Alabama Football: ESPN does it again with ridiculous Auburn ranking

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football fans don’t always scrutinize preseason rankings closely. The Crimson Tide is so often at either No. 1 or No. 2, that checking out other teams is less interesting. After all, whatever the Tide’s preseason ranking, as Alabama fans know, in almost every case for the Alabama Crimson Tide to lose it must beat itself.

Last year we took a close look at the preseason ESPN FPI rankings. In our first review, we explained what the FPI is purported to be.

"it is an algorithm used by ESPN to predict game outcomes. Every game played during the season adjusts future predictions. Its accuracy is designed to improve throughout the season."

Without getting too deep into the weeds, the FPI does a pretty good job predicting games. In contrast, its preseason rankings are suspect – sometimes to the point of being laughable.

In a later post, we highlighted some of the flaws in ESPN’s preseason rankings. In the first ESPN FPI for the 2021 season, Mississippi State was ranked No. 8. Three months later, ESPN offered a correction, stating the initial rankings included data and modeling errors. The updated rankings moved Mississippi State from No. 8 to No. 24. The correction was still flawed as proved by the Bulldogs’ 7-6 season.

The revised rankings also blew it with the Miami Hurricanes. In the first 2021 preseason FPI, Miami was ranked No. 20. In the ‘corrected’ FPI, the Hurricanes were No. 10. The Canes finished the season at 7-5. As an aside, the Alabama vs. Miami game was broadcast by ABC, which like ESPN is part of the Disney Media Network.

Alabama Football and others in FPI Rankings

Getting back to the FPI and the 2022 season, Auburn is again highly over-valued. The initial 2021 preseason FPI ranked the Auburn Tigers at No. 16. The revised and ‘corrected’ FPI moved Auburn to No. 15. A preseason ranking as a top 15 team, that later became a Birmingham Bowl-losing 6-7 team was a glaring failure by the ESPN algorithm.

Like other football algorithms, the FPI has no correction for the off-the-field environment of programs. It would be hard for the environment in Auburn to be worse. The recently released 2022 preseason ESPN FPI has the Tigers at No. 10. There is no reason to pay attention to any calculation that projects a potentially six or seven loss team as No. 10 in the nation.

In the for-what-it’s-worth category; the 2022 ESPN FPI has the Texas Longhorns at No. 6. Texas A&M fans will not be pleased the FPI has Texas, Auburn and LSU ranked above them.

Next. Bold Predictions for A-Day Game. dark

The Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns game will likely be aired by Fox Sports.