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ESPN’s updated FPI is down on the Bears

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ESPN ain’t too impressed by Cal.

Cheez-It Bowl - California v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

ESPN just updated their Football Power Index (FPI) to predict the strength of teams in 2019. A team’s FPI score is a prediction of their margin of victory over the “average” team; a negative FPI means that team would lose to the “average” team by that many points.

I collected the Cal-relevant information in the following table; Cal-relevant includes the Pac-12 and our 2019 out-of-conference opponents. (Scores in the magnitude of ±300 function as effective “N/A”, but putting text like that in the table would mess up the sort function. So Ole Miss’s Pac-12 rank is 300 because they aren’t in the conference and Colorado’s opponent rank is 300 because we aren’t playing them next year.)

2019 FPI related to Cal

Nat'l rk P12 rk Opp rk Team Proj. W Proj. L Prob. win out Prob. win P12 SOS FPI
Nat'l rk P12 rk Opp rk Team Proj. W Proj. L Prob. win out Prob. win P12 SOS FPI
10 1 1 Oregon 9.7 2.9 2.4 35.2 44.0 16.7
17 2 2 Washington 9.1 3.3 1.3 19.9 29.0 13.5
20 3 3 UC L.A. 7.8 4.5 0.1 14.1 9.0 11.9
22 4 4 Utah 8.6 3.8 0.4 14.5 47.0 11.5
25 5 5 USC 6.7 5.5 0.0 7.0 2.0 10.0
30 6 6 WSU 7.4 4.7 0.1 2.2 50.0 8.4
33 7 7 Stanfurd 6.2 5.9 0.0 3.1 4.0 7.6
36 8 8 ASU 7.0 5.1 0.0 3.4 36.0 7.4
41 300 9 Ole Miss 5.8 6.2 0.0 0.0 12.0 6.1
51 9 300 Arizona 5.4 6.6 0.0 0.5 15.0 3.7
55 10 10 California 4.8 7.2 0.0 0.1 13.0 2.2
63 11 301 Colorado 4.0 8.1 0.0 0.0 6.0 0.3
84 12 11 OSU 3.1 8.9 0.0 0.0 8.0 -4.7
85 301 12 North Texas 7.8 4.5 0.1 0.0 125.0 -4.8
Nat’l rk = national rank; P12 rk = Pac-12 rank; Opp rk = rank for teams we’re facing in 2019. Proj. W & L = number of projected wins & losses. Prob. win out & Prob. win P12 = probability to go undefeated & to win the Pac-12 (which is 0 for non-Pac-12 teams). SOS = strength of schedule. ESPN

The California Golden Bears earned an FPI of 2.2, meaning we wouldn’t even be able to beat the average team by one full field goal. This corresponds to a national rank of 55th (out of 130 teams); FPI projects we would finish 5th in the Pac-12 North and 10th in the Pac-12. Rounding to the nearest number, ESPN predicts we will finish 5–7 with a 0.1% chance of winning the conference. Compared to their last version (posted back in February), our national rank is the same, but our FPI dropped from 2.8. Yeesh.

As for the other teams, they predict a huge turnaround for the UC L.A. Bruins to double their wins from last year and go on to the bowl season. The USC Trojans will rely on their talent to right their ship after last year while the vile Stanfurd Cardinal will only reach 6 wins—their fewest since 2008.

Based on FPI, Cal has the 13th-toughest schedule in the nation; the crazy thing is that we have the 6th-toughest schedule in the Pac-12 alone. That speaks volumes about how cutthroat our conference is and how tough our scheduling practices are.

Zooming in closer to their predictions for Cal in 2019, ESPN has predicted Cal’s win-loss record as it grows over the course of the season.

FPI predicts Cal’s 2019 schedule

Game no. Opponent Prob. Cal win Opp FPI Opp RPI rk Proj. Cal W Proj. Cal L
Game no. Opponent Prob. Cal win Opp FPI Opp RPI rk Proj. Cal W Proj. Cal L
1 UC Davis 92.0% -300 300 0.92 0.08
2 Washington 14.7% 13.5 17 1.07 0.93
3 North Texas 79.0% -4.8 85 1.86 1.14
4 Ole Miss 27.0% 6.1 41 2.13 1.87
5 ASU 43.8% 7.4 36 2.57 2.44
6 Oregon 9.6% 16.7 10 2.66 3.34
7 OSU 79.4% -4.7 84 3.46 3.55
8 Utah 18.2% 11.5 22 3.64 4.36
9 WSU 41.0% 8.4 30 4.05 4.95
10 USC 35.2% 10 25 4.40 5.60
11 Stanfurd 27.5% 7.6 33 4.67 6.33
12 UC L.A. 17.9% 11.9 20 4.85 7.15
ESPN

Per FPI, we’re only favorites in three games—one against FCS opposition and the other two are approaching 80%. These bad odds are why we only have an expected 4.9 wins and a bowl-less year. I’m not even going to bother putting up a poll here asking for your thoughts because there’s no doubt in my mind that the readers will declare the FPI is underrating the Bears and that we’ll be cruising past 4.9 wins.