Sooners Replace Baylor at No. 1 in ESPN Football Power Index


Yes, you read the headline correctly. The Sooners are ranked No. 1 this week, ahead of undefeated Baylor, in the Week 10 ESPN Football Power Index.

Just one week ago, that same poll had Baylor at No. 1 followed by TCU, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Baylor dropped to No. 2 this week. TCU also dropped just one spot, to No. 3, despite losing by 20 points at Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Before you rise up out of your chair and question the plausibility of the ESPN Power Index, which is updated daily, it is important to understand that the FPI differs from the other weekly national rankings.

Unlike the Associated Press media poll, the Amway/USA Today Coaches Poll and other weekly rankings that rank the teams based on their season record and body of work through the games played to date, the ESPN Power Index is a forward-looking or prospective statistical projection of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the 2015 regular season.

Nov 7, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Mike Warren (2) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

According to the information provided on ESPN Football Power Index-2015 website, “projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.”

Just to be clear, this does not necessarily mean that the Sooners will win the Big 12 championship. Baylor is given a higher probability of capturing the league crown (37.6 percent to 18 percent), according to the current FPI projections. What it does mean is that Oklahoma projects out as a stronger team, and having played a more difficult schedule, than Baylor, TCU and even Oklahoma State, which hammered the Horned Frogs on Saturday and handed them their first loss of the season.

Interestingly, Oklahoma State, which moved up seven spots in the latest AP Top 25 to No. 5, ranks 13th in the ESPN Power Index, despite their win over TCU and having a 35.2 percent probability of taking the conference title.

The Sooners advanced a couple of spots in both the AP and the Coaches Poll this week – to No. 12 and 11, respectively – thanks both to their decisive win over Iowa State and several teams ahead of them in the rankings losing.

Of course, the only ranking that really matters this time of year is the one put out by the College Football Playoff committee, which currently has Baylor No. 6, TCU 8th, Oklahoma State 14th and the Sooners 15th. That is certain to change when the new rankings come out on Tuesday.

And it probably won’t be the last time, given the brutal, and some would say unfortunate, backloaded nature of the Big 12 schedule this season.

Oklahoma has control of its own destiny with games straight ahead with Baylor (this coming Saturday), TCU and Oklahoma State, but the Sooners are not likely to be favored in any of those matchups.

Big 12 officials are hopeful that the conference will get at least one team in this year’s college football Final Four, but they also harbor the fear that the four league title contenders will cancel each other out and leave the conference without a playoff representative for a second straight year.

The Sooners will definitely have a say in how the cards fall over the next three weeks. Good to know that there are others in the football prediction business who have similar thoughts.