Last week I angered the entire mythical State of Boise. I made a few anti-Bronco remarks, and like any passionate fanbase, the Boise faithful reacted. They questioned my intelligence, my ability to write, and my mother’s integrity.
In an effort to regain some confidence and dignity I decided to take a closer look at one of the points the Smurf-lovers contested: recruiting. Namely, I wanted to know if there was a correlation between recruiting class rankings and BCS success. Am I as idiotic as the “State” of Boise would have you believe?
Or is there some truth to recruiting rankings? Last week I contended that there is a relationship between recruiting class rankings and talent while the Boise State fans said things like, “Since when did college football become about recruiting?”
To examine this subject I investigated the top recruiting classes (according to Scout.com) and the top finishers within the BCS to see if any sort of pattern was visible.
Over the past five seasons 10 teams have been ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS poll on at least four occasions. Those teams include Ohio State, Florida, LSU, USC, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Texas, and Boise State. That is a pretty elite group that one could argue represents the most consistently impressive teams in the nation over the past five seasons.
Interestingly, nine of those schools had an average recruiting class ranking in the top third of the nation from 2006-2010. Below are their average class rankings for that five year period.
- USC - 5.2
- LSU - 5.8
- Texas - 7.2
- Florida - 7.4
- Ohio State - 10.8
- Oklahoma - 12.4
- Virginia Tech - 30.8
- West Virginia - 32.4
- Wisconsin - 37.6
These nine teams have a combined average recruiting class rank of 16.6 from 2006-2010. While three teams did not have an average inside the top-25, those three schools (Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech) accounted for four individual classes ranked in the top-25 over that five year period. The lowest individual class ranking by any of these teams was Virginia Tech’s ranking of 56 in 2006.
Here are Boise State’s recruiting classes over the same time period:
- 2006 - 78
- 2007 - 57
- 2008 - 64
- 2009 - 60
- 2010 - 97
- Average - 71.2
Boise State’s recruiting numbers are in fact below average—and that’s not merely an opinion. With no other qualifiers aside from the sheer quantity of FBS teams, Boise State is averaging a sub-median recruiting class. Additionally, the Broncos’ best recruiting class is worse than the lowest class of the other nine schools who have been a consistent presence in the BCS top 25.
Furthermore, five different universities have finished in the BCS Top 10 on three or more occasions over the past five seasons. Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida, and USC represent 15 combined top-10 finishes in the last five years and 19 top-25 recruiting classes over the same time period. The fifth such school, Boise State, represents four top-10 BCS finishes and zero top-25 recruiting classes.
What gives? Maybe Boise State really isn’t that talented. Or maybe Chris Petersen is a miracle worker the likes of which we have not seen since Anne Sullivan.
Of course, the point will be made that recruiting rankings are arbitrary and don’t really mean anything, but I’m not sure that’s the case. There are quite a few people in the world of football who make a lot of money and whose livelihood relies on these rankings, namely college coaches.
It’s kind of hard for me to believe that the players recruited by teams that are consistently good just happen to have a high rating according to recruiting experts. And, if players were just assigned a high rating based on what school recruited them and not by their true potential, wouldn’t there be a lot more parity in college football?
The BCS Championship Game (the fifth BCS Bowl) was added in 2007. Interestingly, but not necessarily ironically, every team that has been featured in that game had a top-10 class between 2006 and 2010. Furthermore, those participating schools (Florida 2x, Ohio State 2x, LSU, Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Auburn, and Oregon) combined for 24 top-10 classes over that time period. Those same schools also appeared in eleven additional BCS Bowls. So eight schools had 24 top-10 recruiting classes and appeared in 21 BCS Bowls over a five-year period.
Overall, 12 of the 15 schools with more than one top-10 recruiting class in the five-year span I looked at made at least one BCS Bowl game appearance. The three schools that failed to do so were Florida State, Tennessee, and UCLA. All three of these schools have experienced at least one coaching change over the past five years.
If I wanted to lead my team to a BCS Bowl I’d do two things: recruit top-10 classes and hold onto my coaching staff. After all, these recruiting classes seem to be living up to their billing most of the time.
It is also worth noting that many of these talent evaluations stick with players through their college tenures and into their professional football careers. In other words, a lot of these individual players do, in fact, live up to their hype. Below is how the first round NFL Draft Picks in 2010 were ranked in their respective recruiting classes coming out of high school.
- 5-Star Ranking: 6 Players Drafted
- 4-Star Ranking: 17 Players Drafted
- 3-Star Ranking: 6 Players Drafted
- 2-Star Ranking: 2 Players Drafted
- 1-Star Ranking: 1 Player Drafted
- Average: 3.78 Stars
NFL executives and coaches are drafting great college players, and guess what. Those great college players were almost always highly rated recruits.
I happen to believe in recruiting rankings, and accordingly have formed a few opinions.
With regards to the Georgia Bulldogs: this recent dip in production needs to end in 2011 or the Dawgs need to find a man who can coach players up to their potential. While the last five years may not look all that bad for UGA on paper, the last two have been atrocious.
With regards to the Boise State Broncos: either Chris Petersen is a miracle worker or the Broncos merely have a keen ability to win one or two big games every year if the other team doesn’t bring its best game. No matter how you slice it, the talent is not there. So either Petersen is the greatest coach to ever grace a college sideline, blue or otherwise, or the Broncos are getting lucky and catching teams at their worst.
As a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and the Southeastern Conference I hope that the Dawgs get a victory in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game for several reasons. First, I want to see Mark Richt succeed and I want this to be a win that jump starts a great 2011 campaign. Secondly, I’d like to see an SEC team who is coming off of a losing season beat the Boise State Broncos. Thirdly, I’d like to be validated in my view that bringing in good recruiting classes does in fact matter.
So what do you think? We all can agree that there are a plethora of players who either over or under-achieve in relation to their rankings, but as a whole, do you think ratings are accurate? Do they matter? What about the Boise State-UGA game, what do you want to see?