If you need a refresher on how the method behind this, click here for last year's more detailed explanation.
The short explanation is that I took Rivals and Scout's Team Rankings for the past 5 years (2011-2015) and combined them together to get an average ranking between the two services. Then I weighted those averages like this: First Year players (FR) comprised 10.04% of the two deep, Second Year players (FR*, SO) 22.18%, Third Year players (SO*, JR) 22.59%, Fourth Year players (JR*, SR) 26.78%, and 5th year players (SR*, GR) were 18.41% of the two deep.
As always, this is designed to present information to make you think. Take from this what you want but here are some "Fun Facts" right off the bat about what this composite shows, and what I conclude from this myself.
I went back through the past 9 years and looked at all the National Championship teams:
The team that won the National Championship in those years was ranked #2, #6, #1, #1, #10, #6, #2, #5, and #6 before the season started using this composite formula. Recruiting matters and recruiting rankings matter.
The last 6 National Champions are currently in the top 5. It's easier to stay Elite than to become Elite.
The last 13 National Champions are in the current top 10. Eliteness is won "on the field" but being a top 10 team here is a strong, and virtually necessary, characteristic of eliteness.
According to my definition of "Eliteness," there are currently 13 Elite Programs. 9 of those 13 Elite Programs sit in the top 11 of this Recruiting Composite (12 of 13 are in the top 20). Obviously, it is crystal clear that the programs that are perceived to be Elite attract better talent than those who lack that perception (see Synergistic Trend below).
The first table shows the 122 teams with enough data available to make their ranking legitimate by this formula (Teams making a recent jump to FBS that haven't been ranked by Rivals and Scout consistently are not included). Each year's ranking by both Rivals and Scout is listed by year. The number under "Score" is their weighted ranking. The lower the score the better. Elite Programs are in bold.
One of my little "Krakenisms" I've discussed before is the "Synergistic Trend" which means that overachievement on the field yields better players in recruiting which yields better performance on the field which yields better recruiting. Therefore, it is easier to maintain Eliteness than it is to break into Eliteness. Descending from Eliteness usually involves either coaching turnover, loss of motivation/energy from coaching, or tying up the purse strings of the program by the administration of the school.
Clemson was ranked #14 last year and has moved up another spot this year to #13. Because of the small recruiting class in 2009, Clemson has been ranked as low as #22 in these rankings under Dabo. That ranking was heading into the 2010 season when Clemson finished 6-7.
Since, 2010, Clemson has moved up the rankings yearly like this:
We are moving upwards in recruiting at a level of consistency that is as good as anyone in the nation right now. In fact, of the 21 schools that were ranked ahead of us in 2010, there is only one other school that has not dropped in these rankings at least for one year of this composite...and that school is Alabama.
Will this consistency pay off?
As I wrote above, no team in the past 9 years has won the national championship without being ranked in the top 10 of this composite. 8 of the last 9 NC teams were ranked in the top 6 of this composite. So if you like to gamble, you can probably get pretty decent odds on LSU or Georgia to win it all this year.
All trends are fluid and have outliers, so I'm not saying that Clemson can't win the National Championship this year. It's just that the talent level information here does not support it. However, the same can be said for the Big 12 favorite, TCU, and they are projected to contend for the National Championship.
College Football is being decided on the field more so than ever before in its history. Strength of schedule also matters more than ever. It has become more likely that teams will have to ascend inside the top 10 and maybe inside the top 6 in recruiting to win the National Championship in this day and age.
Those trends also say that if Clemson wins the ACC, it is most likely because FSU is in a down year more so than Clemson elevating to FSU's level the previous 2 years. Clemson is, however, at the talent level where becoming an Elite Program is possible. 23% of the current Elite Programs are now ranked behind Clemson. Therefore, according to this composite, it can now be said that the talent is there for Eliteness moving forward.
As far as the National title picture goes, it is more likely that two of Ohio St., Florida St, Notre Dame, Texas, and USC make the playoff and face two SEC teams out of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, or Florida over any other scenario. If you account for the typical Eliteness bias, you can pull Georgia and Notre Dame out and add Oregon, Stanford, and Michigan State.
In the 2nd table, let's look at the ACC teams (with Notre Dame). The first column is the recruiting ranking in this composite when the current coach took over the program. The rest of the categories are the same as the first table. Each Team's Score is listed in bold in the last column. The other columns moving left to right are 2011-2015 Rivals and Scout Rankings in the same order as the first table.
You always hear that a coach needs time to "get his players in there." I believe this is true because as we saw in 2010, you can't run a spread successfully if you don't have WRs. And yet, as this composite demonstrates, it is the upgrade in talent when recruiting that makes the most definitive difference.
So, I used the two far left columns above to show how each program is moving in recruiting under the current head coach.
The overall "upswing" of ACC recruiting has begun and we are a part of it. The southeast is fertile recruiting ground and if it ends up being a mistake for the SEC to not offer Clemson and Florida State, this is why. The SEC chose to expand their footprint to the west as opposed to locking down the southeast and effectively destroying the ACC. They chose to take the money in their face instead of assuring more money in the future by locking down the lifeblood of that money, their recruiting pool
As you can see above and probably already knew, Florida State and Notre Dame are the only two teams in conference that out-recruit us. You'll notice by the "Score" column that the gap between us and those two is fairly large (cue up the "Lonely 5-Heart Band"). These two teams make up the first tier of ACC Recruiting.
The 2nd tier here consists of Clemson and Miami. These two schools have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference.
The 3rd tier features VT, UNC, and UVA. UNC, amid academic scandal and the ousting of Butch Davis, has dropped from the 2nd tier over the past couple years.
The 4th tier consists of conference new-comers, Louisville and Pittsburgh. From a recruiting standpoint, these two add more credibility to the ACC than they were given. Adding them was thought to be a basketball move, but as you can see, the talent foundation they are working with is higher than 5 schools that were currently in the conference. With better resources than they had in the Big East, I expect them to only go up from here.
The 5th tier consists of NC St. and Georgia Tech. State is an upswing and could jump up into the 4th tier as soon as next year. Georgia Tech is Georgia Tech. It seems like no coach can recruit there but, every coach can overachieve there despite it.
The 6th and final tier consists of Boston College, Syracuse, Duke, and Wake Forest. I think BC is primed for an upswing as they work past the horrid 2012 and 2013 classes. Syracuse is also upwardly mobile after raising their talent level in each of the past two years. Duke and Wake Forest are mired at the bottom where they always seem to be. Both programs have excellent offensive coaching with David Cutcliffe and Dave Clawson both developing pro-style systems that should consistently overachieve from their recruiting ranking. Duke is already doing that, of course, and I expect Wake Forest to begin to do the same.
The 3rd table is set up the same way as the 2nd table except it shows how Clemson matches up with the teams on their schedule.
|Clemson Schedule 2015|
As you can see, Florida State and Notre Dame are the only two teams that out-recruit us on our schedule. So, you might say that talent alone suggests a 10-2 season this year. Unfortunately, we know that any given Saturday during football season can provide us fans with joy, relief, or disappointment.
A couple programs here stand out to me. The first is our feathered friends in the midlands. Their recruiting has leveled off and one could not project a drastic increase anytime soon with the cloud of Spurrier's retirement hovering over the program.
I think that what happens on the field this year will go a long way to deciding South Carolina's future over the next few years. At best for South Carolina moving forward, the Gamecocks bounce back and even though recruiting is more difficult to sustain than it was several years ago, CockNation stands behind Spurrier.
At worst, SC is entering a period of decline. If 2015 is another mediocre year like last year, how the SC administration handles that would be something to watch over the next 6 months. Spurrier may have too much credibility and ego to be bullied into the "coach-in-waiting" situation I think they need.
The other program is SC's bowl opponent from last year, Miami. For the past five years, the entire span of this composite, Miami has had the cloud of probation hanging over the program. Yet, since Al Golden took over the program, they have still maintained a top 20 recruiting ranking.
With their scholarships moving from 76 to 80 this year and from 80 to 85 next year, the end is finally in sight. I expect them to begin to catch the "Synergistic Trend" possibly as soon as this year. I don't expect them to compete for the national championship anytime soon, but I do expect them to become the top 15 program that their recruiting will say they are.
Clemson is trending up and The ACC is trending up. As good as Clemson is in recruiting, Dabo and Company still have some improving to do to reach the National Championship level in that regard. However, they have attained the talent good enough for the Elite Program level and The Synergistic Trend is in motion.