Washington is one of several rising teams in updated ESPN Football Power Index Top 25 rankings following the statement win over nationally-ranked Michigan State. Behind a notable passing performance from Indiana quarterback transfer Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies stayed unbeaten and showed there’s another Pac-12 team worthy of merit in the early going this season.
There’s a new team in the top spot this season as Alabama continued to lose its grip as one of the perceived national championship frontrunners. Ohio State’s 77-point splattering of Toledo was another eye-opener as C.J. Stroud torched the Rockets’ secondary with five touchdowns.
Per ESPN, the Football Power Index (FPI) is a “measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 20,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule. Ratings and projections update daily.”
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Here’s a look at ESPN’s updated FPI and our thoughts on each selection.
25. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Last week: No. 18)
24. Pittsburgh Panthers (Last week: No. 31)
23. Cincinnati Bearcats (Last week: No. 19)
22. Washington Huskies (Last week: No. 25)
21. Oregon Ducks (Last week: No. 32)
20. Wisconsin Badgers (Last week: No. 35)
Marcus Freeman has his first win at Notre Dame following Saturday’s 24-17 decision over Cal that included a near-cataclysmic gaffe on a Hail Mary as time expired. This week’s biggest riser in ESPN’s updated FPI rankings was Wisconsin, who jumped 15 spots and now has a 36% chance to win the Big Ten West. In fact, only Minnesota and Wisconsin are the two factors in that side of the conference, according to the numbers.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 23
The Golden Gophers took full advantage of a soft schedule and will now test their overall worth on the road against Michigan State in their Big Ten opener next weekend. Win against the Spartans and the love will continue for P.J. Fleck’s team, who is now the favorite to win the Big Ten West, per ESPN’s numbers.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 9
Mississippi State’s shot at finishing 8-4 or better this season took a tremendous hit with Saturday night’s loss to LSU, a winnable game for the Bulldogs that got away from Mike Leach’s team late in the game. Mississippi State was a narrow favorite to beat the Tigers in Death Valley, but missed several opportunities. Now, it looks like a 7-5 finish is in order according to ESPN’s FPI, who points to remaining games against Alabama, Arkansas and others as extremely challenging.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 20
Oklahoma State jumped three spots to No. 17 this week and has Big 12 title hopes, per ESPN’s FPI update. Spencer Sanders is throwing with precision through three starts this fall as the veteran quarterback aims to make good on last season’s loss in the conference championship game to Baylor. The Cowboys finished 1-yard short of a possible College Football Playoff berth and look the part early in their quest to return to that spot.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 21
Michigan State lost steam after Saturday’s loss at Washington. Jalen Berger never got going on the ground and when the rushing attack doesn’t work for the Spartans, their offense often struggles. The season is not lost, though. Michigan State has a chance to bully its way through a competitive Big Ten East slate, but chances have diminished that will happen with success, according to the updated FPI.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 18
The overwhelming favorite to win the ACC Coastal this season, Miami suffered its first loss at Texas A&M thanks to misfortunes throughout against the Aggies’ feisty defense. Too many missed opportunities for the Hurricanes on the road was the story. That setback likely solidifies a nine-win regular season according to ESPN’s FPI, which expects Miami to lose two other times before appearing in the ACC title game against projected Atlantic Division champion Clemson.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 14
Dave Aranda and Baylor have an 11.7% chance at winning the Big 12 this season, third-best in the conference after improving to 2-1. Last week’s road loss to BYU was a wakeup call for the Bears coming off of their conference championship and Baylor seems to have responded. Right now, an 8-4 finish is the most likely final record for a team whose sights are set far higher than that. Upcoming games against Oklahoma and Texas are true tests to see where the Bears are as a potential top-end finisher.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 10
Utah dropped three spots despite disposing of San Diego State, a win that wasn’t convincing enough for ESPN’s algorithm. The Utes seem to have settled in defensively since getting roughed up in the season-opening loss to Florida earlier this month and have found their groove a bit heading into the Pac-12 slate. Kyle Whittingham’s team is still very much a threat to get to the playoff, but the FPI suggests they’re going to lose at least one more game before the season is over.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 11
Don’t bury the Tigers yet. Jayden Daniels and the LSU offense did just enough in the fourth quarter to pull away from Mississippi State in the SEC opener for both teams that may have changed the narrative a bit about the Tigers moving forward. After moving up in the FPI rankings last week, LSU is now expected to compete for eight regular-season wins, which would be a major step in the right direction under a first-year coach.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 8
ESPN’s updated algorithm loves the Trojans following a dominant win over Fresno State as USC pushed to 3-0 on the season during Lincoln Riley’s first campaign. USC has a 40% chance of winning the Pac-12, but the FPI does not expect the Trojans to get through conference play unscathed. There are too many talented opponents left on the slate, per the projections. Caleb Williams added two more touchdowns to his Heisman candidacy against the Bulldogs and has several spotlight opportunities ahead for more love from voters.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 13
Will Penn State challenge for double-digit wins in the regular season after Saturday’s bullying of Auburn on the road? ESPN’s updated FPI points to the Nittany Lions being an unexpected threat in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State and Michigan after Nick Singleton’s big performance on the ground. Like every other team in college football’s toughest division, Penn State will control its own playoff destiny from here on out and has a 5.9% chance of making the final four, per the numbers.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 15
Oklahoma’s steady rise continues in ESPN’s FPI as the new Big 12 favorite this season. Saturday’s win over Nebraska was supposed to be competitive, but the Sooners reeled off 49 unanswered points in the contest following an early Huskers touchdown before giving up another. Not only is the defense dominating in Brent Venables’ first season, but UCF transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel has no issues adjusting to his new environment within Jeff Lebby’s familiar scheme.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 7
Tennessee’s shot at the College Football Playoff is less than 11%, however ESPN’s FPI does like the Vols as the second-best team in the SEC East behind Georgia. Considering the Bulldogs’ separation at this point, it’s going to be a tough go of things, though. Tennessee hosts Florida this week and will try and stay unbeaten by snapping the Gators’ six-game winning streak in the rivalry series. Right now, the FPI expects Tennessee to finish with nine wins in the regular season.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 17
ESPN’s FPI loved the Rebels’ 42-point shutout of Georgia Tech, so much so that Ole Miss took a nine-spot leap into the top 10 this week. Lane Kiffin’s squad is now projected to teeter on nine or 10 regular-season wins and that’s with all of the Rebels’ toughest games still to play. We’ll know more about Ole Miss after the Rebels play unbeaten Kentucky coming up. Zach Evans already has two 100-yard games after coming over from TCU in this run-heavy look for the Rebels.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 7
One of the Big 12 contenders according to ESPN’s FPI, Texas overcame a sluggish start to beat UTSA on Saturday night thanks to 183 yards and three touchdowns from Bijan Robinson. Many wondered how the Longhorns would respond emotionally following last week’s close loss to Alabama and it showed early against the Road Runners. However, Texas dominated at the point of attack in the second half and avoided a loss that would’ve ended all momentum the program had gained from the national exposure against the Crimson Tide.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 4
Go ahead and crown Clemson ACC champions according to ESPN’s FPI, which has the Tigers’ likelihood of winning the league at more than 50% after Week 3. That numbered will be altered significantly two weeks from now when Clemson hosts N.C. State in an ACC Atlantic showdown that will go a long way in determining the top of the conference at midseason. D.J. Uiagalelei threw two touchdown passes in Saturday’s win over Louisiana Tech.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 5
The Big Ten’s second-strongest team according to ESPN’s updated FPI, Michigan has a 16.3% chance at winning the East Division over Ohio State and getting to the league’s championship game for a second straight season. Even if that doesn’t happen happen, the Wolverines will have a shot at reaching the College Football Playoff if their only loss of the season comes to the Buckeyes. That’s getting ahead of ourselves, however. Michigan still has several tough matchups ahead, including Penn State and Michigan State, among others.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 2
The return of Jaxon Smith-Njigba meant great things to Ohio State’s lineup against Toledo even if the nation’s most talented receiver failed to reach the end zone. The Buckeyes lit up the scoreboard for a Ryan Day-era best 77 points behind five touchdown passes from Heisman candidate C.J. Stroud. According to ESPN’s FPI, Ohio State is now the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten and get to the final four at 51%. The Buckeyes have a 67.8% chance of reaching the playoff, which is one of the highest totals nationally.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 1
The overwhelming favorite to get to the College Football Playoff and win the national title this season going into Week 3 per ESPN’s FPI, Alabama clobbered Louisiana Monroe on Saturday to remove any remaining cobwebs from the near-upset loss at Texas. Alabama’s shot at winning the SEC dwindled to 36% with the new numbers, however. The Crimson Tide poured it on and took out their frustrations on a team coached by Terry Bowden that couldn’t match Alabama’s talent level or depth. The FPI considers Alabama to be Georgia’s biggest threat nationally despite the eye-test rankings saying something different coming out of Week 3.
Last week’s FPI ranking: No. 3
There’s a new No. 1 this week. ESPN’s FPI now favors Georgia as the projected SEC champion after a quarter of the season following the Bulldogs’ beating of South Carolina. The Bulldogs finally allowed their first touchdown of the season defensively, but they held a 48-point lead when the Gamecocks scored on Georgia’s second-teamers. Tight end Brock Bowers scored a career-best three times and Stetson Bennett was flawless through 2.5 quarters. Georgia has a 53% chance of reaching the national championship game, according to ESPN’s updated FPI.
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