With national signing day in the rearview mirror, it's time to start looking ahead to the 2017 college football season.
It also means there is enough information for ESPN Stats & Information to run its initial version of the Preseason Football Power Index (FPI) to determine the best and worst teams heading into next season.
Preseason FPI is designed to take the guesswork out of preseason ratings. It is an automated ranking intended to measure team strength going forward. It is not a ranking of who will have the highest win total (which is dependent on schedule) or who is most likely to make the College Football Playoff.
The model comprises four major components: the last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams, with the most recent season counting most; information on offensive and defensive returning starters, with special consideration given to a team returning its starting quarterback or gaining a transfer quarterback with experience; a four-year average recruiting ranking of four systems (ESPN, Scouts, Rivals and Phil Steele); and head coaching tenure. These four components interact and are assigned different weights depending on the team to produce preseason FPI.
Combining all of the factors above produces a predicted value on offense, defense and special teams, which represents the number of points that each unit would be expected to contribute to the team’s scoring margin if it were to face an average FBS team on a neutral field.
Ohio State sits at No. 1 in the first iteration of preseason FPI. Entering his sixth season as head coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer is returning eight offensive starters, including quarterback J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes are returning seven starters to a defense that finished last season ranked second in defensive efficiency. Meyer again added depth to the team with a top-10 recruiting class for the fifth straight year.
There will be multiple iterations of preseason FPI to capture the most up-to-date information on returning starters and other factors that affect the rankings. Complete season projections, which will include a team’s chance to win its conference, projected win total and more, will be available this spring. For more on the model and how it was created, please read this article or this companion piece from last season's release.