ESPN’s Evil Prediction Machine versus the Pac-12

Jon Joseph Editorials

Any college football (CFB) fan with anything more than a passing interest in the game knows that it is next to impossible to escape CFB’s ESPN media supremacy including The Worldwide Leader’s ubiquitous  prediction machine, the Football Power Index (FPI).

In the near future I will be offering up my preseason 2016 CFB Dandy Dozen; the 12 teams that I believe will finish one through 12 in this coming season’s ultimate Playoff Committee ranking.  While I have never suffered from an extreme dose of humility I do recognize that the recently released FPI predictions for 2016 have a slightly greater national impact  than my mere musings.

I thought it would be far more important and far more interesting for readers to see how the FPI views the upcoming season when it comes to the top 12 teams, the top Group of 5 team, the projected Power 5 champions, the projected Playoff and ‘Big Bowl’ participants, the ranking of the Pac-12 teams and strength of schedule (SOS) rankings for the top teams and for the Power 5 conferences. So, what is this FPI, how accurate has it been in the Playoff era and like the other 2016 preseason polls does The Machine kick Left Coast teams to the curb?

  1. How Is The FPI Determined? The FPI uses four principle criteria: a team’s last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams weighted toward most recent performance; a team’s returning starters with an emphasis on the QB position including a quality QB transfer; recruiting based on a four year average of recruiting rankings by ESPN, Scout, Rivals and Phil Steele; and lastly, the coaching tenure of a team’s head coach. Of course there is some voodoo involved; as the FPI web site explains, the four factors “are assigned different weights depending on the team.”

Comment – Whether this different weighting being considered by The Machine includes a head coach totaling his motorcycle with his mistress on back is unfortunately unknown.

Oregon looks to keep its PAC12 North hopes alive as they travel to Palo Alto to take on the Cardinal of Stanford at Stanford Stadium on November 14, 2015.

Oregon looks to keep its PAC12 North hopes alive as they travel to Palo Alto to take on the Cardinal of Stanford at Stanford Stadium on November 14, 2015.

  1. How Has The FPI Performed? In 2014 The Machine predicted three out of four Playoff participant’s, missing out only on Ohio State. The FPI went Playoff 0-4 in 2015, but the Final Four teams were all in the FPI 2015 top 20. However, in 2015, the FPI correctly predicted the straight-up outcomes of 78% of FBS games coming in better than the Las Vegas Index and 11 out of 12 of ESPN’s human experts did. It figures that the only guy to defeat The Machine in 2015 was an Alabama graduate, Greg McElroy. For seven teams The Machine went undefeated including predictions for CAL, Clemson and Notre Dame and the crafty computer missed only once in its predictions for 33% of FBS teams.

Comment – Anyone who occasionally wagers a shekel or two knows that this performance is none too shabby.

  1. What Are The FPI’s 2016 Projected Dandy Dozen, Group of 5 Rep and The Big Bowls?

Top 12 – 1. LSU/  2. FSU/  3. Oklahoma/  4. Clemson/ 5. Tennessee/ 6. Alabama/ 7. Mississippi/ 8. USC/  9. Georgia/ 10. Oklahoma State/ 11. Michigan/ 12. Louisville.  Group of 5 Team – Boise State.

Comment – With the FPI placing a major emphasis on recruiting it is no surprise that 5 SEC teams are in the top 12 and that the FPI continues its love affair with a Southern Cal team that it has consistently overrated.

  1. The Projected Playoff and Big Bowls –

Playoff Bowls – Peach – LSU vs Clemson

Fiesta – FSU v Oklahoma

Rose Bowl – USC vs Michigan/ Sugar Bowl – Tennessee vs Oklahoma State/ Cotton Bowl – Mississippi vs Boise State/ Orange Bowl – Alabama vs Louisville

Comment – Four SEC teams in the Playoff and Big Bowls? Three ACC teams including two in the Final Four? If this occurs you can expect that the B1G, Big 12 and Pac-12 powers-that-be and fans will go bat spit. As a guy who believes the Playoff field must expand, I would not mind this happening as it would take the field to 8 teams sooner rather than later. If this does happen and we hear no objection from Grand Pooh-Bah Larry Scott he must be shown the door. In my opinion, if Scott knew anything about CFB and the Pac-12 gauntlet in the first place he never would have agreed to a 4 team field.

  1. The Predicted Conference Champions –  
    Les Miles going for the prize?

    Les Miles going for the prize?


B1G – Michigan vs Nebraska – Michigan

Pac-12 – USC vs UW – USC

SEC – LSU vs Tennessee – LSU

B12 – Oklahoma

  1. Where Does The Machine Rank The Conference of Champion Teams?
  2. USC / 13. UW/ 18. Stanford/ 19. UCLA/ 28. Oregon/ 32. Arizona/ 37. Utah/ 40. Washington State/
  3. ASU/ 49. CAL/ 59. CU/ 73. Oregon State

Comment – As noted above, the FPI has a love affair with the Trojans that to date has been unrequited. Nebraska is ranked at 25, so it looks like the Cornhuskers will be FPI favored when the Ducks trip to Lincoln?

  1. What About SOS?

10 Toughest –

  1. USC/ 2. Ole Miss/ 3. FSU/ 4. CAL/ 5. Alabama/ 6. LSU/ 7. UCLA/ 8. Syracuse/ 9. TX A+M/ 10. Arkansas

10 Easiest –

  1. Minnesota/ 2. Michigan/ 3. Purdue/ 4. Maryland/ 5. Nebraska/ 6. BC/ 7. Baylor/ 8. Wake/ 9. Indiana/
  2. Iowa

The Pac-12 has eight teams ranked in the SOS top 20, as does the SEC. The ACC and Big 12 each have two teams so ranked. The toughest B1G schedule? Ohio State at 31.

Over-rated ... again.

Over-rated … again.

Pac-12 2016 SOS Rankings – 1. USC/ 4. CAL/ 7. UCLA/ 12. OR ST/ 14. Utah/ 18. Oregon/ 19. CU/ 32. ASU

  1. WA ST/ 46. Arizona/ 50. UW

Comment – This four team Playoff thing is most definitely not a fair fight! Especially as the Playoff Committee has no standard SOS metric and the Committee basically ignored SOS in 2015 when it kicked AP final No. 3 Stanford to the curb. The B1G should simply go to its room without supper. FPI projected No. 4 Clemson plays the weakest schedule in a weak ACC facing but five teams that went bowling in 2015, two that finished at 7-6. With 66.6% of its teams in the top 20 of the 2016 SOS rankings The Conference of Champions most definitely starts off behind the Playoff eight ball.

If the Pac-12 does not receive credit from the Playoff Committee for this kind of scheduling then its teams should go the Baylor route in out of conference play. As a competitor, I jest. The Pac should not wimp out because the system as did the BCS, frankly sucks. Rather, Larry Scott needs to stand up and insist that the field include all of the Power 5 Champions. Tom Hansen gave away the Rose Bowl and Scott after the conference was screwed over by the BCS, nevertheless agreed to a system that will most likely bench the Pac Champion unless the team has the Heisman winning QB at the helm.

For the sake of us Left Coast CFB fans I sure hope that my upcoming 2016 projections and not The Machine’s are realized this season.

Top Photo from ESPN Video

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