College football rankings: Overrated, underrated teams in ESPN's 2024 FPI poll

After ESPN revealed its preseason 2024 college football rankings, we take a look at what teams didn't quite belong where they wound up.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With just a dozen Saturdays left to go to the start of the 2024 season, ESPN revealed its annual preseason 133-team college football rankings, basing their results on the work of its Football Power Index analytic model. And, as usual, there will be plenty of disagreement over those rankings.

Read More: ESPN preseason 2024 college football rankings

The recent conference realignment moves have all but ensured that the SEC and Big Ten will dominate any rankings from now going forward, and that was the case in the FPI poll, as well.

That had the effect of leaving ACC and Big 12 teams out of consideration near the top of the rankings. Which teams were overrated, and underrated, in the ESPN preseason poll?

Overrated, Underrated College Football Teams in ESPN's Rankings

Underrated: No. 27 Utah

Not only did the FPI put the Utes outside the top 25 rankings, but the index also kept them behind four other teams in the expanded Big 12, a highly questionable decision.

Cameron Rising returns to the starting quarterback role after missing last season with a knee injury, and he's surrounded by top-flight talent at wide receiver and tight end.

Utah's defense remains more of a question, but Kyle Whittingham and his assistants have always been able to put a quality product on the field on that side of the ball. Utah is our No. 1 team in the Big 12 and our favorite to win the conference title.

Overrated: No. 6 Penn State

James Franklin had to replace both his coordinators and lost important talent on the offensive line, pieces that he needed to help give his young quarterback some quality protection.

He appears to have decent replacements lined up for those roles, but questions remain around whether Drew Allar can properly develop his downfield game and threaten secondary defenses.

Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen return to the backfield to stabilize the offense, and enough of Penn State's top-ranked defense from a year ago, including edge rusher Abdul Carter, is also back.

Underrated: No. 16 Ole Miss

Another puzzling suggestion from FPI drops the Rebels out of the top 15 and only projects they will win 7.9 games, which is to say 8 games, with an expected 8-4 regular season record.

That's good for just ninth in the SEC rankings, and to win the conference championship, which the index forecasts the Rebs will win with just 2.3 percent likelihood.

That prediction doesn't gel with what Lane Kiffin has built and improved upon this offseason. Not only will quarterback Jaxson Dart and wide receiver Tre Harris return, but Ole Miss scored key transfers.

Walter Nolen and Princely Umanmielen will seriously beef up the Rebels' pass rushing capacity, and tailback Henry Parrish is a quality replacement for outgoing Quinshon Judkins.

Overrated: No. 14 Texas A&M

A head coaching change and another transfer portal exodus may be too much to consider the Aggies for a position in the preseason top 15.

Mike Elko is someone who is familiar with the program, having served as defensive coordinator, and he did bring on some high-profile transfer acquisitions of his own.

Big Ten sacks leader Nic Scourton is among them, coming over from Purdue, and the addition of ex-Florida linebacker Scooby Williams is notable, both adding to a quality front seven rotation.

And the return of Conner Weigman at quarterback, paired with dynamic skill threats at receiver and back, makes A&M one of our more exciting teams to watch in 2024.

FPI projects the Aggies will win 7.6 games, the lowest total among its top 15 ranked teams, and the schedule gets harder with an expanded SEC that now includes rival Texas.

Underrated: No. 4 Ohio State

We were surprised to find the Buckeyes anywhere below No. 2 in the national rankings, and even more so to find them behind newcomer Oregon in the Big Ten.

FPI lists the Ducks as the favorites to win the B1G title at 37.5 percent, followed by Ohio State, sitting in second at 25.7 percent.

The index also projects Oregon will win 10.8 games compared to OSU at 10.2 wins this season, implying it favors the Ducks to beat the Buckeyes head-to-head in October at Autzen.

Ohio State raided the transfer portal this offseason and came away with high-profile additions like Caleb Downs, the former Alabama safety, veteran quarterback Will Howard out of Kansas State, and two-time SEC rushing champ Quinshon Judkins, the ex-Ole Miss back.

That's in addition to highly-valuable returning players like Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau in the front seven, wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, and tailback TreVeyon Henderson.


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James Parks


James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.