ESPN analyst Brad Edwards was on SportsCenter Monday morning and was asked about the reasoning behind Clemson being ranked ahead of Alabama in the FPI rankings. That’s despite the Crimson Tide just winning the National Championship and returning several key players.
“The truth is 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 at No. 1,” Edwards said. “Clemson has five more returning starters than Alabama. It’s because Clemson had several underclassmen, who were good enough to maybe be early-round picks in the draft, decide to stay.
“Alabama’s guys in that (same) boat decided to go out for the draft. Alabama isn’t far behind Clemson at No. 2.”
It’s not just that Clemson has five more returners, but the quality of those players is superb. Clemson is returning several guys who would have been chosen in this year’s NFL Draft and could have possibly gone first round. They brought back Christian Wilkins. The Tigers also got back Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Kendall Joseph and Mark Fields who will all be seniors.
While Alabama does have Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa coming back, those guys aren’t quite the same caliber of players even if they are playing on offense rather than defense. Alabama also lost key defensive players to the draft in Minkah Fitzpatrick, Rashaan Evans and Da’Ron Payne as well as receiver Calvin Ridley.
[h/t The Spun]