Why ESPN's FPI Three-Loss Prediction is Questionable at Best

Looking deeper, there's a particular rating for Georgia that doesn't really add up. ESPN's Football Power Index does not appear to factor scheduling into its rankings.
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Sure, it's still way too early to be ranking teams for the 2021 season. However, that didn't stop ESPN from releasing its first Football Power Index (FPI) index. Not surprisingly, Alabama is listed No. 1. Surprisingly, Mississippi State is featured in the top 10. What's most surprising is seeing Georgia listed at No. 7 on the board, behind teams like Texas A&M and Iowa State. 

A lot of this has to do with what the Bulldogs lost. It is hard to replace players like linebacker Azeez Ojulari, cornerback Eric Stokes and wide receiver George Pickens. However, Georgia still returns 15 of 22 starters from a season ago, including one of the nation's top quarterbacks, JT Daniels. The front seven on defense has the potential to be nothing short of exceptional, along with young talented players in the back end of a program that's allowed 20.0 points per game or fewer each of the last four seasons. 

But looking deeper, there's a particular rating for Georgia that doesn't really add up. ESPN's FPI does not appear to factor scheduling into its rankings. They have UGA going 9-3. Georgia plays Clemson to start the season, and the Bulldogs could surely lose that game. 

However, where do the other losses come from? 

The rest of UGA's non-conference schedule consists of the Blazers of UAB, Charleston-Southern and Georgia Tech. The UAB Blazers are a group of 5 team, and typically a pretty good one at that. Charleston-Southern is an FCS team that's part of a group of college programs playing a spring football season. And Georgia Tech is still working on rebuilding the program with head coach Geoff Collins at the helm. None of those games scream upset, and Georgia should be able to handle them all with relative ease. 

With that being the case, let's have a look at UGA's conference schedule.

South Carolina (home): South Carolina is a team that has typically given Georgia issues in the past. Everyone remembers the 2019 upset at Sanford Stadium. The 2021 version of South Carolina is a team that is starting from scratch. 

After firing Will Muschamp during the 2020 season, the Gamecocks hired Oklahoma assistant coach Shane Beamer to be their new head coach. There isn't a lot here to look at right now, although Beamer may be a threat in future years. UGA having South Carolina early in the schedule, wanting revenge for the 2019 upset, and returning as much talent as they do this year can only end one way. 

Vanderbilt (away):  Vanderbilt had a tough year in 2021. A fired head coach, a roster riddled by coronavirus positives, and a canceled trip to Athens forcing Georgia to go without Senior Day for program staples like Monty Rice, Richard LeCounte, Ben Cleveland, and many more. They lost every game in 2020 that they did play, and headed into 2021, the Vegas over/under for wins is projected around 3.0.

Arkansas (home): Arkansas is an interesting team. By all accounts, Sam Pittman outperformed what was expected with his Razorbacks squad in 2020. The addition of transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks worked wonders for them. They even led UGA at halftime last year. The problem is that Franks is no longer there, and UGA is offensively a much stronger team this year than they were when they played to begin the 2020 campaign. Arkansas will probably still be a middle-of-the-road SEC West team, but they could potentially put up a fight against UGA. 

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Auburn (away): Bryan Harsin takes over the reins of the Tigers from long-time head coach Gus Malzahn. Harsin is new to the SEC in 2021, and he will get a chance to get his feet wet at Auburn before the SEC blue bloods come to town. Auburn plays its first SEC opponent in Week 5 when they head to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers before they play host to Georgia. 

Perhaps Harsin can get his guys up for one major SEC opponent this season, but we aren't buying it. 

Kentucky (home): This is a team that has played Georgia close the last two seasons. Kentucky vs. UGA games are more often known for being physical, knock-down, drag-out, slugfest style games. Don't expect that to be much different in 2021, but there's a crucial issue from 2020 that likely won't be fixed in 2021. 

In the 2020 rendition of the game, Joey Gatewood was the quarterback for the Wildcats, and never once attempted a pass longer than 15 yards. Georgia's defensive strength is its front seven, and that's just a bad matchup for Kentucky. 

Florida (home): Florida flat-out dominated the last rendition of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but they have lost a majority of their offensive firepower. Emory Jones will likely be the quarterback for the Gators next season, and he's not exactly a proven commodity. The hopefulness surrounding that quarterback situation is just that, hope. It will be hard to replace players like wide receiver Kadarius Toney and tight end Kyle Pitts. Defensively, they still have a lot of questions although the front four will be stout. Florida is due for a step back this fall. 

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Missouri (home): Missouri might be the second-best team in the SEC East next year, and that's not an overstatement. This is a team that has been sneakily competitive in about every year it's been in the SEC, and the Tigers return a lot of talent from their 2020 squad. There's plenty of positivity surrounding what Mizzou head coach Eli Drinkwitz accomplished in his first year with the Tigers. However, he and sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak still appear to be a year away from hanging with a program like Georgia for four quarters. 

Tennessee (away): Vanderbilt may be in a better situation than Tennessee. The absolute DEBACLE of a Drama that occurred for the head coaching position at the school at the end of 2020 led to a mass exodus from the program, and for a while, Tennessee had fewer scholarship players on its roster than Vanderbilt. 

There are questions about potential NCAA sanctions looming, a new athletics director, a new head football coach and an entirely new staff.

So look, there it is. The full schedule. Where are the three losses?

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