I'm feeling good and snarky today, so let's take a look at the secrets behind recruiting rankings.
Few things get college football fans as fired up as recruiting rankings.
I haven't even lived in the state of Alabama for a year yet, but I can think of several things that get people in this area a lot more riled up than recruiting rankings. But a man needs a lede, so go on.
It's the source of countless message board discussions and arguments. All the major recruiting services -- ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals.com and Scout.com -- have their own set of rankings. They are a good indicator of future success for college football programs, though little is known about what actually goes into building the rankings.
There is a Wizard of Oz feel to the whole process.
If you mean that it appears - especially when you compare them against each other - that these rankings appear to be conjured out of nothingness and hidden behind a veil of "pay no attention to the computer behind the green curtain" then absolutely, I agree.
It is difficult to know who is pulling the strings or why a specific kid is rated a certain way in the rankings. Why is one kid a five-star and another a four-star? Is it based on college or pro potential?
And to me, therein lies the catch of the rankings. There are so many things that could go into these rankings, whether it's production to date or potential growth, odds of being elite enough to win a CFP title or a Super Bowl (not the same thing), and may other factors. So what IS the secret, and will these agencies really tell us?
Well, it would appear that the results are completely shocking. First, we find out the amazing truth that most of these services value game film far more heavily than camps or all-star games... except for the one service that runs its own camp and all-star game (Rivals).
Also, when ranking schools recruiting classes, they apparently weight schools who regularly turn "lower level" (two/three star) prospects into NFL players as more successful than schools who don't. I'm not really sure how a ranking of the total quality of the players you bring into your program should be affected even one iota by your historical ability to get them to the pros. So there's a useless factor than can go away.
It is argued that recruiting rankings matter, and they cite this here SBNation story as proof positive - that the last decade worth of BCS Champs all had at least 50% of their previous four recruiting classes comprised of four- and five-star recruits. Just one thing though... they used that logic to predict the coming season's title contenders.
Texas? Nope. Michigan? Not even f*(&ing close. Notre Dame? Still No. Florida? Nope, not really. On the flip side of things, Ole Miss, Michigan State and Baylor all fell well below that benchmark, and they had pretty damn good seasons, didn't they?
I'm not sure you can call something that misses that badly a good predictor. There's also the minor foot note that South Florida is one of the best-recruiting programs (measured by these recruit star rankings) among all the mid-majors, and yet where has that gotten them? A 14-34 record the past four seasons. That would tell me that the rankings are either sorely flawed, shouldn't matter as much as they do, or both.
Or maybe they only matter to the teams that actually recruit those top-caliber players? More on that later.