Nebraska has the best roster in the West Division in '15.
Recruiting rankings matter.
They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.
In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.
These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the Big Ten rank.
Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:
Simply the best
There is a reason the Buckeyes are entering 2015 as the defending national champions. Urban Meyer promised an SEC blueprint and delivered ahead of schedule by out-recruiting the Big Ten by leaps and bounds. Ohio State is 24-0 over the last three years in league play because it has the best players. (Yes, we know coaching and development counts too.) This is the third-best roster in the nation entering ’15.
Harbaugh has work to do
Michigan is accustomed to competing for top-10 classes, Big Ten championships, Rose Bowls and even national titles. But that won’t happen with the 17th-ranked class nationally. Jim Harbaugh needs to get the Wolverines back into the top 10 when it comes to recruiting if the Maize and Blue want to knock off “Ohio” and get back into the national conversation. That said, this is still clearly the No. 2 roster in the league so the turnaround shouldn’t take long at all.
Mike Riley’s resources
Nebraska has as much support and tradition as any football program in the nation. Certainly, Mike Riley will have more resources at his disposal than he knows what do with after coaching at Oregon State for more than a decade. That said, Nebraska has seen its stock on the recruiting trail drop over the last 15 years and Riley is charged with reenergizing the brand. With the third-best roster in the league and the best in the West, winning a division title is the minimum expectation every single season in Lincoln.
Sparty starting to build
It has taken Mark Dantonio time to build a champion in East Lansing but after four or five years of elite football, the Spartans are starting to see their efforts pay off on the recruiting trail. This is a top 30 roster nationally and has closed the gap on Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan in terms of star power. The ’15 class was the best of the Dantonio era and his classes have improved three years running. The issue is the balance of power in the league, as four of the top five rosters in the league are in the East Division.
The reasons the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers have been covered ad nauseam. But one that should have fans excited is that both should be able to compete from a talent standpoint. The middle tier of talent in the B1G is Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland and Iowa. Adding the Terps and Knights has bolstered the middle of the league and both appear to have postseason staying power — as long as they get coaching. As a side effect, Kirk Ferentz finds his roster slipping further and further down the league’s hierarchy, now ranked ninth in the conference.
More with less
Jerry Kill wins the “more with less” award in the Big Ten as he clearly gets more out of his talent than anyone else in the league. With the 13th-best roster in the league, Kill had the Gophers a couple of touchdowns away from a division title and playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Like Bill Snyder in the Big 12 or Gary Pinkel in the SEC, Kill works minor miracles in the Big Ten.