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What ESPN’s FPI says about BYU, Utah and the Big 12. Who’s the early favorite?

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall slides down after a run against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. The Utes and Cougars are pegged to finish toward different ends of the Big 12 standings in 2024.

For the first time since 2010, BYU and Utah will be in the same conference this fall as the Utes join the Big 12.

The expectations for the two rival schools are vastly different in football, though.

While Utah, which is moving over from the Pac-12, is seen as a College Football Playoff contender, the Cougars — in their second season in the Big 12 — are expected to struggle again after a losing season last year.

Those expectations are reflected in ESPN’s latest update to its Football Power Index rankings, which came out earlier this week.

The FPI, though, doesn’t favor Utah to win the Big 12 — and earn a coveted spot in the expanded CFP — as much as others outlets have.

ESPN describes the FPI as “a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.”

Here’s a look at how the Big 12 projects in ESPN’s FPI, as it expands to 16 teams this year.

Big 12 teams in ESPN’s Football Power Index

Rank. Team — FPI score.

  • 17. Kansas — 11.2.

  • 22. Kansas State — 10.0.

  • 24. Arizona — 9.2.

  • 26. Oklahoma State — 7.6.

  • 27. Utah — 7.5.

  • 29. Texas Tech — 7.1.

  • 30. TCU — 7.1.

  • 32. UCF — 6.2.

  • 35. West Virginia — 6.0.

  • 36. Colorado — 6.0.

  • 47. Iowa State — 3.8.

  • 55. Baylor — 1.9.

  • 63. Arizona State — minus-0.3.

  • 65. Cincinnati — minus-0.8.

  • 73. BYU — minus-1.5.

  • 78. Houston — minus-2.7.

How does the Big 12 measure up against other power conferences in ESPN’s FPI?

With the Pac-12 reduced to just two teams, there are now only four “power” — or autonomous — conferences: the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten and ACC.

Of those, the Big 12 stacks up favorably against the others, though its parity could play against it.

The Big 12 has 10 of its 16 teams ranked in the top 36 of the FPI, though no one is in the top 15.

Conversely, the SEC has 13 teams in the top 36, by far the most in the country. The SEC also has six teams in the top 10.

The Big Ten has fewer teams — six — than the Big 12 in the top 36, but the Big Ten has five in the top 25, while the Big 12 only has three.

The final power league, the ACC, has six teams in the top 36 and, like the Big 12, has five in the top 25.

What does ESPN’s FPI project for Utah?

FPI projects 7.8 wins for the Utes, with an 85.4% chance of becoming bowl eligible with six wins, an 8.2% chance of winning the Big 12, a 12.5% chance of making the playoffs and a 0.8% chance of reaching the national championship, with an 0.2% chance of winning the national title.

Three teams are given better than 10% odds to win the Big 12 title — Kansas (17.4%), Kansas State (16.0%) and Arizona (11.5%). Utah is fifth, at 8.2%, just behind Oklahoma State’s 8.5%.

With the expansion of the College Football Playoff to include 12 teams, there are six Big 12 teams with 10% odds or better to make a CFP appearance, led by Kansas (24%) and Kansas State (21.4%) the only schools over 20%.

TCU, two years after playing in the national championship game, also has 9.9% odds to make the CFP.

Utah has the second-easiest strength of schedule among Big 12 teams, ranking 72nd nationally, ahead of only projected league winner Kansas at No. 77.

What does ESPN’s FPI project for BYU?

FPI projects 4.8 wins for the Cougars, with a 35.4% chance of becoming bowl eligible with six wins, a 0.5% chance of winning the Big 12 and a 0.6% chance of making the playoffs.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake talks with his players after a Boise State touchdown Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake talks with his players after a Boise State touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. BYU won 31-28. (AP Photo/Steve Conner) | Steve Conner, Associated Press

There are only three Big 12 teams that ESPN’s FPI projects under five wins — BYU, Arizona State (4.7) and Houston (4.0). BYU plays both the Sun Devils and Cougars in back-to-back weeks to finish the season.

BYU has the sixth-toughest strength of schedule among Big 12 teams, ranking 52nd nationally. The Cougars face each of the top five league teams in the FPI rankings during a seven-game stretch in the middle of their 2024 schedule.