ESPN’s Football Power Index isn’t very high on Notre Dame in 2020, at least not compared to other ranking methods that place the Fighting Irish in the Top 10. The #16 ranking by the FPI is a bit of a head scratcher, but the strength of schedule ranking might be an indicator.
The same FPI that ranks the Irish as the nation’s #16 team in the preseason ranks the Notre Dame schedule as the nation’s 13th toughest as it currently stands.
According to the FPI, Notre Dame will face a pair of Top 5 opponents in 2020, and four of the Fighting Irish opponents rank in the Top 20. Three of Notre Dame's opponents enter the season ranked ahead of the Irish in the FPI, which is partly what the FPI projects Notre Dame to go 8-4.
Clemson ranks #1 in the latest edition of the FPI, a ranking that makes sense. Wisconsin ranking #4 is much harder to grasp. The Badgers finished the 2019 season with a 10-4 record, although three of its losses were to Top 5 teams (two losses to Ohio State and a loss to Oregon).
The Badgers must replace two-time 2,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor at running back, the nation's best center, a pair of linebackers that combined for 33.5 tackles for loss and 24 sacks last season and its top wideout.
USC being #13 is interesting. The Trojans certainly have the talent to finish ranked that high, but Clay Helton's squad is just 13-12 the last two seasons. Is this the year the Trojans finally put it all together? The hire of Todd Orlando to run the defense should help.
Louisville ranking #20 makes a lot of sense to me when you consider how much talent and depth the Cardinals bring back from their 8-5 squad. Stanford checks in at #31 in the FPI rankings.
According to the FPI, Notre Dame faced the nation's 35th toughest schedule in 2019. The FPI began in 2011, and the 35th ranking makes for the lowest strength of schedule ranking for the Irish in the Brian Kelly era. Notre Dame had the 23rd toughest schedule in 2018 and the 2nd toughest schedule in 2017.
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