Some people believe that recruiting rankings, the assigning of stars to high school football players, is media hype, good for selling subscriptions and nothing else.
This theory has a simple explanation (ignorance), and rebuttal (overwhelming evidence).
The era of recruiting analysis as a media industry began in roughly the beginning of the 21st Century, with the formation of the Rivals and Scout networks
Through last season, 16 straight national championship teams have had at least one top 10 recruiting class on their roster. Most have had multiple top 10 classes. Over the last eight years, the top four programs ranked by number of top ten classes goes Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma.
Of the 16 teams to qualify for the college football playoff in its four-year history, three have made it without a top-10 class. Those three are 2015 Oregon (Chip Kelly, four straight top-15 classes from 2010-13), 2016 Michigan State (destroyed by Alabama in a national semifinal), and Washington in 2017 (Chris Petersen, played one of the weakest schedules in the country).
High school classes average 30-35 five-star players, or about one for every four schools playing FBS football. From 2002-present (the entire time for which data is available), no team has even reached the national championship game without multiple five-star recruits on their roster.
Which brings us to the Blue-Chip Ratio. The invention of Bud Elliott, now of Vox Media’s new college football website Banner Society, BCR is straightforward: a four-year average of the percentage of a team’s roster that consists of four- and five-star recruits.
No team with a BCR under 50 percent has ever won a national championship (again, this is only during the recruiting-industry era). Only the above-mentioned threesome of ‘15 Oregon, ‘16 Michigan State and ‘17 Washington have qualified for the playoff.
Julian Fleming, the top-ranked wide receiver in the high school class of 2020, held a press …
The current list of 2019 qualifiers, in order of BCR: Ohio State (81%), Alabama (80%), Georgia (79%), LSU (64%), Florida State (61%), Clemson (61%), USC (60%), Penn State (60%), Michigan (60%), Oklahoma (60%), Texas (60%), Auburn (58%), Washington (54%), Notre Dame (54%), Florida (53%), Miami (51%).
A couple of small points before we get to the big point:
*BCR is not meant to compare individual teams or, certainly, to predict games. A lot of things go into a championship teams. The 50% threshold is a prerequisite (according to Elliott) but no guarantee of anything. Consider USC, 5-7 last year.
*The current number of teams above the 50% threshold, 16, is four more than the average since Elliott’s been doing this. Three teams, Washington, Miami and Florida, are new to the club this year.
*For now, Elliott ignores transfers, suspensions and the like. That may become problematic as ever-more transfers play immediately. Justin Fields, a hardship transfer from Georgia, could be one of the sport’s most pivotal players this fall as Ohio State’s quarterback.
*Texas A&M, Stanford, Tennessee and Oregon are one elite class away from crashing the party.
*The only Division of a Power Five Conference not represented is the Big Ten West.
The major point:
The roster builds at Penn State and Washington are unprecedented in BCR history. Peterson arrived at Washington from Boise State in 2014, and the Huskies have gone from a 22% BCR to 23, 26, 30, 40 and then 54.
James Franklin also took over at Penn State in ‘14, and went from 21% to 28, 34, 41, 51 and now 60.
“When (we got) here, I think we had six or seven scholarship offensive linemen before we moved guys over,’’ Franklin said last week. “It was like that on defense, at safety, … really at every position.
“It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. So to think about where we’re at now, … it is, it’s different. It seems like that was 100 hundred years ago.’’
You can complain about Franklin’s X-and-Os, his time and game management, even his rah-rah rhetoric, but there are very, very few people alive who could have done this feat of talent-harvesting, given the realities that existed in Happy Valley five years ago.
And we’ve got data for that.