Recruiting rankings have become increasingly important in the world of college football. Some say that you cannot have success without a top tier recruiting class. Others claims that it is all about how each individual player is developed, no matter their ranking.

Well, let us examine how each current AP Top Ten team has fared in the last four years of recruiting.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2017: First.
2016: First.
2015: First.
2014: First.
Average: 1.00

Clearly, the Crimson Tide have been at the top of college football year in, and year out. Saban has yet to drop from the top spot this season, and for good reason. The Tide have racked up 21 five-star recruits over the last four years; this being a key to their dominance.

Summary: Currently making expectations.

2. Miami Hurricanes

2017: Twelfth.
2016: Twenty-second.
2015: Twenty-third.
2014: Twelfth.
Average: 17.25

The U is back. Currently undefeated, the Canes have returned to the top of the college football mountain. Following a complete rout of Notre Dame, Miami has surged to second in the AP rankings. However, the Canes are our first strange case. Logic tells us that eleven weeks into the season, the undefeated team from potentially the best conference should have had better recruiting classes over the years. Theoretically, the Canes should be a good team, but not a great team. Yet, here they stand at number two.

Summary: Slightly above expectations.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

2017: Eighth.
2016: Nineteenth.
2015: Fifteenth.
2014: Fourteenth.
Average: 14.00

While their recruiting rankings may not be far apart, the most significant difference between Oklahoma and Miami is that Oklahoma has been in the top tier of college football for numerous consecutive years, now. For Miami, it has been over a decade. This is expected from Oklahoma, yet still, their recruiting spots aren’t necessarily that of a powerhouse. Of course, the Sooners have had some incredible coaching over the last four years.

Summary: Slightly above expectations.

4. Clemson Tigers

2017: Sixteenth.
2016: Eleventh.
2015: Ninth.
2014: Sixteenth.
Average: 13.00

For a team that is the defending College Football Playoff National Champion, it is surprising to see only one top ten recruiting class in the last four years. Again, as with Oklahoma recently, the Tigers are the beneficiary of one of the best coaches in college football.

Summary: Slightly above expectations.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

2017: Thirty-ninth.
2016: Thirty-fifth.
2015: Forty-first.
2014: Thirty-second.
Average: 36.75

Alright, this is where things get strange. Common sense says that not only should Wisconsin not be in the top five, but they shouldn’t even be ranked. By all means, Wisconsin has a bad history of recruiting. Yet, here they stand at undefeated and ranked fifth. Granted, the Badgers have played by far one of the easiest schedules in all of college football. It will be good to see them tested by a truly dominant team.

Summary: Enormously above expectations.

6. Auburn Tigers

2017: Ninth.
2016: Ninth.
2015: Eighth.
2014: Sixth.
Average: 7.25

Despite the Tigers having risen to sixth in the AP rankings, it almost still feels as if they have been underperforming of late. After playing themselves out of the national stage a year ago, Auburn dropped two games to Clemson and LSU. However, the AP voters still see promise in the Tigers for 2017.

Summary: At expectations.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

2017: Third.
2016: Sixth.
2015: Sixth.
2014: Eighth.
Average: 5.75

Georgia has been beyond impressive in 2017, and are still control their own destiny to the College Football Playoffs. Their recruiting rankings have paved the way for way the Bulldogs currently stand, and it’s no surprise.

8. Ohio State Buckeyes

2017: Second.
2016: Fourth.
2015: Seventh.
2014: Third.
Average: 4.00

In a disappointing season for Meyer’s Buckeyes, Ohio State still somehow finds themselves very much in the race for the College Football Playoffs. Recruiting under Urban Meyer has been incredible, and Columbus has reaped the benefits.

Summary: At expectations.

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2017: Tenth.
2016: Fifteenth.
2015: Thirteenth.
2014: Eleventh.
Average: 12.25

Sitting at the bottom of the AP Top Ten, Notre Dame is probably right around where they should be according to their recruiting. With Brian Kelly changing things up this season following a 4-8 year, the future is looking quite bright for the Fighting Irish.

Summary: At expectations.

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys

2017: Thirty-eighth.
2016: Forty-fifth.
2015: Fortieth.
2014: Twenty-seventh.
Average: 37.5

Again, logic tells us that there is no way that the Cowboys should be a top ten team. Yet, like Wisconsin, here they are. Perhaps if Oklahoma State had the Badgers’ schedule, they’d even be a top four team right now. Oklahoma State is another curve buster that challenges the stigma that recruiting rankings are everything.

Summary: Enormously above expectations.

What does this all mean?

I think it is safe to say that recruiting rankings are not everything. However, they are a significant reason behind a team’s success. Primarily, a team’s success should be measured by the quality of the coaching staff. Each one of these teams have excellent coaches that have found ways to be successful with what they have. Second, there is the culture of the program. Teams like Alabama and Ohio State require big recruiting classes to succeed, and they do so. Schools like Wisconsin and Iowa excel with lower level recruiting, but there’s a reason you have not seen a modern national title from them.

What I hope you gain from this article is that when you evaluate a team, do not put too much emphasis (or too little) on a team’s recruiting classes. You can have a decent class like Clemson and still win a national title. You can have average classes like Wisconsin and still be a top five team. And, you can have top tier classes like Ohio State and expect to win a title every season. For each, however, know that so much more goes into a team’s success than what can be seen on the surface.

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Author Details
My name is Collin Ginnan and I am majoring in Journalism and Spanish at The Ohio State University. I grew up playing baseball year-round from t-ball through high school and am a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. Coming from a family of Buckeyes, I was raised living and breathing Ohio State football. To the best of my memory, I have not missed a single game to date. Ohio State vs. Penn State during Homecoming? That’s what the Watch ESPN app is for. Besides the Buckeyes and Reds, I follow the Blue Jackets, Browns, Cavaliers, FC Cincinnati, and Liverpool FC.
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My name is Collin Ginnan and I am majoring in Journalism and Spanish at The Ohio State University. I grew up playing baseball year-round from t-ball through high school and am a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. Coming from a family of Buckeyes, I was raised living and breathing Ohio State football. To the best of my memory, I have not missed a single game to date. Ohio State vs. Penn State during Homecoming? That’s what the Watch ESPN app is for. Besides the Buckeyes and Reds, I follow the Blue Jackets, Browns, Cavaliers, FC Cincinnati, and Liverpool FC.

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