FPI rankings here.
What are your thoughts on the current FPI rankings? Let us know in the comments!