Where does your team rank in terms of talent heading into 2018?
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.
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.
Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2018
|Conference||Avg. Class Rank||Teams in Top 25*|
|37.4 (14 teams)||3|
|39.4 (10 teams)||2|
|38.6 (14 teams)||4|
|33.8 (12 teams)||5|
|19.1 (14 teams)||10|
|*Top 25 classes also include Notre Dame|
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.
* 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).