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Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2017

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

Recruiting is the foundation for winning national championships, competing for CFB Playoff berths or winning at a high level in college football. While recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate, there is plenty of truth in the rankings and evaluations by the experts. It’s no secret what a program needs in order to win big at this level. Great coaching, support staffs, state-of-the-art training facilities and luck certainly helps, but talent on the roster provides a significant head start in the race to win it all each season.

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Just how important are recruiting rankings and the overall talent evaluation? Consider this: Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State take the top three spots in this year’s best overall rosters. Those three teams have claimed five out of the last six national championships. 

Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for the Power 5 schools, Notre Dame and BYU over the last five classes according to 247Sports Team Composite rankings and each team's record over the last five seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account attrition. However, with a five-year window in place, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.

By Conference: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2017

Rank

Team

 

Conference

17

'16

'15

'14

'13

Avg

W/L

Conf.

1

Alabama

SEC

1

1

1

1

1

1

64-7

36-4

2

Ohio State

Big Ten

2

4

7

3

2

3.6

61-6

39-2

3

LSU

SEC

7

3

6

2

6

4.8

45-18

25-15

4

Florida State

ACC

6

2

3

4

11

5.2

59-9

34-6

5

Georgia

SEC

3

7

5

8

12

7

48-18

27-13

6

USC

Pac-12

4

8

2

10

13

7.4

44-23

30-15

7

Auburn

SEC

9

9

8

6

10

8.4

38-27

18-22

8T

Texas A&M

SEC

12

18

11

5

9

11

44-21

21-19

8T

Notre Dame

IND

11

15

13

11

5

11

43-21

 

10

Florida 

SEC

10

13

21

9

3

11.2

41-23

27-13

11

Tennessee

SEC

17

14

4

7

24

13.2

35-28

15-25

12

Clemson

ACC

16

10

9

17

15

13.4

60-9

35-5

13

UCLA

Pac-12

20

12

12

18

7

13.8

41-24

25-20

14

Michigan

Big Ten

5

5

37

20

4

14.2

40-24

25-16

15

Oklahoma

Big 12

8

20

14

14

16

14.4

51-14

37-8

16

Ole Miss

SEC

30

6

17

15

8

15.2

39-25

19-21

17

Texas 

Big 12

26

11

10

16

17

16

33-30

24-21

18

Miami

ACC

13

21

26

12

14

17.2

39-25

23-17

19

Oregon

Pac-12

19

28

16

21

19

20.6

49-17

32-13

20

South Carolina

SEC

21

26

19

19

20

21

38-26

19-21

21

Penn State

Big Ten

15

19

15

24

33

21.2

40-24

24-17

22

Stanford

Pac-12

14

16

24

13

51

23.6

53-15

34-11

23

Arkansas

SEC

28

25

23

29

23

25.6

29-34

12-28

24T

Washington

Pac-12

22

29

27

37

18

26.6

43-24

26-19

24T

Mississippi State

SEC

24

31

18

35

25

26.6

40-25

20-20

26

Nebraska

Big Ten

23

24

30

36

22

27

43-23

26-15

27

Michigan State

Big Ten

35

22

22

25

35

27.8

46-20

26-15

28

Virginia Tech

ACC

25

41

29

27

21

28.6

39-27

22-18

29

Baylor

Big 12

39

17*

36

26

27

29

47-18

29-16

30

Arizona State

Pac-12

37

27

20

23

39

29.2

39-26

25-20

31

North Carolina

ACC

27

35

28

31

28

29.8

40-25

26-14

32

Kentucky

SEC

29

34

38

22

34

31.4

21-40

8-32

33

TCU

Big 12

31

23

42

43

36

35

40-24

25-20

34

Oklahoma State

Big 12

38

44

39

28

30

35.8

45-20

30-15

35T

Louisville

ACC

32

37

32

45

37

36.6

49-16

29-10

35T

Wisconsin

Big Ten

40

32

40

33

38

36.6

49-19

30-11

37

Pitt

ACC

34

30

47

44

32

37.4

35-30

21-18

38

Maryland

Big Ten

18

42

49

40

41

38

27-36

13-28

39

West Virginia

Big 12

57

39

35

38

31

40

36-28

22-23

40

Arizona 

Pac-12

45

43

43

30

44

41

36-29

19-26

41

Missouri

SEC

50

53

25

39

43

42

37-27

19-21

42

Texas Tech

Big 12

51

45

33

42

46

43.4

32-31

17-28

43

NC State

ACC

52

49

31

34

59

45

32-32

13-27

44

Virginia  

ACC

56

60

50

32

29

45.4

17-43

9-31

45

Utah

Pac-12

33

36

45

67

47

45.6

38-25

21-24

46T

California

Pac-12

70

38

34

54

40

47.2

22-39

12-33

46T

Vanderbilt

SEC

64

54

46

46

26

47.2

31-32

14-26

48

Washington State

Pac-12

44

55

41

55

54

49.8

29-34

20-25

49

Northwestern

Big Ten

48

51

54

47

52

50.4

37-26

20-21

50T

Duke

ACC

47

33

51

60

70

52.2

37-28

19-21

50T

Indiana

Big Ten

63

56

52

48

42

52.2

25-37

12-29

53T

Iowa

Big Ten

41

46

60

59

58

52.8

39-26

25-16

53T

Oregon State

Pac-12

49

46

61

63

45

52.8

27-35

15-30

54

Rutgers

Big Ten

42

74

56

53

50

55

29-34

12-28

55

Georgia Tech

ACC

46

59

44

56

76

56.2

37-29

21-19

56

Illinois

Big Ten

43

71

48

72

49

56.6

20-41

8-33

57

Iowa State

Big 12

53

52

66

58

60

57.8

17-44

9-36

58

Minnesota

Big Ten

58

48

63

57

66

58.4

37-28

18-23

59

Kansas State

Big 12

60

73

55

49

61

59.6

43-22

29-16

60

Syracuse

ACC

55

66

58

50

73

60.4

26-36

14-25

61

Wake Forest

ACC

65

58

53

65

67

61.6

22-39

10-30

62

BYU

IND

67

50

64

66

65

62.4

42-23

 

63

Colorado

Pac-12

36

69

71

74

68

63.6

21-42

11-34

64

Kansas 

Big 12

68

89

74

51

48

66

9-51

3-42

65

Boston College

ACC

66

75

62

52

87

68.4

26-37

11-29

66

Purdue

Big Ten

71

80

65

69

62

69.4

15-46

6-35

Conference Data

Conference

Avg. Class Rank

Teams in Top 25

38.8

3

38.9

2

39.2

3

34.1

5

17.6

11

Recruiting Talent Translates Into Playoff Berths

Since the start of the BCS era (1998), no team ranked lower than 18th in this year’s roster rankings have claimed a national championship. Of course, the data has changed a bit since 1998, and the overall outlook for some programs has been altered in recent years, but as expected, teams need to rank high in recruiting in order to compete for the national title. Two of the lowest teams to win a national title since 1998 – Miami and Texas – are probably due to rebound in the roster rankings over the next five years.

During the playoff era, only one team to make the top four cut – Michigan State – ranked outside of the top 25 of the roster rankings. And the three champions – Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson – all ranked inside of the top 12. If a program is unable to recruit at an elite level, specializing in talent development (Michigan State), having one of the nation’s best coaches (Washington) or a Heisman Trophy winner/elite player (Deshaun Watson) at quarterback (Oregon) helps to level the playing field.

Related: Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2017

SEC Talent Domination

With a robust 17.6 national average and 11 of its 14 teams in the top 25 in roster talent, the SEC is a big winner on the recruiting trail. However, that talent hasn’t necessarily translated into wins. LSU ranks third but is just 25-15 in conference play since 2013. The records of Auburn (18-22) and Texas A&M (21-19) also raise a few eyebrows for the lack of success in relation to recruiting rankings. One team that isn’t underachieving is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rank 11th among SEC teams but have more wins in league play than four programs ranked ahead of coach Dan Mullen's team from its conference: Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

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Talent Isn’t a Problem at Notre Dame

A disappointing 4-8 season has coach Brian Kelly on the hot seat entering 2017, but the Fighting Irish continue to recruit at a high level. Notre Dame hasn’t finished lower than No. 15 nationally over the last five seasons and is tied for eighth nationally with an average of 11 in roster ranking.

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Talent Concerns in the Big 12

The Big 12 ranks third among conferences with an average class rank of 38.9. However, that total is certainly helped by the 10-team format, instead of the 14-team ACC (38.8) or Big Ten (39.2). The overall average isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but Oklahoma and Texas both ranked inside of the top 10 in this article in 2014. Since 2014, Oklahoma has slipped to No. 15 nationally and Texas ranks No. 17. Baylor ranks third among rosters in the Big 12, but the Bears slip to 33.8 when accounting for the adjusted recruiting rank (No. 41*) following the class defections following Art Briles’ dismissal in 2016. However, on the flipside of the recruiting rankings is talent development. Kansas State ranks ninth among Big 12 teams but is 29-16 in league play over the last four years. That’s tied for third among Big 12 teams since 2013.

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Michigan and Penn State Trending Up

The Wolverines inked the No. 37 class in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first National Signing Day but have signed back-to-back top-five hauls. With another top-10 class in 2018, Michigan should inch a little higher on this list next fall. Coach James Franklin has signed three consecutive top-20 classes after ranking No. 24 for his first haul in Happy Valley. With another standout class expected to sign in 2018, Penn State should push into the top 20 of roster rankings next season.

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Other Notes to Consider

* Colorado ranks No. 63 nationally and is the lowest-rated Pac-12 team. However, coach Mike MacIntyre delivered a breakout year in 2016 by winning the South Division. The Buffaloes also inked the No. 36 class on National Signing Day.

* The ACC has three of the lowest seven teams in the national roster rankings. Syracuse (No. 60), Wake Forest (No. 61) and Boston College (No. 65). However, two of those teams – Wake Forest and Boston College – went to bowl games in 2016.

* For the second time in three seasons, Purdue ranks as the lowest team from a Power 5 conference. The Boilermakers have not inked a class higher than No. 62 since 2013. New coach Jeff Brohm signed the No. 71 national haul in 2017.

* After not signing a class higher than No. 58 from 2013-15, Iowa has inked the No. 46 (2016) and No. 41 (2017) hauls.

* Duke continues to make progress under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils ranked 51st (2015), 60th (2014) and 70th (2013) in recruiting hauls. However, that total jumped to No. 47 in 2017 and No. 33 in 2016.

* Utah is another team trending up in the recruiting rankings. The No. 33 class in 2017 was one of the best in program history, and coach Kyle Whittingham inked a No. 36 haul in 2016. The Utes have improved to the No. 45 roster in 2017, up from No. 48 in 2014.

* Virginia signed four consecutive top-35 classes from 2011-14. However, the Cavaliers have signed the No. 50, No. 60 and No. 56 hauls over the last three seasons. Virginia’s roster talent average has dropped to 45.4 nationally – down from 37.4 in 2014.

* In the top 20 national rosters for 2017, Texas (33) has the fewest amount of wins since 2013. Tennessee (35), Auburn (38), South Carolina (38), Ole Miss (39) and Miami (39) are the next teams behind the Longhorns.

* Outside of the top 20 nationally in roster rankings, Stanford (53), Louisville (49), Wisconsin (49), Michigan State (46) and Oklahoma State (45) are the teams with the most overall wins since 2013.