USC QB Kedon Slovis was on the short list for the Heisman Memorial Trophy before we’ve had to adjust the season schedule a few times now but at this rate, with most major awards off the table, the Pac-12 Championship is the main goal for all 12 teams in the conference.
One entity that made USC their darling as a product of their analytics is ESPN and their Football Power Index.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) generates an index for every team in major college football, or the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). This number measures team’s true strength on a net points scale; expected point margin vs average opponent on a neutral field.
It is said to be the measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward with the rest of each specific season. The FPI represents a value of points above or below average for a team. It also generates a projected result based upon 20,000 simulations of the rest of the season’s scheduled games, or in this case, all six of the newly-scheduled games on the Pac-12 season.
ESPN updates these numbers daily and are certainly subject to change quite rapidly in this season that is 2020.
Using their FPI to look at each of USC’s six games scheduled, we can take a look at the projected win-loss record, or should I say, the win-win record for USC this year.
Week 1 — vs Arizona State Sun Devils
ESPN grants USC an 86.6% chance to win this game, noting ASU’s FPI is 3.7 and ranks just 51st in the country.
Week 2 — @ Arizona Wildcats
ESPN gives USC an 83.4% chance to win this game, seemingly gaining a bit on ASU, likely because of home-field advantage. The home-field advantage aspect, however, is certainly reliant too heavily on how many fans will be allowed in each stadium at this rate, and I’m not sure if this metric has factored in home-field advantage, or lack thereof in the Pac-12’s case.
Week 3 — @ Utah Utes
ESPN has USC with a 60.9% chance to win the game in Salt Lake City.
Week 4 — vs Colorado Buffaloes
The biggest game to date, and on the season overall, ESPN gives USC a 92.5% chance to knock off the Buffaloes.
Week 5 — vs Washington State Cougars
ESPN has USC with an 89.5% chance to win the game against new head coach Nick Rolovich and the Cougs.
Week 6 — @ UCLA Bruins
The battle for the Victory Bell rings heavily in USC’s favor this season as ESPN has the Trojans with an 81.8% chance to win this game.
Overall, ESPN has USC with an FPI rank of 17.5, or 12th in the country. It also has USC with 14.4% chance of winning out and a 29.5% chance of winning the conference this season.
So there we go — if anyone gets your hopes up this season — it wasn’t me. Although, it’ll probably be me at some point.