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Wisconsin football: ESPN’s Football Power Index is high on the Badgers in 2020

Paul Chryst and company are ranked the No. 4 team in the whole danged country by FPI.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ESPN is the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” so they have a rankings system for just about everything. For football, they have the Football Power Index (FPI). They describe it as such:

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 20,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule. Ratings and projections update daily.

FPI is a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. The ultimate goal of FPI is not to rank teams 1 through 128; rather, it is to correctly predict games and season outcomes.

With all that being said, the Wisconsin Badgers are a 2020 FPI darling currently. They are ranked No. 4 in the whole nation, behind only the Clemson Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes and Alabama Crimson Tide. That would put the Badgers squarely in the College Football Playoff discussion, btw.

ESPN goes even further and predicts each game of the season.

Wisconsin Badgers 2020 FPI Schedule Predictions

Date Opponent FPI Opponent Location Wisconsin win %
Date Opponent FPI Opponent Location Wisconsin win %
Friday, Sept. 4 23rd Indiana Camp Randall 86.2
Saturday, Sept. 12 N/A Southern Illinois Camp Randall 99.5
Saturday, Sept. 19 43rd App. State Camp Randall 92.6
Saturday, Sept. 26 19th Michigan Michigan Stadium 72.7
Saturday, Oct. 3 16th Notre Dame Lambeau Field 73.5
Saturday, Oct. 10 30th Minnesota Camp Randall 88.9
Saturday, Oct 24 79th Maryland Capital One Field 94.5
Saturday, Oct. 31 53rd Illinois Camp Randall 94.8
Saturday, Nov. 7 25th Northwestern Wrigley Field 82.2
Saturday, Nov. 14 47th Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium 88.2
Saturday, Nov. 21 40th Nebraska Camp Randall 91.9
Saturday, Nov. 28 22nd Iowa Kinnick Stadium 75.5

The game the Badgers are most likely to lose, according to the predictive model, is at Michigan...and the Wolverines only have a 27.3% chance of winning!

Now, this doesn’t mean that FPI thinks the Badgers are going undefeated in 2020. In fact, Wisconsin only has a 6.7% of doing that which is the fifth highest chance of any team in the nation. UCF moves ahead of Wisconsin in this category but the Golden Knights also have a far easier schedule.

FPI has the Badgers going 10.8-2.1, or 11-2 if we are going to use our rounding skills, and winning the B1G West division 85.9% of the time (which would be third of all teams who compete in divisions). UW is given a 33.1% chance of winning the conference, behind only Ohio State who has a hair under 50% chance of winning the B1G.

Wisconsin actually has a higher chance of making the Playoff than they do of winning the B1G, clocking in at 33.5% to make the final four. Now, this all seems great, right? Sure, but don’t think for a second that some of these B1G games are going to be as big a blowout as FPI thinks right now.

Winning at Michigan is never easy, playing Appalachian State is a fool’s errand with no real upside and traveling to Iowa on the last weekend of the regular season with a division title potentially on the line? Hoooo boy, would that be a nail-biting game to watch.

And none of this has even mentioned that Wisconsin will be playing without record-breaking tailback Jonathan Taylor for the first time in three years. It will be interesting to see how some of these percentages change throughout the season as more data is fed into the machine.