With back-to-back top-five classes, USC has pulled away from the rest of the Pac-12 from a recruiting standpoint
The 2017 college football season ended in an unceremonious splat for the Pac-12. With just one bowl game win among its nine participants, the conference endured the worst power-conference postseason ever.
Positive news for the Pac-12 came with the 2018 National Signing Day, however, as four of the league's teams finished with classes ranked No. 18 or better. Half of the conference landed top 40 classes. That influx of new talent should help bolster the Pac-12's national profile.
Likewise, the Pac-12 benefited in the early 2010s with the hire of several new head coaches. In 2018, five of the conference's 12 members have new staffs leading the way.
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for Pac-12 schools over the last five (2104-18) classes according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings and each team's record over the last five (2013-17) seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account attrition but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the Pac-12's College Football's Rosters in 2018
Recruiting success produces results for USC
USC concluded the 2016 season with its first Rose Bowl title in eight years. The 2017 Trojans claimed the program's first conference championship in nine years. With a combined 21 wins over the past two campaigns, USC reached a benchmark last achieved in the 2007 and ‘08 seasons. Of no coincidence is that USC has maintained its place near the top of annual recruiting rankings. And with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions finished and the first semblance of stability in leadership in several years, the Trojans' bevy of talent is turning into wins.
Huskies building for the long haul
Washington's resurgence back to Pac-12 and potential national title contender is no flash in the pan. In fact, recruiting results suggest Chris Petersen's just getting started. Every season since his first recruiting cycle for Huskies football, Petersen and his staff have produced higher rated classes than the season prior. Combine the in-game strategy and acumen that made Boise State a national powerhouse under Petersen with the resources of Washington, and it's evident this program is building for sustained success.
Spreading Saban influence in the Pac-12
New Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal started building sleeping Group of Five giant FIU into a winner before surprisingly having the plug pulled. He then spent the next half-decade working as an assistant, first with perennial powerhouse Alabama before moving onto Oregon. Cristobal's first recruiting class as Ducks head coach suggests Cristobal learned well from his former colleague, Nick Saban. Oregon's No. 16-ranked class is its best in the past half-decade.
Ready for the next step?
Utah has been the Pac-12's most consistent program for the past five years, and the most frequent overachievers. Kyle Whittingham and his staff have coached up unimpressively rated recruiting classes to contenders. However, the Utes are the sole Pac-12 South representatives without an appearance in the conference championship game. Recent results show Utah's success on the field, in relation to outpacing recruiting rankings, is beginning to catch up on National Signing Day. This year's class was Utah's second straight ranked in the top 40. The Utes are building the talent cachet necessary to take that elusive next step.
Territorial Cup tumult
Arizona and Arizona State are bringing on new head coaches at the same time for the third time since 2001: John Mackovic and Dirk Koetter (2001); Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham (2012); and now, Kevin Sumlin and Herm Edwards. The most recent vacancies were surprising, albeit for much different reasons. Graham was fired after a strong finish to 2017 and second-place showing in the Pac-12 South, while Rodriguez was ousted amid scandal in January.
Arizona's situation forced a hire just a few weeks prior to National Signing Day and well after the early signing period. Arizona State's unorthodox hire of long dormant Herm Edwards gave the Sun Devils a head start, and a more highly rated class, but still the lowest ranked of the past five years.
The Chip effect
Recruiting top-tier talent has not been an issue at UCLA. Even before the opening of much-needed new facilities, both Rick Neuheisel and Jim Mora landed elite signing classes. Only for the first half of Mora's tenure did success on National Signing Day parlay to on-field results, and even then, reality never matched expectations. Chip Kelly's first National Signing Day at UCLA netted a top 20 class — though only the third-highest ranked crop in UCLA's last five years. The true measure of Kelly's impact on Bruins football will be gleaned in how his staff develops an abundance of talent.