Reacting to preseason FPI release: Which teams are undervalued? Overvalued? (2024)

  • ESPN

Jun 3, 2024, 07:00 AM ET

ESPN has released its 2024 Football Power Index (FPI) ratings and projections, and our college football reporters are here to break them down.

The ratings, for the uninitiated, include forecasts for every team's record, its chances of winning a conference title and of course, its probability to make the expanded 12-team playoff and win the national championship.

The FPI is a power rating that tracks each team's strength relative to an average FBS squad. Teams are rated on offense, defense and special teams, with the values representing points per game.

You can read Neil Paine's takeaways here and get our staff's analysis below.

Which team is the FPI undervaluing?

Chris Low: Oklahoma State at No. 26 is way too low. Of course, coach Mike Gundy and the Cowboys have been at their best when not as much is expected of them. They have everything in place to win the Big 12 championship this season and earn a spot in the playoff after playing in the Big 12 championship game a year ago. The Pokes return 21 starters, including the nation's leading rusher from a year ago, Ollie Gordon II, seven offensive linemen who made multiple starts last season, quarterback Alan Bowman, who passed for 3,460 yards in 2023 and big-play linebackers Collin Oliver and Nickolas Martin, who combined for 31.5 tackles for loss a year ago.

Adam Rittenberg: Utah seems low at 27, especially if -- and it's a huge if, as we found out last season -- quarterback Cam Rising's knee injury is truly behind him. Rising gives Utah a championship-level quarterback to steady an offense that also returns standout tight end Brant Kuithe from injury, and has upgraded the wide receiver spot through portal additions such as USC's Dorian Singer. Utah returns most of its defensive front seven, and while the secondary has some question marks, Zemaiah Vaughn's return will help. Perhaps most important, coach Kyle Whittingham and much of his staff have navigated conference transition before, and the move to the Big 12 shouldn't be as turbulent as the one they made from the Mountain West to the Pac-12.

David Hale: Kids are taught that, when you touch the stove and burn your hand, you won't touch the stove again. Well, here I am, touching the stove and saying NC State is finally going to have its breakthrough season. I know, I know. We've been here before. The formula goes: If the Wolfpack have high expectations, they disappoint. If they're flying under the radar, they're surprisingly good. Who cares? This is a new era of college football and, after the men's and women's basketball teams made a Final Four and an NC State alumnus won her second Cooper's Hill cheese-rolling competition, it's time for Dave Doeren's crew to step up. With the additions of transfers quarterback Grayson McCall, tight end Justin Joly, running back Jordan Waters, receiver Noah Rogers and offensive lineman Zeke Correll, the offense is as loaded with talent as it has ever been in Doeren's 11-year tenure. Tony Gibson's defenses are always excellent, and the schedule sets up nicely for the Pack. So why does the FPI have them at No. 28, behind five other ACC teams? Because the FPI knows not to touch the stove again.

Paolo Uggetti: I couldn't agree more with Adam on Utah at 27, and I feel somewhat similar about Arizona at 24. Yes, I know the Wildcats have a brand new coach in Brent Brennan after losing Jedd Fisch to Washington, but they return quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan -- a tandem that could upend the Big 12 in their debut year. Fifita has some sleeper Heisman potential, while McMillan is part of a pretty loaded wide receiver room. If Brennan can get the Wildcats' defense to not be somnambulant this season, there's a great chance their offense is good enough to carry them into being better than the 24th-best team in the nation.

Jake Trotter: Kansas State is perennially undervalued and underrated, and this season appears to be no different. The Wildcats boast one of the more intriguing backfields in the country with ascending quarterback Avery Johnson paired with returning 1,000-yard rusher DJ Giddens and Colorado running back transfer Dylan Edwards, an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield. With Texas and Oklahoma now in the SEC, the Wildcats will have a solid chance to win the Big 12 and make their debut in the revamped CFP.

Mark Schlabach: Still no love for Lane Kiffin, huh? I had the Rebels at No. 6 in my post-spring power rankings -- the FPI has them 10 spots lower. Ole Miss picked up several transfers who should make an immediate impact -- defensive end Princely Umanmielen (Florida), defensive tackle Walter Nolen (Texas A&M), receiver Antwane Wells Jr. (South Carolina), tailback Jacory Croskey-Merritt (New Mexico) and others. We know the offense is going to be potent with quarterback Jaxson Dart returning, and Kiffin seems focused on improving his defense. Ole Miss should go 4-0 against its nonconference schedule (Furman, Middle Tennessee and Georgia Southern at home and Wake Forest on the road) and it doesn't have to play Alabama in the regular season for a change.

Which team is the FPI overvaluing?

Rittenberg: Oklahoma at No. 8 wouldn't concern me as much if the Sooners were staying in the Big 12, rather than moving to the SEC. The combination of a young quarterback (Jackson Arnold), two new primary coordinators (Seth Littrell and Zac Alley), a defense that hasn't really found its way under coach Brent Venables and a schedule that features Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and Missouri, in addition to rival Texas, sets off a few alarm bells. Oklahoma has done well in the portal and returns some star power on defense, but I don't see a top-10 finish this year in Norman.

Hale: Missouri had four wins by a touchdown or less last season, got Ohio State in a bowl game the Buckeyes weren't intent on winning and were carried by a remarkable season from Cody Schrader and a can't-miss kicker in Harrison Mevis, both gone in 2024. This isn't to say Missouri won't be good again, but No. 10 in the country? The Tigers haven't had back-to-back top-10 seasons since 1968 and 1969. Yes, the schedule is pretty accommodating by SEC standards -- Alabama and Oklahoma are the only power conference opponents who won at least eight games last year -- but this still feels like an overreach based on last year's surprising success. Every other team in the top 15 would be considered a traditional blue blood. Missouri is the outlier. And if I were picking an outlier as a top-10 program out of the SEC, I'd go with Ole Miss (No. 16) instead.

Trotter: There's plenty of excitement in College Station for the Mike Elko era, and rightfully so. Elko worked wonders with far less talent at Duke. But the Aggies are coming off another middling season and haven't reached double-digit victories in a season since their SEC debut in 2012 when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy. Elko should put the Aggies on the right track after Jimbo Fisher's disastrous tenure as head coach. But as past Texas A&M teams have proven, offseason hype doesn't necessarily translate to winning games in the fall.

Schlabach: Florida went 11-14 in coach Billy Napier's first two seasons, and I'm not sure the Gators will be much better in 2024 because of their brutal schedule. Florida plays nonconference games against Miami and Florida State, and faces a brutal SEC slate that includes road games at Tennessee and Texas and home games against Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss -- as well as its annual showdown against Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. The Gators lost tailback Trevor Etienne, who transferred to Georgia, and leading receiver Ricky Pearsall, who left for the NFL. Quarterback Graham Mertz was efficient in his first season at Florida, but he was sacked 31 times behind a bad offensive line. Napier blew up his defensive coaching staff after the Gators ranked 78th in the FBS in scoring defense (27.6 points) and 71st in total defense (382.3 yards).

Which power conference team outside the Top 25 can make a CFP run?

Rittenberg: At the risk of repeating one of my earlier answers (Utah) or one of C-Low's (Oklahoma State), I'm taking a fairly sizable leap of faith -- I'm sure you'd agree, Hale -- by selecting NC State, slotted at No. 28. The Wolfpack haven't won an ACC title since 1979 and last reached 10 or more victories in 2002, when Philip Rivers played quarterback. But NC State has had the personnel to break through, especially on defense under coach Dave Doeren, and added transfer quarterback Grayson McCall, who had 10,005 passing yards and 88 touchdowns at Coastal Carolina. The Wolfpack don't play Florida State, Louisville or SMU this season, and face a potentially vulnerable Clemson team early, albeit on the road. If McCall provides a spark to complement a defense returning cornerback Aydan White, end Davin Vann and other standouts, NC State could make a surprise league title push.

Trotter: Oklahoma State boasts the reigning Doak Walker Award winner in Gordon, an excellent receiving duo in Brennan Presley and Rashod Owens, an experienced offensive line and a veteran QB in Bowman. Gundy's teams almost always improve over the course of the season. And the Pokes no longer have to stress over the Sooners standing in the way. The Big 12 is wide open with several potential contenders. But Oklahoma State has as good a chance as anyone of coming out on top.

Schlabach: I was much higher on Utah and NC State in my power rankings than the FPI. What about West Virginia? The Mountaineers went 9-4 last season, taking the pressure off embattled coach Neal Brown. West Virginia was fourth in the FBS in rushing (228.9 yards) in 2023, and tailback Jahiem White and CJ Donaldson are returning. Quarterback Garrett Greene is mobile and if he improves his accuracy, the offense will be more balanced. West Virginia's offensive line allowed only 10 sacks last season, fewest in the Big 12. The defense was built on pressure, and the Mountaineers led the league with 33 sacks. Transfer defensive tackle T.J. Jackson (Troy), defensive end Ty French (Gardner-Webb) and cornerbacks TJ Crandall (Colorado State) and Ayden Garnes (Duquesne) should help fill some holes.

Which team has a ranking that may look odd now but will be proven correct by end of year?

Low: Seeing Missouri at No. 10, which means the Tigers would likely be in the playoff, might be a stretch in some people's eyes. But Eliah Drinkwitz has done a nice job of replenishing the roster after winning 11 games last season, and Mizzou will again be potent on offense with a defense that will count on several high-profile transfers. Equally important is that the Tigers have what appears to be the most manageable schedule in the SEC. They avoid Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas. Their toughest nonconference contest is Boston College at home.

Hale: Let's go off the board and suggest West Virginia could have a moment in 2024. (Schlabach may be on to something.) Remember this time last year when head coach Neal Brown railed against the idiots who picked his team to finish last in the Big 12? Yeah, he may have had a point there. QB Garrett Greene made huge strides and was among the most underrated passers in the country. The defense made strides, and Jahiem White was a revelation as a freshman, averaging close to 8 yards per carry. There's a lot to like here, and the schedule sets up relatively well, with two of the three biggest tests -- Kansas and Kansas State -- coming at home. The Big 12 is wide open, and while West Virginia certainly won't be the trendy pick, it has come a long way from the cellar.

Uggetti: I don't know if USC at No. 18 looks particularly odd right now -- perhaps some would argue it's too high for a team that is losing No. 1 NFL draft pick Caleb Williams -- but I think this is about right where the Trojans should settle in when it's all said and done. There's a strong belief within the program that quarterback Miller Moss will be a more than capable replacement for Williams, and the much-maligned defense should be far better than last year's unit under new defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn. But the schedule the Trojans face is a gauntlet. Not only do they open the year in Las Vegas against LSU, but they also play Michigan in Ann Arbor, host Penn State and finish the year with a road trip to Washington and a home matchup against Notre Dame. Tricky road trips to Minnesota and Maryland could also prove to be tougher than they currently appear. Still, USC should -- emphasis on "should" -- have the talent to finish inside the top 20 by season's end.

Trotter: Penn State has been overshadowed by Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten. Yet while the Wolverines and Buckeyes have uncertainty at quarterback, the Nittany Lions have the top returning QB in the league in Drew Allar, who threw 25 touchdowns with only two interceptions last season. Could this be the year that Penn State finally gets over the Big Ten hump? A No. 6 ranking might seem high. But the Nittany Lions have the pieces on both sides of the ball to warrant such a bullish outlook.

Schlabach: Does any first-year coach face more pressure this season than Alabama's Kalen DeBoer, who has the unenviable job of replacing Nick Saban, perhaps the greatest coach in history? Alabama (No. 5) isn't going to fall off a cliff simply because Saban is gone. DeBoer has won everywhere he has been -- he has a 104-12 record -- and took Washington to the CFP National Championship game last season. The offense is going to be fine with quarterback Jalen Milroe, receiver Germie Bernard and tailbacks Jamarion Miller and Justice Haynes leading the way. The Tide face an early stiff test at home against Georgia on Sept. 28 and road games at Tennessee, LSU and Oklahoma. But there's plenty of talent left in Tuscaloosa for DeBoer to take the Tide back to the CFP.

Reacting to preseason FPI release: Which teams are undervalued? Overvalued? (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated:

Views: 6470

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.