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IU Football: ESPN’s FPI Model Predicts Another Strong Season for Indiana

If there is college football in 2020, at least one predictive model likes Indiana to string together consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1993-94.

ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) metric projects IU to be the No. 23 team in the country, compiling an estimated 7.7 wins during the 2020 campaign.

ESPN describes the FPI as “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.

The FPI was created in 2013 and factors in all three phases of the game.

“… Each team’s FPI rating is composed of a predicted offensive, defensive and special teams component. These ratings represent the number of points each unit is expected to contribute to the team’s net scoring margin on a neutral field against an average FBS opponent.

No doubt playing a role in the positive output from the model is Indiana’s returning production from an 8-5 2019 season.

“In the preseason, these components are made up entirely of data from previous seasons, such as returning starters, past performance, recruiting rankings and coaching tenure (more on the preseason component below). That information allows FPI to make predictions (and make determinations on the strength of a team’s opponents) beginning in Week 1, and then it declines in weight as the season progresses.”

The FPI model projects that Indiana is the sixth best team in the Big Ten overall, and the fourth best team in the East Division.  Although IU does of course have to face all of the usual suspects in their division, the schedule overall is manageable, coming in at No. 53 nationally according to ESPN.

On a game-by-game basis the model doesn’t expect many close matchups.  The Hoosiers are clear favorites or clear underdogs in each contest.

The unadjusted game-by-game data suggests another 8-4 season, with each win at a 76.2 percent or higher likelihood, and each loss at a 62.4 percent or higher chance.

The Hoosiers will be significant underdogs when they open the season on a Friday night in September in Wisconsin, but FPI projects that IU will follow that up with a six game winning streak.  Most noteworthy in those six games is a home contest against Michigan State that FPI favors the Hoosiers by a wide margin.  The Spartans are going through a coaching change and lost a significant amount of their production from 2019.

If IU were to win games two through seven, it would mark the program’s first six game winning streak since 1967.

A 6-1 start would set up a marquee Halloween showdown in Bloomington against Penn State, with trips to Columbus and Ann Arbor looming.  Of Indiana’s four predicted losses, that road contest against Michigan appears to be the one that the Hoosiers could potentially flip to their favor.  Michigan also lost a relatively significant amount of their 2019 production.

Finally, FPI likes IU to keep the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington with their sixth win over Purdue in the last eight meetings.

Here is the complete 2020 schedule with the accompany FPI estimate.

Opponent (FPI Win %)

  • at Wisconsin (13.8%)
  • vs. Western Kentucky (88.1%)
  • vs. Ball State (94.1%)
  • at UConn (95.2%)
  • vs. Maryland (89.2%)
  • at Rutgers (79.6%)
  • vs. Michigan State (85.1%)
  • vs. Penn State (25.4%)
  • at Ohio State (7.1%)
  • vs. Illinois (80.3%)
  • at Michigan (37.6%)
  • vs. Purdue (76.2%)

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