FPI breaks down the bowl season

FPI favors Derrick Henry's Crimson Tide, but not No. 1 Clemson. Getty Images

It’s the most wonderful time of the year ... college football bowl season!

Eighty FBS teams will play in 40 pre-national championship bowls.

Which teams are most likely to win these games? ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) has you covered with projections and a confidence meter for all 40 FBS bowl games.

Before digging into the storylines: Why should FPI be used as a means for predicting games? This season, the FPI favorite has won 78 percent of FBS games, which is a similar percentage to the Las Vegas closing line.

Bowl season is an entirely different challenge to forecast, however, because there are far fewer mismatches than in the regular season. Further, with different motivational factors, coaching changes and a long layoff, bowls are inherently less predictable.

To account for the unpredictability of bowl season, tweaks were made to FPI’s formula for bowl games this offseason. After implementing these changes retroactively, the FPI favorite won 60.6 percent of games over the past three bowl seasons, which is a higher percentage than the Las Vegas favorite (56.1 percent).

Now on to the fun stuff. What does FPI say about the coming bowl season?

Virginia Tech, Arizona and Tennessee are the most likely teams to win their bowls. They are the only teams with at least a 75 percent chance to win.

• The Citrus Bowl between Florida and Michigan is not only expected to be a defensive battle, but it also is projected to be the closest game of this bowl season.

• In the national semifinals, FPI projects that Alabama has a 68 percent chance to beat Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and Oklahoma has a 63 percent chance to beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

• The SEC is the FPI favorite in all 10 of its bowl games, but that does not mean that the SEC will win all 10 games. FPI expects the SEC to win 6.5 bowl games (65 percent), the highest percentage of any conference. It’s worth noting that SEC teams are favored in Las Vegas in nine of those 10 games (Florida versus Michigan differs).

• The American Athletic Conference team is the FPI underdog in all eight bowl games involving an AAC team, but that does not mean the conference will lose all eight games. FPI expects the AAC to win about three of eight games this bowl season (38 percent), the lowest percentage of any conference.

Toledo, San Diego State, Miami (FL), Duke, Pittsburgh and Florida are all teams currently favored by FPI and underdogs according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

• Last season, the FPI favorite won the nine games FPI was most confident in picking, resulting in FPI finishing in the 90th percentile of ESPN’s Bowl Mania.