A while back, I studied a college football prediction system that based itself primarily on how each team recruited over the prior four years. The premise was that the team with the strongest roster wins.
That sounded like a good approach and it proved to be quite accurate for the elite programs that have plenty of four and five-star players. But, the premise began to crumble when it came to predicting results for other teams that didn’t have any four or five star players. In other words, most of the FBS.
What I find interesting about those non-elite teams that are ladened with three-star talent is how often some of them reach the top 25. The three service academies are good examples. If you combine their recruiting rankings over the past four years, they are 128th out of 130 teams. Yet last year, two of them combined for 22 wins and wound up in the final top 30. And how about Boise State? The Broncos have a four-year recruiting ranking of 61st yet they won 11 games last year and wound up in the top 15.
How does that happen?
Usually, we attribute it to coaching. Other times we say it’s a program thing—that the program itself always wins no matter if it has coaching changes, injuries, graduations, second-rate recruiting, or what have you. They win in defiance of good logic because, well, that’s what they do. Think of Appalachian State.
Teams that increase their number of four and five star players are almost certainly going to rise. But, only 39% of the teams in FBS recruited even one four or five star in this past cycle and that means that we have to sift through 61% of the college football recruits and try to distinguish one three-star from another.
Listen, three-stars are a dime a dozen. Did you know that there are more than 3000 former three-star players in the FBS?
All in one classification.
I read somewhere the suggestion that scouting services should create sub-classes like 3a, 3b, and 3c to separate things more. But, I’m not sure that would do anything except increase the chances of mis-categorizations. I mean, it sorta has the feel like we would be trying to get water out of our sinking boat by drilling holes in the floor.
Recruiting has some affect on Savvy Index and its preseason projections for teams, but not a lot.
Still, it’s fun to look at what teams have been doing in recruiting and seeing how they compare. Today, we’ll look at recruiting using three different charts:
#1 the best recruiting programs over the past four years;
#2 the teams with the most recruiting momentum— early indicator of which teams are heating up and which coaches are headed for the hot seat; and,
#3, a listing of all 130 teams with a display of their over all recruiting ranking with their momentum ranking alongside.
We’ll look at three aspects but the one that will be most interesting is #2— the recruiting momentum for each team because that has proven to be a rather beneficial, prophetic indicator.
CHART 1: THE 25 BEST RECRUITING PROGRAMS OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS
Data for Chart 1 comes directly from 24/7 Sports and is an average of all recruiting grades for every player recruited in the past four years for each team. You already know who the prime suspects are so we won’t spend much time here.
|4 year rank||4 year average|
Not much in the way of surprises except for possibly USC. We’ve all heard how horrible the Trojans have been recruiting yet they show up well on Chart 1.
That’s okay. We’ll take another look at USC in Chart 3 where we list the four-year recruiting accomplishments against the current momentum for all 130 teams.
Before we get to Chart 3, let’s take a look at Chart 2 and see which teams have the greatest recruiting momentum. For the most part, Chart 2 is the sum of the most-recent two years of recruiting compared to the sum of the two years before that. There is one minor adjustment that we make so that Savvy can use this data in its preseason projection module for each team. Otherwise, Chart 2 is a straight-up two-year to two-year comparison of data shown on 24/7 Sports.
Momentum data is not just a measure of the head coach but it is also a good way to measure the effectiveness of recently hired assistants.
Mid Major teams move with greater dynamic so it’s easier for them to rise to the top and harder for Power Five teams. History has shown that Power Five teams that make this list usually do quite well in the coming season.
CHART 2: RECRUITING MOMENTUM ANALYSIS
|momentum ranking||recruiting momentum|
|22||New Mexico St.||2.0|
And finally, we get to Chart 3 which is a composite for each team. It shows each team’s ranking for the best recruiting (essentially a four-year average) alongside each team’s ranking for the most momentum (essentially the past two years compared to the two years before).
This is where we will see USC as one of the best recruiting teams of the past four seasons while being one of the worst in the past two.
Chart 3 is sorted alphabetically by team name so it is easier to find your team.
CHART 3: COMPOSITE OF RECRUITING EFFECTIVES AND MOMENTUM
|average recruit ranking||momentum ranking||4 year recruiting average [weighted]||momentum|
|38||99||N Carolina St.||86.18||-.9|
|127||22||New Mexico St.||79.25||2.0|
|87||105||San Diego St.||81.76||-1.3|
|111||50||San Jose St.||80.38||.7|