The sky is blue, the Earth is round and when you have better players, you win more games.
Certainly, winning big in college football takes great coaching, enormous support staffs, state-of-the-art training facilities and plenty of luck. But whoever has the most talented roster, has a head start in the race for conference and national championships.
National Signing Day 2016 gave us more than 4,000 new players to root for and track over the next four or five seasons. So which teams are in the best shape for 2016?
College Football Podcast: 2016 National Signing Day Recap
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for SEC schools 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 but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the SEC's College Football's Rosters in 2016:
Boring A$$ Alabama
Nick Saban did it again. Last year, his class was basically wrapped up on National Signing Day. This year, he landed half-a-dozen names on the final day of the cycle. Either way, Alabama once again landed the best class in the nation. For the sixth season in a row. What Saban is doing on the recruiting trail right now is virtually unprecedented.
Les Miles used an unusually deep collection of in-state talent to land yet another elite class. And it’s not an indication that things are all gravy in Baton Rouge. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Miles has landed four consecutive top-six classes and has the fourth-most talented roster in the nation in 2016 — which is the exact reason why big boosters have increased pressure on their head coach. For what it's worth, everything above applies to Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M as well as the Aggies now boast the 10th-best roster in the nation.
Win Now in Athens
Georgia hired a new coach this year for the first time in 16 years for a reason. Georgia’s 30-10 SEC record over the last five years is second only to Alabama but the Dawgs haven’t claimed a conference title since 2005. Mark Richt is in Miami now and Kirby Smart just inherited the fifth-most talented roster in the nation. There are four top-10 classes sitting in Athens now and the pressure to win immediately is very real.
What to make of Gus and Jim?
Gus Malzahn surged through NSD and landed a fourth straight top-10 class for Auburn. Jim McElwain showed improvement on the recruiting trail in his first full cycle, landing the 13th-ranked class this cycle. But on the field, the two may be trending in opposite directions. Auburn, picked by many to win the West, fell to last place and 17-23 over the last five years while Florida won 10 games and claimed the East Division title. They have the seventh- and eighth-best rosters in the nation in 2016. The nation will learn a lot more about both this fall.
Vols, Rebs surging… into Atlanta?
Both Ole Miss and Tennessee are recruiting at an elite level since hiring Hugh Freeze and Butch Jones respectively. Both teams have top-20 rosters nationally and have been in the top 10 a combined four times in the last four years. With great quarterbacks returning and talent starting to stack up, the Rebels and Volunteers have as good a shot as anyone in the SEC to knock off Bama in 2016.
Arkansas might be the most consistent SEC recruiter outside of Alabama. With three different coaches recruiting for Arkansas between the 2012-16 recruiting cycles, the Razorbacks have landed five straight classes ranked between 23rd and 29th. Bielema does things a little differently (which is refreshing, honestly) and has improved his win total in all three seasons, so while the classes aren’t qualified as elite, it wouldn’t be smart to underestimate Bielema and Co.
The Great Dan Mullen
Mullen’s Mississippi State squad has won 41 games over the last five seasons, good for sixth in the league behind much more naturally gifted programs like Alabama, LSU and Georgia. The 19-21 SEC record is more of an indication of how tough the SEC West is rather than Mullen’s coaching ability. Six straight bowl games and a 10-6 league record the last two years in Starkville during Saban’s reign is a miraculous feat considering Mississippi State owns the least talented roster in the division (11th in the SEC).
CoMo better be patient
Barry Odom feels like a great fit in Columbia, Mo. He’s a sharp defensive mind and is a passionate alum, but the fans need to be patient with the young headman. Mizzou landed its second-worst recruiting class (53rd) since 2002 (57th in 2011) and was well behind the 25th-ranked haul from last year and the current 38.2 national average. Stability and identity were a huge part of Gary Pinkel’s success and Odom will need to time to grow into his new digs.