Last year, I analyzed how ESPN’s Football Power Index “FPI” had done in its predictions of how many wins and losses BYU would have each season. See here for a full breakdown of the FPI and the metrics used.
As noted in the Fan Insider article, FPI was way off in 2016 and 2017, but improved dramatically the following seasons with the football power index either correctly picking the end of season record, or was off by just one game. With more consistency in the program — Kalani coaching now in his 8th season — or perhaps some updates with FPI over the years, it seems the power index has found it’s groove for the Cougars.
So how did 2022 go? Well, just like FPI predicted it would go.
The football power index had the Cougars going 7-5 during the regular season last year and that’s exactly what happened. BYU then went on to the New Mexico Bowl where it had a thrilling 24-23 bowl victory over SMU to finish the season at 8-5.
Below is a look at BYU’s regular season records compared to what FPI expected the Cougars to do at the start of every season.
BYU 2016 regular season record: 8-4
FPI prediction: 6-6
BYU 2017 regular season record: 4-9
FPI prediction: 8-5
BYU 2018 regular season record: 6-6
FPI prediction: 5-7
BYU 2019 regular season record: 7-5
FPI prediction: 8-4
BYU 2021 regular season record: 10-2
FPI prediction: 10-2
BYU 2022 regular season record: 7-5
FPI 2022: 7-5
BYU 2023 current record: 4-1
FPI 2023: 5-7
** No FPI projections in 2020 due to COVID **
Interestingly enough, the football power index has correctly predicted BYU’s win-loss record over the past two seasons. Will the streak continue? Unless BYU suddenly tanks or goes on a big losing streak, it doesn’t look like the FPI will be perfect this year.
At the start of the season, FPI had BYU going 5-7, however, according to the latest projections, BYU is now expected to go 6-6 which still seems a little low based on how the rest of the Big conference is playing. Outside of Texas and Oklahoma, every Big 12 game is very winnable for the Cougars. Yet, according to the FPI, BYU is only favored in one game the rest of the way.
As noted in the FPI breakdown, the model takes a lot of metrics into consideration, which is why the percentages vary from week to week. For example, heading into the season, BYU’s win probability to beat Iowa State was just 33%. However, as of today, that figure has risen to 51.0%.
Below is a look at the current probabilities according to the predictive system.
Game-by-game win probabilities
BYU win probability: 27.9%
vs. Texas Tech
BYU win probability: 36.0%
BYU win probability: 5.0%
@ West Virginia
BYU win probability: 33.4%
vs. Iowa State
BYU win probability: 51.0%
BYU win probability: 7.1%
@ Oklahoma State
BYU win probability: 41.0%
BYU FPI Conclusion
Over the past decade, the team that the FPI favors has gone on to win around 74% of the time. This is also pretty comparable to the results from sportsbooks. If you want to follow along with how FPI performs throughout the season or check out other predictive systems, feel free to go to the prediction tracker website. Here you see the current stats for the year, as well as previous years.
If BYU goes on to beat the remaining teams — outside of Texas and Oklahoma which look very good — the Cougars will be 9-3 and will have crushed FPI’s prediction of 5-7 at the start of the season. If it happens, it would tie the worst BYU prediction since 2017 when the system projected the Cougars to go 8-5, which they fell well short as the team finished the season at 4-9.
Of course, no system will be 100% accurate and every year there will be teams that surprise and teams that disappoint. Last year was a great example as TCU made the national title game. The Horned frogs weren’t ranked in the Top 25 and FPI had TCU going 6-6, with a 72% chance to make a bowl. Even Big 12 member Kansas State was projected to go 6-6 last year and they ended up playing TCU in the Big 12 Championship game.
While FPI can certainly whiff on predictions, it’s 70%+ accuracy rate has shown that it is still useful. Will BYU be one of the teams that FPI whiffs on, or will the Cougars depth issues and playing a full P5 schedule catch up with the team?
We’re about to find out.