The 2021 ESPN FPI projections are out. Where did Rice football finish and how much stock should we put in these estimations?
ESPN recently released its 2021 Football Power Index (FPI), a statistic geared toward predicting team performance. Rice football (-11.7 FPI) checked in No. 11 in Conference USA, ahead of only UTEP (-20.1) in the West Division. On the opposite end of the spectrum, UAB and Marshall were the frontrunners.
2021 ESPN FPI
- UAB, 4.1
- Marshall, -3.9
- UTSA, -5.3
- WKU, -7.4
- FAU, -7.6
- MTSU, -8.9
- Southern Miss, -10.1
- LA Tech, -10.5
- Charlotte, -11
- North Texas, -11.4
- Rice, -11.7
- FIU, -17.9
- UTEP, -20.1
- ODU, -26.8
Despite the poor rank, FPI considers Rice to be a fringe bowl team. The numbers peg the Owls with a projected win-loss record of 4.8 – 7.2, essentially putting them a game away from a bowl berth. FPI gives Rice a 31.3 percent chance to reach that threshold. If they did, it would mean the first six-win season for the program since 2014.
The numbers look a bit peculiar, though, when compared to last season. Rice had an FPI of -6.7 in 2020, five full points higher than their -11.7 mark this year. That drop represents the largest in the conference, only superseded by Marshall who fell from 2.0 to -3.9, still a significant margin ahead of the Owls.
On the surface, that steep drop seems hard to defend. Rice loses Mike Collins, Austin Trammell and Blaze Alldredge from the starting ranks this year, but only had Alldredge for the bulk of last season to begin with.
The defense should be just as good, if not better. The offense must solve the quarterback question (again), but gets back a wide receiving corps that missed virtually all of 2020. From that standpoint, Rice would seem close to level footing with where they left off. Ultimately, the proof will be in the product on the field.
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