ESPN unveiled the spring football edition of Preseason FPI today, with this version incorporating returning starters and recruiting rankings for each team to project the best teams and units in 2017. There are several familiar faces near the top of the rankings.
Buckeyes top the rankings
After reaching the College Football Playoff last season with only six returning starters, Ohio State returns 15 starters and is the top team in this version of preseason FPI.
The Buckeyes are the most balanced team in FBS. They are projected to have the No. 2 offense, No. 2 defense and No. 2 special teams unit in the country. No FBS team finished in the top 15 in efficiency in all three of those categories last season.
The Buckeyes are projected to be 29 points better than the average FBS team, and at least three points better on a neutral field than any other college football team.
The rest of the top five
If there’s one theme at the top of the rankings, it’s the importance of the quarterback. Nine of the top 10 teams, including each of the top six, return their starter from last season.
Alabama has the top defense and ranks No. 2 in this version of preseason FPI. The unit has ranked first in FBS in defensive efficiency each of the past two seasons, contributing nearly 17 points per game to the Crimson Tide’s scoring margin last season.
The Crimson Tide also have top-10 units on offense (No. 9) and special teams (No. 3).
Oklahoma finished last season on a 10-game winning streak, and comes in at No. 3. The Sooners return nine offensive starters, including Baker Mayfield, for a team that finished third in FBS in scoring last season.
Florida State returns 16 starters from last season to rank fourth. The Seminoles and Ohio State are the only teams projected to have top-five units on offense and defense.
No. 5 in this version of preseason FPI is Auburn. The Tigers return 15 starters and bring in former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham as part of the No. 9 recruiting class. With the No. 5 offense, No. 7 special teams and No. 10 defense, Auburn joins Ohio State and Alabama as the only schools projected to have three top-10 units.
Teams on the rise
There are four teams in the top 25 in the spring football version of Preseason FPI that are at least 20 spots higher than their ranking at the end of last season.
Georgia is up to No. 13 after finishing outside the top 40 in 2016. The Bulldogs return 17 starters, tied for the most in the SEC, and added the No. 3 recruiting class.
And Texas climbs from No. 44 to No. 24 after returning 17 starters, tied for the most in the Big 12, including 10 on a defensive unit that ranked 35th in FBS last season.