So earlier this week I wrote an article about coaching and recruiting in regards to the 4 teams that were in the college football playoff. You can find the link below if you haven’t checked it out.
What I found is that with a blend of great coaching and highly influential people within the program, your chances of success are greatly increased when you use that to drive recruits to come to your school. A lot of that blend and ability to steer recruits to you has to do with program recognition, history of the program, tenure of coach/coaching continuity and in Oregon’s case a great visionary leader and a donor with deep pockets.
As I thought more and more about what I found I decided I wanted to expand on it and look at the College Football Playoff final rankings and see how the other teams stacked up as well. My original conclusion was that, although recruiting class rankings are interesting…they aren’t necessarily a great indicator of future success. So my next thought was… well maybe it is an indicator of who the best coaches are as far as development of talent, which led me to see if I could use this algorithm I seem to be developing from this research to predict the college football playoff next year. What I found was pretty interesting.
Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State don’t look to be going anywhere any time soon when it comes to the playoff. When I compared the four teams, Oregon was the one team that stuck out as overachieving with an average class ranking of 17.2 on rivals.com from 2010 thru 2014. Alabama’s average was 1.8, Florida St. was 6.2 and Ohio State had an average class rank of 9. When looking at the Top 25 these numbers ranked as follows:
- Alabama = 1.8
- Florida State = 6.4
- USC = 7.2
- LSU = 7.6
- Auburn = 7.6
- Ohio State = 9
- Georgia = 10.2
- Clemson = 13.6
- Oregon = 17.2
- UCLA = 18.4
So, the top SEC team, top ACC team and top BIG team per the 5 yr average ranking made the playoff, while Oregon as the 2nd best PAC 12 team made it. USC, which had the 3rd best average class ranking finished 8-4 and wasn’t really in the conversation this year. So 3 out of 4 isn’t too bad right? Well if you dig deeper than just the recruiting side, you have to circle back to the coaching aspect. While Steve Sarkisian in my mind is a great football coach, this was his first season as head coach back with USC. As I mentioned before, tenure of a coach, or the coaching continuity of a program will also be very important. Why? Because the previous years recruits were part of a different coaches plans and philosophies and were recruited based on a different game plan. Also of note is that the highest Big 12 team was TCU with an average 5 yr class rank of 37.8, which put it as 16th best. (Baylor was 17th at 39.2)
The other teams in the top ten were LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Clemson, and UCLA. While each had a great season, they also all lost to one of the teams that are in the CFP, so really what we are seeing is that, more or less, overall talent does win out.
So now I was curious to know from a coaching perspective what can this tell us? Perhaps who are the great talent developers? Based on the numbers the biggest difference makers from their 5yr class ranking v. CFP final ranking were as follows.
- Coach Bill Snyder with Kansas St went from 24 to 11 = 13 spots
- Coach Art Briles with Baylor from 17 to 5 = 12 spots
- Coach Gary Patterson with TCU from 16 to 6 = 10 spots
- Coach Paul Johnson with Georgia Tech 21 to 12 = 9 spots
- Coach Rich Rodriguez with Arizona from 18 to 8 = 8 spots
When you look at the list you come up with a group of coaches that have put in their dues and have been with each program for at least 3 years. Rodriguez being the last one to join his team in 2012. All have been successful in developing the talent that they have been able to recruit and therefore have elevated their respective teams beyond the talent they have.
So with that being said there is also no doubt that Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher and Urban Meyer are great at developing talent as well, which is why they find themselves in the position they are at the end of this season. I think the jury is still out on Mike Helfrich on what kind of coach he is going to be, but I think the system at Oregon set up by Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly, which was then passed on to Helfrich, has really benefited the Ducks from a coaching continuity standpoint. All have been promoted from within the program when they ascended to the head coaching position, therefore the system never really changed.
In order to look to the future for a prediction I decided to alter my sample size and look at the 3 yr class average (2012-2014) from rivals.com for these schools and see where they landed. The top 10 being as follows.
- Alabama = 1
- Ohio State = 3
- Florida State = 6.67
- LSU = 8.67
- Auburn = 9
- USC = 10.33,
- Georgia = 10.33
- UCLA = 13
- Clemson 13.66
- Oregon = 21.33
What this doesn’t account for are the non top 25 teams in the CFP that historically recruit well, like the Gators, Sooners, Aggies, Nittany lions etc. So I took the time to use 2015 team ranking as a predictor for upward trending teams, and calculated a couple of their 3 yr averages as well.
- Florida = 5
- Texas A&M = 10.67
- Notre Dame = 11.33
- Miami Fl = 13.67
- Oklahoma = 13.67
- Michigan = 14.33
- Tennessee = 14.33
- Texas = 15.33
- South Carolina = 17
- Penn State = 39.33
The results show that there are many historically good teams not in the current top 25 of the CFP that will likely end up back there soon. Couple that with the teams that are already there and looks like the next few years will likely have a similar theme for the SEC, ACC and BIG 10. The most likely to drop out from those three conferences is Alabama as their competition from a recruiting standpoint is nipping at their heals and the disparity is very small. Although having a 1.0 class average is still pretty daunting from a talent perspective, the power of the SEC, whether you believe is contrived by ESPN or not, is very strong when it comes to recruit talent.
So what happens to Oregon? Well, I think that USC and UCLA are likely going to knock them off their pedestal. Both schools have gone through somewhat recent changes in coaches and therefore I believe has given Oregon an extended window, but next year that window will likely be closed. Especially with Mariota likely leaving for the draft.
So here is my prediction for the CFP next year.
2) Ohio State
3) Florida St.
I think that Alabama with coach Saban, even in a very tough SEC conference stacked with talent, is hard to bet against. Amari Cooper will be back, and the QB situation in Alabama has always been one where, if you play within the system as a competent quarterback, they have been successful.
Ohio State and Urban Meyer are going to potentially have 2 Heisman caliber quarterbacks, and possibly a 3rd that lead them to a national championship. From a talent perspective you have to love that and when looking at the rankings for the Big Ten no one else comes close to being on the Buckeyes level from a recruiting standpoint. Michigan has a 3 yr rating of 14.33, but currently has the 94th best class in 2015 and no head coach. Not a great predictor for future success.
Florida St. is the wild card here, but I think based on the numbers and current win streak cannot be dropped from the top 4. Yes James Winston will be gone, but taking a look at the numbers it is clear that they have no issues with reloading on talent. Jimbo Fisher should and I think will be able to develop the talent he has to surpass strong challenges from Clemson and Miami next year. This is the one I feel least confident about.
USC and the mighty Trojans were a power house in the first decade of this millennium, and I think will be back in the thick of the race next year. I wanted to put UCLA here over the Trojans, but with a change at QB likely it was hard for me to rationalize sliding them in to the spot. The Trojans on the other hand are flush with talent and a good young coach. With the Ducks and Bruins losing their starting QB I think it will be USC emerging from the PAC 12.
A honorabale mention goes to the Sooners in the Big 12. Until that conference adds some teams it’s hard for me to put them in the top 4. I think TCU and Baylor will have good years again, but Oklahoma and Texas collect the best talent in the conference. Coach Stoops is a great coach and knocked off Saban and company last year in their bowl game. Next year the team should be more polished and live up to the high preseason grade they are likely to receive.
Hope you enjoyed the analysis….and Id be happy to here some feedback and thoughts!
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Berk Gencer