Alabama surprisingly not No. 1 in ESPN's initial 2017 FPI rankings
Though Alabama returns most of its key contributors on offense heading into the 2017 season, ESPN’s FPI rankings aren’t sold on the Crimson Tide remaining the top squad in college football.
According to the initial 2017 FPI rankings, coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are the No. 1 team in the country, with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide checking in at No. 2.
The ESPN rankings, which can be seen here, note that the FPI is not a predictor of wins or which teams will make the four-team College Football Playoff at the end of the season, instead relying on different measures to predict future success:
The model comprises four major components: the last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams, with the most recent season counting most; information on offensive and defensive returning starters, with special consideration given to a team returning its starting quarterback or gaining a transfer quarterback with experience; a four-year average recruiting ranking of four systems (ESPN, Scouts, Rivals and Phil Steele); and head coaching tenure. These four components interact and are assigned different weights depending on the team to produce preseason FPI.
No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Auburn round out the top-five teams in the rankings, with LSU checking in at No. 6.
Alabama finished with the top-ranked 2017 recruiting class, while Ohio State checked in at No. 2 overall. However, with eight returning offensive starters and seven returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes were given the edge in the initial FPI rankings.
Though it’s not a big deal this early in the offseason to be ranked No. 2, you’d better believe Saban and his coaching staff will take it as an insult and use it to motivate the players this spring.