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ESPN’s Big 12 spring FPI rankings illogical

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ESPN released its spring football version of preseason FPI rankings, including the current odds for winning the Big 12 conference.

To explain what exactly the FPI rankings (Football Power Index) are, ESPN says, “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 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule. Ratings and projections update daily.”

Based on ESPN’s numbers: 

Oklahoma has the best chance to win its conference among Power 5 teams, with a 77 percent chance to earn the Big 12 title. The Big 12 championship game returns this season, featuring the top two teams in the conference since there are no divisions. There’s a 92 percent chance the Sooners reach the title game, according to FPI, while no other team has more than a 35 percent chance (TCU).

OK. Well, it certainly makes sense that the Sooners would be favored to win the Big 12 conference. They’ve won two straight conference titles, are 18-1 in conference play over that stretch and return a Heisman contender at quarterback. I’m totally fine with that. Granted, 77% seems a bit high in my book, and I think that’s blatant disrespect for the rest of the Big 12 conference by ESPN (are you surprised?).

The end of the study is beyond bizarre. Wait… TCU (?!) has the second-best chance to reach the Big 12 title game?! What the hell am I missing?

I am a huge Gary Patterson fan, but there is no way this Horned Frogs team led by Kenny Hill at QB and plenty of unanswered questions on defense, should have the second-best chance to make the trip to Arlington.

Here are ESPN’s current FPI odds for each Big 12 team winning the conference:

Baylor: 2.0%

Oklahoma: 76.6%
TCU: 8.8%
Texas: 5.7%
Oklahoma State: 4.2%
Kansas State: 2.3%
Baylor: 2.0%

Texas Tech: .3% 
West Virginia: .2%
Iowa State: 0%
Kansas: 0%

Where should we begin?!

Oklahoma State below Texas? Texas above everyone except TCU and Oklahoma? Longhorns biased much????

West Virginia, coming off a 10-win season and welcoming in a better quarterback at .2%? In fact, these numbers basically say Texas is 19-times more likely to win the Big 12 than is West Virginia (5.7/.3 for you math fans).

Kansas State’s odds are far too low. There is no way Texas is more than twice as likely to win the Big 12 than Kansas State.

I’m going to give you some numbers off the top of my head on what I think this list should look like.

The percentages need to all add up to 100%.

Oklahoma: 60%
Oklahoma State: 14%
Kansas State: 10%
West Virginia: 6%
Texas: 4%
TCU: 3%
Baylor: 2%
Iowa State: .6%
Texas Tech: .3% 
Kansas: .1%

I took about 5 minutes to put this together, so don’t hold me to it in 4 months… but at this point in the game, that’s roughly where I’d have things standing for the Big 12.

Sure, ESPN has all the fancy stats and simulations to calculate their FPI rankings. But sometimes we can rely too much on computers. Remember the great Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight’s prediction of the presidential election??

Ah, yes. Good times.

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