Yes, it's that time of year again during which college football analysts release their early projections and rankings. Most recently was the release of ESPN's Football Power Index where the Scarlet Knights find themselves ranked 88th nationally and near the bottom of the Big Ten ahead of 99th ranked Purdue.
Let’s take a closer look at how this index is constructed:
The index uses four factors that are assigned different weightings and 10,000 computer simulations to produce "unbiased ratings that account for many of the same factors that voters tend to value when producing their preseason rankings …" writes Sharon Katz, of ESPN. The chief input ESPN uses in its FPI data set is prior year’s performance on offense, defense, and special teams. The second is returning starters and the final two that hold less weight is recruiting ranking and coaching tenure.
The lowly ranking should be of no surprise following a disappointing 2016 campaign where the Scarlet Knights finished 2-10, however at first blush there are a few reasons to be optimistic about this ranking:
1) We are not last in the Big Ten. I know, I know, second to last hardly seems like a reason to be optimistic, but a ranking of 88th is within an arms reach of Illinois (84) and Maryland (72).
2) Rutgers plays 4 of the bottom 5 within the Big Ten. Despite facing three top 25s within the Big Ten in 2017; Ohio State (1), Penn State (8), Michigan (17), Rutgers will also face 4 of the bottom 5; Purdue (99), Illinois (84), Maryland (72), Indiana (61).
While it’s never too early to discuss college football, I am not putting too much weight into these “way too early” rankings. Instead I am going to enjoy the offseason and trust that Coach Ash and staff are working hard to right the ship.