Oklahoma football: ESPN’s Power Index ranks Texas ahead of OU

If this doesn’t rub Oklahoma football fans the wrong way, nothing will.

The 2020 ESPN College Football Power Index ranks the Texas Longhorns ahead of Oklahoma. If that isn’t bad enough, the latest rendition of the FPI gives Texas a 51.7 percent chance of winning the Big 12 this season to Oklahoma’s 25.4 percent chance.

ESPN describes the meaning of the Football Power Index this way:

“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.”

Texas is ranked as the No. 6 team in the country in the most recent FPI rankings; Oklahoma in No. 8. This is in direct contrast to the two major weekly national polls, which have the Sooners at No. 3 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the Coaches Poll, and Texas No. 8 (Coaches Poll) and No. 9 (AP).

The distinction between the computer-generated FPI and the two major human polls is that one (FPI) is a prospective measurement while the other (human polls) is a retrospective measurement based on past results.

One game does not make a Texas or Oklahoma football season

Both OU and Texas opened the 2020 season this past weekend, with both teams predictably winning big. The Sooners, behind new starting quarterback Spencer Rattler, blew past Missouri State 48-0, while Texas easily disposed of the University of Texas-El Paso 59-3. While both quarterbacks set school records on Saturday, the clear difference in the two wins was that the Sooners’ was against an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) while the Longhorns took on an opponent its own size, or at least in the same subdivision (Football Bowl Subdivision).

A 1-0 record clearly is not predictive of a championship season, but we’d have to agree that Texas’ opening-game victory is a better win that Oklahoma’s, which came against a team that was just 1-10 a year ago and resides at a level one down from the FBS.

O.K., so Texas wins round one. There is no way looking forward you can conclude that the Longhorns will end the season with a better record than the Sooners. FPI projects that Texas will lose up to two games this season, and that Oklahoma will lose three times. Both teams rarely lose at home, but road contests are a different story.

Under Tom Herman, Texas is just 8-6 in road contests the past three seasons. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been an excellent road team, winning 24 of its last 25 true road games. While some believe this will be Texas’ year in the annual Red River rivalry game with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners have won seven of the last 10 games against their archrival.

According to FPI, Texas has a 42.5 percent chance of getting to the College Football Playoff this season to 18.6 percent for Oklahoma. Texas is given a 16.9 percent chance of winning a Playoff game this season; the Sooners just 6.0 percent.

The experts tell you “numbers don’t lie” and “you are what your record says you are.”

We’ll revisit this at the midseason mark or after the first five games, by which time Oklahoma will already have met and the Sooners will have traveled to both Iowa State and TCU. If the Sooners are 5-0 at that juncture, and with an easier schedule the second half of the season, it will be difficult to knock them off the top rung. I want to see how the FPI sizes up the season going forward from that point.