Where does your team rank in terms of talent heading in 2017?
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.
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.
Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2017
|2||Ohio State||Big Ten||2||4||7||3||2||3.6||61-6||39-2|
|21||Penn State||Big Ten||15||19||15||24||33||21.2||40-24||24-17|
|27||Michigan State||Big Ten||35||22||22||25||35||27.8||46-20||26-15|
|34||Oklahoma State||Big 12||38||44||39||28||30||35.8||45-20||30-15|
|39||West Virginia||Big 12||57||39||35||38||31||40||36-28||22-23|
|42||Texas Tech||Big 12||51||45||33||42||46||43.4||32-31||17-28|
|57||Iowa State||Big 12||53||52||66||58||60||57.8||17-44||9-36|
|59||Kansas State||Big 12||60||73||55||49||61||59.6||43-22||29-16|
|Conference||Avg. Class Rank||Teams in Top 25|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.