The Football Power Index is out, and ESPN’s Stats & Information group likes Alabama to repeat as SEC champions.
In fact, the Crimson Tide come in at No. 2 nationally in the latest rankings, which uses a model comprised of four major components: offensive, defensive and special teams performance over the last four seasons; returning starters, with special consideration to experience at quarterback; a four-year average recruiting rankings; and head coaching tenure.
But, as we all know, stats aren’t infallible. Last year’s preseason FPI had LSU as the favorite to win the SEC.
So with that in mind, the writers of the SEC Blog were asked which team they think the FPI undervalued the most. Later today, we’ll address the teams we feel were most overvalued.
Edward Aschoff: I actually don't think many SEC teams are undervalued in our FPI. I think there are a few who are definitely overvalued, but we'll get to that later. I'll go with Mississippi State coming in at No. 33. That's one spot behind South Carolina. Both are projected to have 6.1 wins and 6.0 losses. I'm not saying that Mississippi State will win the SEC. The Bulldogs won't even win the SEC West, but this team looks better than 6-6. Nick Fitzgerald should be one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch this fall, and Todd Grantham is excited about what he has on defense. The FPI must not be much of a Dan Mullen fan, but he does a good job with developing offensive players, and while questions remain on that side of the ball, Mullen will figure things out. Dare I say, this is a top-25 team by season's end?
David Ching: This might be a bit risky since it wouldn’t shock me if they went 5-7 again, and yet I’m still going with the Missouri. The FPI ranks Mizzou 41st with a projected win total of 6.5, but I think Barry Odom’s team can do better than that. The schedule seems manageable (nonconference games against Missouri State, Idaho, Purdue and Connecticut) with most of the toughest SEC games (Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina) coming at home. The offense should also be more consistent in Year 2 under Josh Heupel since quarterback Drew Lock, receiver J’Mon Moore, running back Damarea Crockett and the entire offensive line will be back. The defense loses a bunch of veterans, but I find it hard to believe that it will be as inconsistent as it was a season ago. Add all that together and I think you have a team that can contend for a division title this year. Remember, we’re talking about the SEC East here. Somebody’s gotta win it and I don’t think we should overlook Mizzou.
Greg Ostendorf: So according to the FPI, Ole Miss is the 12th best team in the SEC and will win six games this coming season? Really? Shea Patterson alone should bump the Rebels closer to the middle of the pack in the conference. I realize there’s nothing to play for after the school self-imposed a bowl ban for the upcoming season. And more penalties might be coming from the NCAA. But there have been teams with “nothing to play for” that go out and win 10 games. Between Patterson, what is arguably the most talented wide receiver corps in the SEC and an experienced offensive line, the Rebels should have an elite offense this fall. If the defense can improve just a little bit from last year, I think eight or nine wins is a realistic possibility.
Alex Scarborough: I can’t believe I’m counting wins right now. This is the one thing you should never do. But here I am wondering whether Georgia can get to 9-10 wins. And I think, very tepidly, that it’s possible. With Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the offense should be in great shape. The defense should be better, too. But the real reason I like Georgia is the schedule. The East is ripe for the taking, and the nonconference schedule isn’t that bad. Appalachian State should be a relatively easy win, Georgia Tech isn’t unsurmountable because of its mediocre defense and Notre Dame is an utter mess right now with Brian Kelly on the hot seat. With Mississippi State and Auburn -- which Georgia has owned for a decade now -- out of the West, I think things set up nicely for coach Kirby Smart and Co.