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Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2021

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Examining where teams rank in terms of talent heading into the season

Ranking the college football rosters for the 2021 season provides a unique window into the talent level for all teams and how that compares to win totals, conference championships, and success on a national level. 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 six 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 2021, 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.

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

Ranking College Football's Rosters for 2021

RkTeamConf'21'20'19'18'17AvgW/LConf.

Rk

Team

Conf

21

20

19

18

17

Avg

W/L

Conf.

1

Alabama

SEC

1

2

1

5

1

2.0

65-5

39-3

2

Georgia

SEC

4

1

2

1

3

2.2

52-14

32-9

3

Ohio State

Big Ten

2

5

14

2

2

5.0

56-7

38-3

4

LSU

SEC

3

4

5

15

7

6.8

47-16

29-13

5

Clemson

ACC

5

3

10

7

16

8.2

65-6

38-3

6

Oklahoma

Big 12

11

12

6

9

8

9.2

56-10

39-5

7

Texas A&M

SEC

7

6

4

17

13

9.4

41-21

25-16

8T

Florida

SEC

13

9

9

14

11

11.2

42-20

28-14

8T

Oregon

Pac-12

6

11

7

13

19

11.2

36-23

22-19

8T

Texas

Big 12

17

8

3

3

25

11.2

37-25

25-19

11

Michigan

Big Ten

10

14

8

22

5

11.8

39-19

28-14

12

Notre Dame

Ind

9

18

15

10

10

12.4

47-16

9-0

13

Auburn

SEC

27

7

11

12

9

13.2

41-23

25-16

14

Penn State

Big Ten

21

15

12

6

15

13.8

46-16

32-13

15

Miami

ACC

12

16

27

8

12

15.0

40-23

27-14

16

Tennessee

SEC

16

10

13

21

17

15.4

29-31

14-28

17

Florida State

ACC

22

22

18

11

6

15.8

31-29

17-23

18

USC

Pac-12

8

64

20

4

4

20.0

39-19

31-10

19

Nebraska

Big Ten

20

20

17

23

23

20.6

25-32

18-26

20T

North Carolina

ACC

14

13

30

20

29

21.2

28-33

18-24

20T

Washington

Pac-12

35

17

16

16

22

21.2

43-15

29-11

22

Mississippi State

SEC

25

28

24

27

24

25.6

33-30

17-25

23

Ole Miss

SEC

18

34

22

32

31

27.4

25-33

12-29

24

UCLA

Pac-12

30

33

40

19

20

28.4

20-36

16-27

25

Maryland

Big Ten

19

31

47

28

18

28.6

20-34

11-30

26

Stanford

Pac-12

50

21

19

40

14

28.8

36-22

26-16

27

Arkansas

SEC

24

30

23

45

27

29.8

18-41

7-35

28

Wisconsin

Big Ten

15

26

29

46

39

31.0

46-16

31-11

29

South Carolina

SEC

78

19

21

18

21

31.4

28-33

17-25

30

Kentucky

SEC

33

25

34

37

30

31.8

37-26

20-22

31

Utah

Pac-12

31

29

42

33

33

33.6

39-20

25-16

32

TCU

Big 12

61

24

31

25

28

33.8

35-27

23-22

33

Arizona State

Pac-12

53

23

28

36

32

34.4

29-26

19-21

34

Iowa

Big Ten

23

36

41

39

41

36.0

41-19

27-17

35

Michigan State

Big Ten

43

44

33

31

36

37.4

29-29

19-24

36

NC State

ACC

34

43

32

26

53

37.6

37-26

22-20

37

Oklahoma State

Big 12

39

40

38

34

38

37.8

43-20

27-18

38

Virginia Tech

ACC

45

76

26

24

26

39.4

38-26

25-17

39

Baylor

Big 12

44

50

35

29

40

39.6

28-33

18-27

40

Missouri

SEC

29

51

37

43

43

40.6

30-30

18-24

41

Pitt

ACC

26

45

55

48

37

42.2

34-29

23-19

42

Louisville

ACC

38

42

70

30

34

42.8

31-31

19-23

43

Georgia Tech

ACC

47

27

50

44

48

43.2

27-32

18-23

44T

Minnesota

Big Ten

37

38

45

38

59

43.4

35-23

20-23

44T

West Virginia

Big 12

40

37

48

35

57

43.4

36-24

25-19

46

Cal

Pac-12

28

39

43

42

70

44.4

26-28

14-26

47

Colorado

Pac-12

64

35

44

53

35

46.2

29-27

18-22

48

Virginia

ACC

32

49

39

59

58

47.4

30-32

18-23

49

Purdue

Big Ten

73

32

25

52

72

50.8

22-34

15-27

50

Northwestern

Big Ten

49

47

51

58

50

51.0

36-25

27-16

51

Iowa State

Big 12

59

46

46

55

52

51.6

35-28

26-19

52

Indiana

Big Ten

54

57

36

50

62

51.8

30-28

19-24

53T

Rutgers

Big Ten

41

61

65

56

42

53.0

12-45

6-39

53T

Vanderbilt

SEC

48

53

58

41

65

53.0

20-39

8-33

55

Washington State

Pac-12

60

55

67

47

44

54.6

35-21

24-16

56

Syracuse

ACC

57

58

57

51

54

55.4

24-36

13-29

57

Duke

ACC

58

63

49

63

47

56.0

26-35

11-31

58T

Arizona

Pac-12

77

59

56

61

45

59.6

19-35

12-29

58T

Kansas State

Big 12

56

52

63

66

61

59.6

34-27

23-22

60

Texas Tech

Big 12

68

48

62

72

49

59.8

24-35

14-31

61

Boston College

ACC

36

62

64

71

67

60.0

33-29

19-23

62

Kansas

Big 12

51

56

71

60

71

61.8

9-48

3-41

63

Illinois

Big Ten

74

88

53

54

46

63.0

17-40

10-34

64

Wake Forest

ACC

65

60

59

64

68

63.2

34-27

17-22

65

Oregon State

Pac-12

109

54

52

70

51

67.2

14-41

10-33

66

BYU

Ind

72

81

84

78

66

76.2

38-25

N/A

* Four teams – Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson and LSU – have won the national championship during the CFB Playoff era. None of those four teams rank outside of the top five in roster talent going into 2021.

* The SEC has five of the top 10 rosters in college football. Alabama leads the way with a narrow (2.0 to 2.2) edge over Georgia in the five-year average. LSU, Texas A&M and Florida round out the SEC classes in the top 10.

* 12 of the SEC’s 14 teams rank inside the top 30 in roster talent going into 2021.

* None of Alabama’s classes have ranked outside of the top five since 2010. During that span, only two hauls (2018 and ’18) ranked below No. 2 nationally.

* The lowest team in the roster rankings to make the CFB Playoff was MichiganState. The Spartans rank No. 35 in roster talent going into the 2021 season. Additionally, Washington (tied for No. 20) is the only other team to rank outside of the top 17 in roster talent to make the playoff since 2014.

* Georgia (No. 2) is the only team in the top five of roster talent without a national title during the CFB Playoff era.

* When Athlon Sports posted this article back in 2014, Clemson rated No. 17 nationally in roster talent. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team has climbed to No. 5 going into 2021.

* NotreDame ranks No. 12 nationally in roster talent. Only six teams – Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, OhioState and Oklahoma have more wins from 2017-20.

* The Big12 has just two teams ranked inside of the top 25 in roster talent. Oklahoma ranks No. 6, and Texas is tied for eighth going into 2021. TCU is next in the conference at No. 32.

* While the Big 12 has only two teams in the top 25 of roster talent, the next group is clustered together in a small window. TCU is No. 32, followed by OklahomaState (37), Baylor (39), WestVirginia (tied for 44th) and IowaState (51).

* Oregon is the only Pac-12 team inside of the top 15 nationally in roster talent. USC is No. 2 in the conference and 18th nationally. The Trojans’ five-year average is weighed down by the No. 64 class signed in 2020.

* When Athlon Sports posted the 2017 version of this article, Florida State ranked No. 1 in the ACC and No. 4 nationally in roster talent. The Seminoles have tumbled to No. 3 within the conference and No. 17 nationally.

* Wisconsin’s classes have trended up since finishing No. 46 in 2018. The Badgers climbed to No. 29 in 2019, No. 26 in ’20, and No. 15 in ’21.

* To illustrate the depth of recruiting within the SEC, take a look at Kentucky. The Wildcats rank No. 12 within the conference but rank No. 30 nationally. Kentucky’s five-yard average ranks higher than eight teams in the Big 12 and would be fifth-best among teams in the ACC.

* Nebraska’s classes have rated between No. 20-24 nationally every year since 2016. However, the Cornhuskers are just 18-26 in the Big Ten from 2017-20.

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* Ole Miss’ No. 18 ranked class in 2021 was the program’s highest finish since No. 6 in ’16.

* North Carolina has inked back-to-back top-15 classes after just one top-20 haul from 2010-19.

Washington’s 2021 haul rated No. 35 nationally. That’s the lowest mark for the Huskies since their 2016 class ranked No. 29.

* Maryland ranked No. 38 nationally in roster rankings in 2017. However, the Terrapins have climbed No. 25 nationally going into ’21.

* UCLA did not finish lower than 20th nationally in a signing class from 2010-18. The Bruins have ranked 30th or lower over their last three classes.

* Oregon State’s 2021 recruiting class ranked No. 109 overall and is the lowest of any Power 5 team over the last 10 years. However, that’s largely due to the Beavers signing only 10 players. Also, the average player rating (85.18) was better than the total at Washington State, Arizona and Colorado.

* From 2013-15, Utah’s classes ranked between No. 45, No. 67 and No. 47, respectively. However, the Utes have just one class below No. 36 nationally since that span.

* OklahomaState did not have a class rank lower than No. 32 from 2010-14. The Cowboys have not finished higher than No. 34 since 2015.

* Iowa tied for No. 53 nationally in roster talent going into the 2017 season. The Hawkeyes have climbed to No. 34 for the ’21 campaign.

* After recording finishes of No. 26, No. 24, and No. 26 from 2017-19, Virginia Tech's most recent class have ranked 76th (2020) and 45th (’21).

* Missouri’s No. 29 haul in 2021 was the program’s first top-30 class since ’15.

* Colorado’s No. 64 class in 2021 was the program’s lowest since a No. 69 class in ’16.

* Virginia’s No. 32 haul for 2021 was the best of coach Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure.

* Rutgers’ 2021 class (No. 41) was the best for the program since a No. 24 finish in ’12.

* Illinois ranked No. 56 in roster talent in 2017. The Fighting Illini have slipped to No. 63 going into ’21.

* Boston College signed its best recruiting class (No. 36) since its 2011 haul (No. 41).

* Five ACC teams – NC State, Louisville, Pitt, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech – are ranked between No. 36 and No. 43 nationally.

* South Carolina’s No. 78 haul for 2021 is the lowest of any SEC team over the last five seasons.

* Texas Tech’s roster ranked No. 42 nationally going into the 2017 season. The Red Raiders have fallen to No. 60 going into ’21.

Podcast: Ranking the Rosters, Trends and Signing Day Recap