Clemson ranked No. 1 in preseason ESPN FPI


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Clemson's returning talent is setting big expectations for 2018.
Clemson's returning talent is setting big expectations for 2018.

One indicator in just how good the news has been for Clemson this offseason is demonstrated in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index.

After several draft-eligible Tigers decided to stay and the signing of a star-studded recruiting class, the Tigers will go in as the ESPN FPI preseason No. 1.

“A lot of people would say, ‘Alabama, that’s the easy choice. It’s the safe pick based on what they’ve done over the last 10 years,’” ESPN’s Brad Edwards said. “The truth is that these teams are very even and if you understand what goes into preseason FPI, there’s one difference in Clemson’s favor that put them No. 1 and that’s the number of returning starters.

“Clemson has five more returning starters than Alabama and Clemson had several underclassmen who were good enough to go in the early rounds of the (NFL) draft who decided to stay. Alabama’s guys in that boat decided to go out for the draft and because of that Clemson’s No. 1.”

Clemson (25.5) and Alabama (23.2) are trailed by Georgia (23.1), Ohio State (22.4) and Notre Dame (22.3) in the top-5.

Being preseason No. 1 hasn’t translated to a championship in recent years, as neither national champ Clemson nor national champ Alabama held that place in each of the last three seasons. The Crimson Tide have claimed the top spot in the final FPI rankings over that run, even edging the Tigers in the 2016 season (31.2-27.6).

According to ESPN, the FPI preseason ranking measures four factors: 1) Performance over the last four seasons with emphasis on the most recent season 2) Returning starters at quarterback, as well as offense and defense overall 3) Head coaching changes 4) Recruiting rankings over the previous four seasons. ESPN calls the ranking a measure of “strength” rather than a projection of the season.

Clemson is one of five teams with an offense (7) and defense (1) ranked in the top-10 by ESPN, joined by Alabama (offense: 4; defense: 8), Georgia (offense: 2; defense: 9), Ohio State (offense: 6, defense: 7) and Washington (offense: 8; defense: 6).

The next-best ACC team is at No. 14 in Miami (16.2), with Florida State not far behind (18th; 13.1) and Coastal foes Virginia Tech (23; 11.5) and Georgia Tech (24; 10.8) also in the top-25. Week two opponent Texas A&M is No. 20 (12.5) and South Carolina checks in at No. 28 (9.6)

SB Nation’s advanced-metric S&P+ ranked Clemson No. 3 preseason behind Ohio State at the top and Alabama No. 2 last week.

The SB Nation ranking also weighs metrics in recruiting, returning production and sustained success (5-year average) over a number of on-field areas. They count Ohio State as No. 1 in key returners. The Tigers rank third in returning production with a third-best 5-year efficiency average. In those metrics, Clemson is also a far-and-away ACC leader with Miami next-best at No. 13 and Florida State at No. 18, despite its top-5 recruiting average.

ESPN FPI Top-5

1. Clemson - 25.5
2. Alabama - 23.2
3. Georgia - 23.1
4. Ohio State - 22.4
5. Notre Dame - 22.3

SB Nation S&P+

1. Ohio State - 27
2. Alabama - 27
3. Clemson - 25.4
4. Washington - 23.9
5. Auburn - 22.4

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