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ESPN rates Penn State ahead of Michigan after Week 2

The worldwide leader has jumped Penn State ahead of Michigan, and now favors the Nittany Lions to beat the Wolverines later this year.



Penn State Football, Jim Harbaugh, Michigan, Connor Satlions, Jim Harbaugh suspension
Oct 19, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (right) shakes hand with Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh (left) following the completion of the game at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It may only be the end of Week 2, but the college football world is already gearing up for an expected tight battle for the Big Ten East Division. Coming off of two dominant performances, Penn State football has some buzzing that the Nittany Lions could be for real this season. To fully validate the hype, James Franklin and company will have to get by at least one, if not both, of Ohio State and Michigan. But according to ESPN, the prospects of this just got more likely, as the worldwide leader has just bumped Penn State ahead of Michigan in its weekly Football Power Index (FPI).

ESPN puts Penn State ahead of Michigan in Week 2 FPI

Penn State football has looked impressive through the first two weeks of the college football season. Picking up where 2022 left off, the Nittany Lions have won its first two games by a combined score of 101-22.

The Penn State offense has looked sharp under new starting QB Drew Allar. While the defense has looked leaky at times through two games, overall, Manny Diaz’s group has stifled opponents down the stretch.

On the other hand, the Michigan football program has left some in the national media looking for more. The Wolverines have also run away with its first two games, winning by a combined score of 65-10. However, some expect more from the back-to-back Big Ten champion and College Football Playoff participant.

This desire for more was reflected in the most recent FPI rankings released by ESPN on Sunday. ESPN moved Penn State up three spots, from No. 10 to No. 7. Michigan traded places with the Nittany Lions, falling from the 7th spot to No. 10 in the country.

Not so much of an upset predicted in Happy Valley?

It’s important to note that the FPI is not a ranking system. The FPI predicts team strength and performance, similar to gambling odds. This produces some quirks in the ratings, such as Alabama staying at No. 1 despite losing to Texas on Saturday night.

The Michigan football team was still ranked No. 2 in the nation in the newest AP poll, while Penn State stayed at No. 7.

However, the FPI does help to handicap what future matchups in the race for the Big Ten East could look like. ESPN now gives Penn State a 63.7% chance of beating Michigan when the two play on November 11. The FPI favored the Wolverines coming into the season. Ohio State remained at No. 2 in the FPI. ESPN still favors the Buckeyes over the Nittany Lions.

Are the Nittany Lions the strongest team in the Big Ten?

But there are still enough rumblings that Penn State football could take an up-for-grabs Big Ten East this season. While the defense seems stout, the Ohio State offense has not looked up to par with previous Buckeye teams. By and large, Penn State has looked solid through two games, even being called “the most impressive team in the Big Ten” early on in the season.

Obviously, on-field play will settle this eventually. But if the ESPN FPI is accurate, which it claims to be 77% of the time over the last four seasons, then the Big Ten East could be on a collision course this fall.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.