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ESPN’s Football Power Index has Utah favored in 11 games this year, BYU in 6 and USU in 3

In ESPN’s newest Football Power Index predictions for the 2020 season, Utah is favored in 11 games, BYU in six and Utah State in three.
Deseret News and Associated Press photos

The college football season is 123 days away, with Utah and BYU kicking things off at Rice-Eccles Stadium and Utah State taking on Washington State at Maverik Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 3. While a lot can change from now until then, those games could be played without fans in the stands or possibly not at all.

Until the ball is sailing through the air on the first kickoff of the college football season, tide yourself over with ESPN’s newest Football Power Index predictions for the 2020 season.

Last season, ESPN’s preseason FPI predictions for local teams ranged between stunningly accurate (preseason FPI predicted the correct outcome for 11 out of 12 of Utah’s 2019 regular season games), accurate (preseason FPI predicted the correct outcome for 10 out of 12 of Utah State’s 2019 regular season games) and not-so-accurate (preseason FPI predicted the correct outcome for seven of 12 2019 BYU regular season games).

ESPN defines FPI like this:

FPI is a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. The ultimate goal of FPI is not to rank teams 1 through 128; rather, it is to correctly predict games and season outcomes. If Vegas ever published the power rankings it uses to set its lines, they would likely look quite a lot like FPI.

Of course, it’s important to point out that FPI percentages are the likelihood of outcomes, not certainties, as ESPN writes. For example, a team given a 75% chance to win by FPI by should lose one out of every four times if the system is correct.

Here is a table from ESPN, which tracked how often a favored FPI team won, given its FPI percentage chance to win, to better illustrate the point.

FPI favorites in FBS-only games

FPI % chance to win Actual win %
FPI % chance to win Actual win %
50-60% 57%
60-70% 65%
70-80% 73%
80-90% 84%
90-100% 96%
ESPN

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a full breakdown of what FPI takes into account and its accuracy — 75% accurate across all NCAA football games last season.

Here is 2020’s version, complete with game-by-game predictions for the three local Division I football teams — along with a breakdown of the games that FPI got right and wrong last season.


Utah Utes

FPI rank: 24

Projected record: 8.6-3.7

Schedule (with FPI matchup predictor percentage)

BYU (Utah 85.7%)

Montana State (Utah 97.2%)

at Wyoming (Utah 71%)

at Cal (Utah 52.5%)

USC (USC 60.9%)

at Washington State (Utah 68.9%)

Washington (Utah 63.7%)

at UCLA (Utah 64%)

Arizona (Utah 82.5%)

Oregon Sate (Utah 85.7%)

at Arizona State (Utah 63%)

at Colorado (Utah 76.3%)

Final tally: Favored in 11 games, underdogs in one

How FPI fared last season

In 2019, preseason FPI had the Utes favored in 10 games (BYU, Northern Illinois, Idaho State, Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona State, Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Colorado). The two games where Utah was not favored were against USC and Washington. Utah went 11-1 in the 2019 regular season, with its only loss coming against USC.

Games predicted correctly: 11 — BYU (W), NIU (W), Idaho State (W), WSU (W), OSU (W), ASU (W), Cal (W), UCLA (W), Arizona (W), Colorado (W), USC (L)

Games predicted incorrectly: 1 — Washington (W)

Accuracy: 11 of 12 (91.7%)


BYU Cougars

FPI rank: 74

Projected record: 5.4-6.6

Schedule (with FPI matchup predictor percentage)

at Utah (Utah 85.7%)

Michigan State (BYU 60.2%)

at Arizona State (ASU 71.6%)

at Minnesota (Minnesota 84.6%)

Utah State (BYU 73%)

Missouri (BYU 51.1%)

Houston (Houston 59.4%)

at Northern Illinois (BYU 58.6%)

at Boise State (BSU 76.5%)

San Diego State (BYU 57.4%)

North Alabama (BYU 99.3%)

at Stanford (Stanford 82.8%)

Final tally: Favored in six games, underdogs in six

How FPI fared last season

In 2019, preseason FPI had the Cougars favored in eight games (Toledo, South Florida, Boise State, Utah State, Liberty, Idaho State, UMass, San Diego State) and underdogs in four (Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington). BYU finished 7-5 in the regular season.

Games predicted correctly: 7 — Utah (L), Washington (L), Boise State (W), Utah State (W), Liberty (W), Idaho State (W), UMass (W)

Games predicted incorrectly: 5 — Tennessee (W), USC (W), Toledo (L), South Florida (L), San Diego State (L)

Accuracy: 7 of 12 (58.3%)


Utah State Aggies

FPI rank: 105

Projected record: 4.5-7.5

Schedule (with FPI matchup predictor percentage)

Washington State (WSU 69.5%)

Southern Utah (USU 94.5%)

at Washington (Washington 92.6%)

at BYU (BYU 73%)

San Diego State (SDSU 62.8%)

at Boise State (BSU 90.9%)

New Mexico (USU 69.5%)

at Nevada (Nevada 64%)

at Wyoming (Wyoming 80.5%)

Fresno State (USU 56.4%)

at Colorado State (CSU 68.3%)

Air Force (AFA 67%)

Final tally: Favored in three games, underdogs in nine

How FPI fared last season

In 2019, preseason FPI had the Aggies favored in five games (Stony Brooke, Colorado State, Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico) and underdogs in seven (Wake Forest, San Diego State, LSU, Air Force, BYU, Fresno State and Boise State). USU finished the regular season with a record of 7-5.

Games predicted correctly: 10 — Wake Forest (L), Stony Brook (W), Colorado State (W), LSU (L), Nevada (W), Air Force (L), BYU (L), Wyoming (W), Boise State (L), New Mexico (W)

Games predicted incorrectly: 2 — San Diego State (W), Fresno State (W)

Accuracy: 10 of 12 (83.3%)