ESPN's FPI predicts the outcome of every NC State football game
ESPN.com's recently-released Football Power Index (FPI) for 2021 is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward. With that, the index gives a percentage chance for NC State football to beat each team on their schedule.
The metric predicts that the Wolfpack will be the No. 41 team in the country. It also gives the Pack a rating of 5.6, which correlates to the "expected point margin vs. average opponent on a neutral field."
FPI predicts NC State, which has to play the country's 48th-toughest schedule according to expert Phil Steele, to win 6.5 games and drop 5.5 contests.
The index gives the Pack a 0.0 percent chance to go 12-0, a 0.9 percent chance to win the ACC Atlantic Division and a 0.3 percent shot of winning the ACC Championship Game. It also gives the Wolfpack a 76.8 percent chance to win at least six games to become bowl eligible.
Here are the metric's predictions for the result of every game:
Sept. 2 vs. South Florida — 85.5 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 95th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 4.2
South Florida enters year two under head coach Jeff Scott, formerly the co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Clemson. Year one was very much a rebuilding year for the Bulls. The program went 1-8 overall and finished in last place of the American Athletic Conference in 2020.
Sept. 11 at Mississippi State — 33.6 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 24th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 6.8
For the first two weeks of the season, the Wolfpack will face two teams entering year two under a new head coach. Just like South Florida, that is also the case for Mississippi State, who enters year two under head coach Mike Leach and his air-raid system.
The Bulldogs went 4-7 overall and finished tied for last in the SEC West Division in 2020., but FPI gives the Pack 2-1 odds to come out of Starkville with a victory.
Sept. 18 vs. Furman — 96.3 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: N/A
Opponent Projected Win Total: N/A
NC State's lone FCS opponent on the schedule is also the one FPI predicts it has the best chance to win. Furman didn't receive an FPI rating because it is not an FBS team. The Paladins played their seven-game 2020 season this spring, so their matchup with the Wolfpack in week three will mark their 10th contest of the year.
Sept. 25 vs. Clemson — 9.7 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 2nd
Opponent Projected Win Total: 12.0
According to FPI, NC State's toughest game in 2021 will be in week four at home against Clemson, which is ranked second in the country according to the metric. The Wolfpack will draw the Tigers early, and the matchup will mark the first true conference test on the road for the preseason ACC favorites. Clemson has won 15 of the last 16 meetings in the Textile Bowl.
Oct. 2 vs. Louisiana Tech — 90.5 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 110th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 5.5
The Bulldogs are the lowest-ranked of the Pack's 11 FBS opponents this fall according to ESPN's FPI. Subsequently, the metric gives NC State a greater than 90 percent chance of victory in week five, which is the best chance of any FBS matchup this fall.
Oct. 16 at Boston College — 45.9 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 50th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 7.1
Boston College will mark the second road matchup of the season for the Pack, and also the third in which it is predicted to lose according to FPI. NC State was picked to finish second in the ACC Atlantic Division in the league's preseason projected order of finish poll, and the Eagles were predicted to finish third. No matter the outcome of the Wolfpack's conference opener against Clemson, this matchup in Chestnut Hill will have major implications on the ACC Atlantic Division standings when it's all said and done.
Oct. 23 at Miami — 17.7 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 10th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 8.9
Following a thrilling 44-41 game in which the Hurricanes came out on top in Raleigh in 2020, NC State will travel to Hard Rock Stadium this fall for a rematch. Miami was picked to finish second in the ACC Coastal Division in the league's preseason projected order of finish poll. The Hurricanes are one of two of the Pack's opponents that are ranked in the FPI top 10 entering the season, and this game is considered the Wolfpack's second-toughest contest on the schedule according to the metric.
Oct. 30 vs. Louisville — 59.4 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 43rd
Opponent Projected Win Total: 6.6
This matchup displays the weight of having a home-field advantage according to FPI. The Cardinals are ranked 43rd nationally according to FPI, just two spots back of the Wolfpack. The metric predicts Louisville will win 6.6 games while the Pack is projected to claim 6.5.
Yet NC State is given a greater than 59 percent chance of winning its homecoming matchup against the Cards. The fact that the game is in Carter-Finley Stadium likely provides roughly a nine percentage-point swing. In other words, FPI sees this as a toss-up.
Nov. 6 at Florida State — 42.4 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 44th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 5.9
Following a 3-6 campaign in year one under head coach Mike Norvell, Florida State will look to return to the program's normal winning ways in 2021. Entering the fall, many college football pundits don't know what to do with the Seminoles. The roster has the talent to win eight games, but the program has gone 13-20 over the past three seasons. Florida State is ranked three spots back of NC State according to FPI, but the metric gives the Seminoles the edge because of home-field advantage.
Nov. 13 at Wake Forest — 51.0 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 56th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 6.4
The Demon Deacons are ranked 15 spots back of the Wolfpack according to FPI, but they're in the same ballpark with a projected 6.4 wins this fall. This in-state ACC rivalry has gone back-and-forth under head coaches Dave Doeren (NC State) and Dave Clawson (Wake), with the home team traditionally coming out on top. NC State is a slight favorite to take care of business in Truist Field but is given just a 51 percent chance of victory.
Nov. 20 vs. Syracuse — 87.0 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 96th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 3.5
The expectations in 2021 are low for Syracuse coming off of a 1-10 season last year. The Orange were picked to finish in last place of the ACC Atlantic Division in the conference's preseason projected order of finish poll. The Wolfpack narrowly avoided what would have been a big upset in the Carrier Dome last November, coming away with a 36-29 win. Now the Orange will have to return to Raleigh for the second-to-last game of the season.
According to FPI, NC State has a better chance to beat Syracuse than any other ACC opponent this season.
Nov. 26 vs. North Carolina — 36.2 percent chance to win
Opponent FPI Rank: 14th
Opponent Projected Win Total: 8.6
Of the Pack's four opponents ranked in the preseason FPI Top 25, NC State has the best chance to defeat rival UNC in the regular-season finale according to the metric. The Tar Heels have won the last two meetings, so the Wolfpack will be hungry for revenge in Carter-Finley Stadium regardless of the results of the first 11 games. The Tar Heels feature the preseason ACC Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Howell at quarterback, and Carolina was predicted to win the ACC Coastal Division according to the league's preseason projected order of finish poll. Once again, UNC will be a tough out.