Which teams have the most talented rosters heading into the 2014 season?
Love or hate football recruiting, it matters. Coaching, support staffs, financial situations and even a little bit of luck goes into winning football games, but having great players always helps too.
So recruiting rankings are just one facet of a deliberate and in-depth equation that helps Athlon Sports project the college football season every year.
When the staff sits down to hash out the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 each year, recruiting rankings are as much a part of the discussion as returning starters, scheduling differences, coaching changes and historic trends. It all gets incorporated into what eventually becomes the best-selling college football preview magazine on newsstands.
My pick for the 2014 national championship is probably going to be Florida State versus Alabama. Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation, and Jimbo Fisher has quickly checked most boxes needed to earn a Hall of Fame induction. Both head coaches have a national championship on their resume — in fact, four of the five BCS titles — and both develop talent, call plays, prepare their team as well as any coach in the game today.
It doesn't hurt that they will have the best players in the nation as well. Alabama has won four straight recruiting national championships and Florida State returns the No. 2 roster in the nation — one that includes the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
According to the numbers, objectively, Alabama and Florida State will enter the 2014 season with the best depth charts in college football. Below is each roster in the major six leagues (plus Notre Dame, Boise State and BYU) based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports). Included is each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons.
Who are the biggest overachievers?
The fifth-best roster in the Big Ten has delivered a Rose Bowl, Big Ten title and three seasons with at least 11 wins.
Bill Snyder's roster ranks 61st nationally in terms of talent but has consistently competed for Big 12 titles.
Gary Andersen picked up where previous regimes left off on the field and might have actually improved UW off of it.
Only the Ducks of Oregon have won more games than the 20th-best roster in the nation. Back-to-back Pac-12 titles.
Bronco Mendenhall has had a winning record every year since his first (9) and has six 10-win seasons.
Paul Johnson has never missed a bowl and consistently competes for ACC titles with 52nd-ranked roster in the nation.
The 13th-best roster in the ACC and 68th-best roster in the nation won 10 games and its division last year.
Todd Graham has established ASU as a top-tier Pac-12 team with middle-of-the-pack (No. 7) talent.
The 13th-rated roster in the SEC just won the East and 12 games.
Art Briles has improved this roster incredibly over the last few years and now has depth that he didn't have before.
Who are the biggest underachievers?
It boasts the top roster in the Big 12 (No. 7 nationally) but is just 18-17 in league play over the last four seasons.
Eight losses with the second-ranked roster in the nation is completely unacceptable.
There is a reason that there was a regime change just a month into the season in Los Angeles.
Derek Dooley had solid recruiting classes but couldn't deliver on the field. See USC above.
Jeff Tedford had no problems luring talent, leaving Sonny Dykes with plenty to work with in Berkeley.
Not an elite roster but very talented within the league and UNC hasn't lost fewer than three ACC games since 1997.
The time is now for Al Golden and the ACC's second-ranked roster.
Wahoos rank 35th nationally — ahead of Missouri, Wisconsin and Kansas State to name a few.
The Hogs had their worst season in the program's history despite ranking 25th nationally in terms of talent.
Uphill battle in the SEC but this group has the worst record of any "Big 5" school and is 36th nationally in talent.