Examining where teams rank in terms of talent heading into the season
Recruiting is the foundation for winning national championships, competing for CFB Playoff berths or performing 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 six champions have come from teams ranked inside of the top five 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 (and player development) 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) has won five national championships since 2009. Additionally, the Crimson Tide, LSU, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State - the top five teams in this metric - have all played for or won a national title in the CFB Playoff era. Three teams from the SEC rank inside of the top four for 2020, with Ohio State (No. 3) and Clemson (No. 5) rounding out the top five.
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 2020
Takeaways From Roster Rankings
* During the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), every champion currently ranks inside of the top five of the roster rankings going into 2020.
* Only two teams – Michigan State and Washington – rank outside of the top 16 in roster rankings and made the CFB Playoff.
* Alabama has reeled in eight No. 1 recruiting classes since 2011.
* Georgia has closed the gap to Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the roster rankings. Prior to 2018, the Bulldogs had an average of 4.8 over a five-year window for recruiting rankings. Going into 2020, that number has been lowered to 2.8.
* Georgia has not finished below No. 3 in each of its last four classes.
* Auburn (No. 6) is the highest-rated team in roster talent to not have a CFB Playoff appearance.
* It just means more? The SEC takes 12 of the top 30 spots in the roster rankings, with four coming in the top six – Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Auburn.
* Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are the only teams with fewer than 10 losses since the 2016 season.
* Ohio State holds a significant edge in roster talent over its Big Ten counterparts. Consider this: The SEC’s No. 6 team in the roster rankings is Texas A&M (No. 11 nationally). The No. 6 team in roster rankings in the Big Ten is Maryland at No. 32.
* Since 2017, both Michigan and Penn State have improved their roster talent. The Wolverines rank No. 8 (up from No. 14) and the Nittany Lions check in at No. 13 (up from No. 21).
* Clemson has passed Florida State for the No. 1 roster in the ACC according to recruiting rankings. The Tigers rank No. 5 nationally going into 2020 – a significant increase from their 2017 rank (No. 12).
* Florida tied for second nationally in roster rankings prior to the 2014 season. The Gators have slipped into a tie with Oklahoma for No. 9 going into 2020. However, coach Dan Mullen has reeled in back-to-back top-10 classes.
* The 2020 season is a critical one for coach Tom Herman at Texas. The Longhorns aren’t hurting for talent. This program has reeled in three consecutive top-10 classes and ranked No. 3 in back-to-back years (2018-19).
* Although Texas has the No. 1 overall roster in the conference, six Big 12 opponents have more overall victories than Texas from 2016-19.
* USC ranked No. 6 in the roster rankings prior to the 2017 season. However, the Trojans have fallen to No. 18 and no longer hold the top spot in the Pac-12.
* Washington has inked three consecutive classes ranked No. 16 or higher.
* Similar to its rival USC, UCLA is also trending in the wrong direction. The Bruins ranked No. 13 in this article in 2017 but have fallen to No. 23.
* Since 2010, Nebraska has signed only one class (2014) that ranked outside of the top 30.
* South Carolina, Nebraska, UCLA and Ole Miss are the only four teams in top 25 roster talent that have a losing record since 2016.
* Wisconsin ranks No. 33 in the roster rankings but has won 52 games since 2016. Only Oklahoma, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama have more overall wins in that span.
* Oklahoma and Texas are the only Big 12 teams to rank inside of the top 25 for roster talent.
* Only three ACC teams – Clemson, Florida State and Miami – rank inside the top 25 of roster talent for 2020.
* Georgia Tech is a program on the rise under coach Geoff Collins. The Yellow Jackets brought in the No. 26 haul for 2020, which is easily the program’s highest ranking over the last 11 classes.
* Virginia Tech’s 2020 class rated No. 72 nationally, which dropped the program to No. 36 overall. Prior to 2017, the Hokies ranked No. 28 overall in roster talent.
* Purdue ranks No. 51 nationally, but this team is likely to move up the list in future seasons. Coach Jeff Brohm has inked two standout classes (No. 25 in 2019 and No. 33 in 2020). Those classes are weighted down a bit by the No. 80 haul in ’16.
* Utah checks in at No. 35 nationally in roster rankings prior to 2020. That’s a significant jump after ranking No. 45 prior to 2017.
* Minnesota has moved to No. 43 in roster talent after reeling in three consecutive classes ranked inside of the top 45.
* Arizona signed the No. 43 class in 2016 and the No. 45 haul in ’17. However, the Wildcats have ranked No. 56 or worse in three consecutive classes.
* New Arkansas coach Sam Pittman deserves credit for salvaging his first class in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks finished No. 30 nationally, which isn’t too far of a drop from the No. 23 rank in 2019.
* North Carolina’s 2020 class finished No. 19 overall. That’s the best haul by the Tar Heels since a No. 19 finish in 2011.
* Only five teams – Washington State, BYU, Northwestern, Wake Forest and Kansas State – have an overall winning record since 2016 outside of the top 50.