An SEC West team sits atop ESPN’s Preseason Football Power Index, and it isn’t the defending national champions.
LSU — not Alabama — earned the No. 1 spot in first edition of the FPI rankings, which measures team strength.
The ranking measures four different components: the last four seasons of performance on offense, defense and special teams; returning players on offense and defense; a four-year averaging recruiting ranking; and head coaching tenure.
More specifically, the model takes a team’s projected starting quarterback and the most recent season into heavy consideration.
LSU took the No. 1 overall spot, earning a preseason FPI rating of 26.7, a smidge ahead of second-ranked Florida State.
LSU returns 18 starters, nine on each side of the ball. That includes Heisman Trophy candidate running back Leonard Fournette and quarterback Brandon Harris, who is bracing for his second year as the starter behind center.
Additionally, despite a bit of late-season turmoil, coach Les Miles is returning for his 11th season at the helm of the Tigers.
LSU is joined by Tennessee (No. 5), Alabama (No. 6), Ole Miss (No. 7) and UGA (No. 9) in the top 10.
Texas A&M cracked the list at No. 14, while Auburn (No. 21), Mississippi State (No. 22) and Florida (No. 23) earned spots in the top 25.