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Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2018

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

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. Additionally, with advances in technology to watch more prospects, along with more offseason camps, the rankings for prospects and classes as a whole are more accurate than they were just a few years ago. Since the start of the CFB Playoff era, all four champions have come from teams ranked inside of the top eight in overall roster talent. 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. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer

Just how important are recruiting rankings and the overall talent evaluation? Alabama (No. 1) and Georgia (No. 3) played for the national championship in 2017. Additionally, the Crimson Tide, Ohio State and Florida State have combined for seven out of the last nine college football national championships. Alabama - the No. 1 team in roster talent - has won five titles since 2009.

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 2018 

RK

Team

 

18

17

'16

'15

'14

Avg

W/L

Conf.

1

Alabama

7

1

1

1

1

2.2

64-7

36-4

2

Ohio State

2

2

4

7

3

3.6

61-8

39-3

3

Georgia

1

3

7

5

8

4.8

49-18

27-13

4

Florida State

11

6

2

3

4

5.2

54-13

30-10

5

USC

4

4

8

2

10

5.6

48-20

33-12

6

LSU

15

7

3

6

2

6.6

44-19

25-15

7

Auburn

12

9

9

8

6

8.8

45-22

25-15

8

Clemson

6

16

10

9

17

11.6

61-9

35-5

9

Notre Dame

10

11

15

13

11

12.0

41-23

-

10

Tennessee

20

17

14

4

7

12.4

34-29

14-26

11

Texas A&M

17

12

18

11

5

12.6

40-25

19-21

12

Oklahoma

9

8

20

14

14

13.0

53-13

37-8

13

Texas

3

26

11

10

16

13.2

31-32

24-21

14

Florida

14

10

13

21

9

13.4

34-28

23-17

15

Penn State

5

15

19

15

24

15.6

43-22

25-17

16T

Miami

8

13

21

26

12

16.0

42-23

25-15

16T

UCLA

18

20

12

12

18

16.0

38-26

23-22

18

Michigan

21

5

5

37

20

17.6

40-24

24-18

19

Ole Miss

31

30

6

17

15

19.8

38-25

19-21

20

Oregon

16

19

28

16

21

20.0

44-22

28-17

21

South Carolina

19

21

26

19

19

20.8

36-28

18-22

22

Stanford

39

14

16

24

13

21.2

50-18

33-12

23

Washington

13

22

29

27

37

25.6

46-21

28-17

24T

Nebraska

22

23

24

30

36

27.0

37-27

22-20

24T

Mississippi State

27

24

31

18

35

27.0

41-24

20-20

26

Michigan State

32

35

22

22

25

27.2

49-17

30-12

27T

North Carolina

23

27

35

28

31

28.8

35-30

22-18

27T

Arizona State

37

37

27

20

23

28.8

38-27

26-19

29

Virginia Tech

24

25

41

29

27

29.2

41-25

23-17

30

Baylor

30

39

17

36

26

29.6

40-24

26-19

31

Arkansas

55

28

25

23

29

32.0

29-34

11-29

32

Kentucky

38

29

34

38

22

32.2

26-36

12-28

33

TCU

25

31

23

42

43

32.8

44-21

28-17

34

Louisville

29

32

37

32

45

35.0

46-19

28-12

35

Maryland

28

18

42

49

40

35.4

27-36

13-29

36

Oklahoma State

33

38

44

39

28

36.4

47-18

31-14

37

Wisconsin

44

40

32

40

33

37.8

54-14

35-7

38

NC State

26

52

49

31

34

38.4

34-30

15-25

39

Pitt

46

34

30

47

44

40.2

34-30

21-19

40

West Virginia

35

57

39

35

38

40.8

36-28

23-22

41

Missouri

42

50

53

25

39

41.8

39-26

21-19

42

Utah

34

33

36

45

67

43.0

40-24

21-24

43

Arizona

58

45

43

43

30

43.8

35-30

20-25

44

California

43

70

38

34

54

47.8

24-37

12-33

45

Washington State

45

44

55

41

55

48.0

35-29

25-20

46

Texas Tech

74

51

45

33

42

49.0

30-33

16-29

47

Iowa

40

41

46

60

59

49.2

43-23

27-15

48

Vanderbilt

41

64

54

46

46

50.2

27-35

10-30

49

Duke

61

47

33

51

60

50.4

38-27

19-21

50

Georgia Tech

51

46

59

44

56

51.2

35-28

20-20

51

Northwestern

59

48

51

54

47

51.8

37-26

22-20

52T

Virginia

64

56

60

50

32

52.4

19-42

10-30

52T

Minnesota

36

58

48

63

57

52.4

36-28

18-24

54

Indiana

48

63

56

52

48

53.4

26-36

12-30

55

Syracuse

50

55

66

58

50

55.8

22-39

11-29

56T

Iowa State

53

53

52

66

58

56.4

19-42

11-34

56T

Rutgers

57

42

74

56

53

56.4

24-38

10-32

58T

Illinois

54

43

71

48

72

57.6

20-41

8-34

58T

Oregon State

69

49

46

61

63

57.6

19-42

9-36

60

Wake Forest

60

65

58

53

65

60.2

25-37

11-29

61

Colorado

52

36

69

71

74

60.4

25-38

12-33

62

Kansas State

68

60

73

55

49

61.0

40-25

26-19

63

Boston College

67

66

75

62

52

64.4

31-33

14-26

64

BYU

78

67

50

64

66

65.0

38-26

-

65

Purdue

49

71

80

65

69

66.8

16-45

7-35

66

Kansas

62

68

89

74

51

68.8

9-51

3-42

Conference Data

Recruiting Talent Translates Into Playoff Berths

Since the start of the BCS era (1998), no team ranked lower than 16th 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. Three of the lowest teams to win a national title since 1998 – Miami, Florida and Texas – are due to rebound in the roster rankings over the next five years.

During the playoff era, only one team to make the top four – Michigan State – ranked outside of the top 25 of the roster rankings. And the four champions – Alabama (twice), Ohio State and Clemson – all ranked inside of the top eight. 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.

Takeaways from Roster Rankings

* For the third year in a row, Alabama and Ohio State claim the top two spots in the roster rankings.

* The SEC has half (five) of the top-10 teams in terms of roster talent.

* No SEC team ranks below 50 in the overall rankings, and 10 of the league’s 14 programs ranks inside of the top 25.

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* Five out of the top eight teams in the roster rankings have claimed a spot in the CFB Playoff.

* Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and USC are the only teams to record a class of 10th or better every year from 2014-18.

* Georgia continues to climb in annual roster rankings. After inking the No. 1 class in 2018, the Bulldogs’ five-year average is 4.8 – up from seven last year.

* Penn State is another team on the move in the roster rankings. Prior to the 2016 season, the Nittany Lions tied for 26th on this list. After the 2018 signing class, coach James Franklin’s team has climbed to No. 15 nationally. In three out of the last four classes, the Nittany Lions have inked a haul inside of the top 15.

* LSU’s No. 6 rank on this list is the lowest mark since Athlon started this article as an annual exercise in 2014.

* Seven of the top eight teams in roster rankings have won a national championship since the BCS era (1998).

* Tennessee has the fewest wins (34) of the teams that ranked inside of the top 10 nationally in recruiting rankings from 2014-18.

* USC checks in at No. 5 on the roster rankings, but the Trojans are the only team from the Pac-12 inside of the top 15.

* Of the teams outside of the top 25 in the roster rankings, Wisconsin (54 wins) is the most successful program over the last five years. Only four other teams – Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Ohio State – have 54 or more wins in that span.

* Oklahoma’s recruiting has been on the upswing over the last two years. The Sooners have inked back-to-back classes inside of the top 10 after averaging a 16th place finish nationally from 2014-16.

* Texas No. 3 class in 2018 is its first top-five haul since 2012.

* Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has made a significant impact on the recruiting trail during his first two years in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers inked a No. 71 class in 2017 (up from No. 80 in 2016) but improved to No. 49 nationally in 2018.

* P.J. Fleck’s first chance to recruit an entire year at Minnesota paid big dividends for the Golden Gophers. The No. 36 class was Minnesota’s best over the last five seasons.

* Since reeling in the No. 6 overall class in 2016, Ole Miss’ last two hauls have ranked No. 30 (2017) and No. 31 (2018).