In the spirit of way-too-early 2017 rankings in basketball this week, ESPN has jumped into the fray on the gridiron. Their Football Power Index (FPI) rankings include projected win-loss totals for all 120+ FBS teams.
Virginia comes in at #71, just behind Boston College and last in the ACC.
But thanks to some favorable scheduling, FPI projects 4.8 wins for the Hoos in the upcoming season. (Yes, you can’t record eight-tenths of a win—the win total is the sum of the win probability for each individual game.)
Home teams receive a bit of a boost for projected home-field advantage. So even though Indiana and Duke are both rated 10+ spots higher than UVA, playing them at Scott Stadium makes the games basically a coin flip. Throw in some randomness and some luck—playing a Georgia Tech team that’s replacing a three-year starting QB in Justin Thomas, for instance—and almost-five wins can easily become six.
Again this year, though, the schedule is backloaded. If the Hoos aren’t bowl-eligible (or at least dang close) by Halloween, there’s a good chance it’s another quiet postseason in Charlottesville.
One other caveat: preseason metrics and numbers-based projections don’t do a good job of capturing transfer movement, especially not transfer offensive linemen. The addition of talented, experienced linemen this offseason is the biggest reason to expect Virginia to improve on offense, but that reason isn’t cooked into these numbers.
Florida State is the odds-on favorite to win the ACC, with Miami favored to top the Coastal Division.