ESPN FPI, Alabama Crimson Tide, win predictions are mostly good, but not all

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Tracking the updated ESPN FPI win predictions for the Alabama Crimson Tide reveals some debatable numbers, but there is no doubt about the Tide’s SOS.

Alabama Crimson Tide fans, like every other college football fanbase, wonder about the ESPN FPI. The algorithm is closely held by ESPN. As a predictive model, its primary goal is not ranking all the teams, but rather to predict game outcomes.

As the season progresses, more data is available on each team. In the second half of the season, the accuracy of game predictions should go up. More simply stated, a preseason predictive model is a work in progress. Using any algorithm or mathematical system, five-plus months in advance of a season is problematic.

The ESPN FPI rankings do provide a legitimate early assessment of Strength of Schedule (SOS). Much debate the last two years has been about the toughness of the Big 10 as a conference. If it has been the toughest conference, and we are not conceding it has been, 2020 will be different.

Based on the recent ESPN FPI, there are six SEC teams in the Top 15 for 2020. The B1G has three. Check out the full Top 15 below.

  1. Clemson Tigers
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes
  3. Alabama Crimson Tide
  4. Wisconsin Badgers
  5. Georgia Bulldogs
  6. LSU Tigers
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions
  8. Oregon Ducks
  9. Auburn Tigers
  10. Oklahoma Sooners
  11. Texas Longhorns
  12. Florida Gators
  13. Southern Cal Trojans
  14. Central Florida
  15. Texas A&M Aggies

Back to the Alabama Crimson Tide SOS. Of the five other SEC teams listed, Alabama plays four of them. Plus the Tide plays another Top 15 in its opener, Southern Cal. This early SOS will change during the course of the season. Until it does, a fair claim is the Alabama schedule strength should make a one-loss Crimson Tide a CFB Playoff lock.

Getting back to predicting game outcomes, ESPN has the Crimson Tide with less than an 80 percent chance of winning in only three, regular-season games. The lowest win probability is 57.6 percent at LSU. Next is the Georgia game at 72.5 percent and then Auburn at 78.9 percent. Three games have the Tide at under 90 percent win probability. They are Southern Cal at 80.7 percent, Texas A&M at 86.5 percent and Tennessee at 89.8 percent.

A road game in Knoxville against an improved Tennessee team carries risk. Without an algorithm to back up a claim, my guess the Vols chances are well below 10 percent. LSU has so much to rebuild, another guess is the Tide should be in a low-to-mid 60s percentage of winning in Baton Rouge. For the record, Auburn is not going to win in Tuscaloosa. Maybe the team best known for bizarre variables has maybe a 10-12 percent chance of upsetting the Crimson Tide.

Enough for quibbling with ESPN. We should thank them for having some content to debate.

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