There are no guarantees of continuity in a program. The success of a team is contingent on many factors, but the most basic is the talent a team can bring onto its campus.
Now that weekly college football action as a cohesive whole is over, it's time to take a look at how programs project into the next decade.
We can begin by looking at the country's major recruits and where they will end up pledging their commitments come signing day.
Here are 10 of the biggest names still deciding between the top-tier programs, along with my odds on where they will end up. Check back here in a few weeks and see if I played my percentages right.
Lattimore is a four-star running back to ESPN and a five-star, no.2 overall to Rivals. He is a native of Duncan, South Carolina, and attends James Byrnes High School.
South Carolina's Rivals page cockily declared that between Lattimore's top five—South Carolina, Penn State, Auburn, Oregon and Georgia—Spurrier's Gamecocks were now the tentative leader after a visit this past weekend.
Auburn running backs coach Curtis Luper paid a visit to Lattimore at his home, probably to quell fears about the commitment of fellow five-star running back Michael Dyer, who committed to Auburn in November.
South Carolina hasn't had outstanding success in building a talent pipeline from Byrnes High—in fact, they lost out on most of the talent from Byrnes' seniors in 2007 to in-state rival Clemson—and Lattimore hasn't indicated a significant desire to remain in-state, so I'm not sure if their confidence is misplaced.
Penn State is a funny addition to Lattimore's top five, as well. Insiders are afraid his interest is fading after his visit on November 6 didn't make much noise. Don't be surprised if the Lions drop off the radar entirely if he makes another cut.
Lattimore has two more remaining officials—including one to Oregon on January 10—so keep an ear out for whatever noise that produces. The Ducks are a sudden Mecca for running backs particularly of Lattimore's caliber—high intensity busters with great lateral speed and strong legs—so Oregon might make a fine dark horse come signing day.
The other program still in the running is Georgia. The Bulldogs have Lattimore's ear for the week leading up to signing day, when Lattimore will visit Athens on January 29. Nice guys might finish first if coach Mark Richt can convince Lattimore—who has drawn comparisons to Bryce Brown in terms of already being prepared to play in college—can get some carries in collusion with Washaun Easley and Caleb King, neither of whom distinguished themselves as appropriate successors to Knowshon Moreno.
The likelihood of his committing, by percentages:
South Carolina: 30%
Auburn: 25% and falling
Oregon: 25% and climbing
Georgia: 15% and rising
Penn State: 5% and falling
The premium sites are divided on Latwan. Rivals has him as the no. 2 athlete overall, while ESPN ranks him as a three-star safety.
If you've followed Anderson's recruiting, you're probably pretty exhausted. He started out as a Miami lock that flirted with Michigan before receiving an Ohio State offer he was coveting. The rumor after that was he was an eventual verbal.
Meanwhile, he took a visit to Michigan State—his childhood favorite—then announced a top three including two Big East schools that hadn't yet received much love: West Virginia and Cincinnati.
Oh, and there was some oddly timed that seemed to be snuffed out once OH S Ray Vinopal verbally committed to the Wolverines.
I can't imagine Brian Kelly's departure from Cincinnati will help the Bearcats' chances. The decision is probably between Ohio State and West Virginia, and with Ohio State's continuity on this list, I'd say they're the team to beat.
Ohio State: 60%
Though consistently named in his final five, Alabama couldn't get Hicks on campus, and the Tide missed the cut when Hicks named three.
USC never got him on campus either. With only one more official to go, the Trojans are out.
Florida was Hicks' last visit—he was there this weekend—but clearly, it wasn't for a game. Hicks did catch the Tennessee/Florida game unofficially, and really enjoyed the atmosphere. He and his mother met the coaches, and Mrs. Hicks was "particularly impressed" with head coach Urban Meyer.
Texas got an official from Jordan; he visited for the game against Colorado on October 8th. Hicks reportedly dug defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, and his mother took to strength and conditioning coach Jeff Madden. The visit made a very good impression on Hicks.
Oddly, there were questions over whether Texas could "stomach" a long, drawn-out battle for the out of state star. But true to his word, Mack Brown kept a spot on the recruiting rolls for Hicks, even if it meant saving some room.
It will likely pay off. Texas has remained at the top of Hicks list through visits to Columbus, the local favorite, and Florida, whom Hicks visited last weekend. The departure of Charlie Strong didn't help the Gators on their big recruiting weekend, and Ohio State's coaches haven't jumped on Hicks quite like Texas.
Based on his enthusiasm not wavering since he set foot in Austin, I'd say Hicks will be hookin' em next year.
Ohio State: 30%
Whoever lands Seantrel Henderson is inheriting a monster, a walking Wikipedia page of accolades not-yet realized.
Henderson is the no.1 overall recruit to Rivals and no. 4 to ESPN, boasting offers from all of the nation's top programs.
Henderson has run the gamut. He initially favored the cold weather and Catholicism of Notre Dame—to whom former teammate Michael Floyd committed—but reports have indicated that the Irish have lost ground, and a renewed interest in Florida got him thinking about warm weather.
Oklahoma was supposed to get an official visit, but didn't get Henderson on campus, and the line there looks to have gone dead.
Minnesota also looks to have missed out on the in-state star. Though Henderson has maintained an interest in the Golden Gophers, insiders report he is more than likely headed out of state.
Others report that Henderson might turn out to be a package deal along with teammate, dual threat quarterback, and friend JD Pride II. Pride holds offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, UNC, and Alabama, as well as Minnesota, and the Gophers and Bucks are the only two teams on both lists.
Henderson narrowed his choices to seven: Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC. The latest leader among insiders is USC. Henderson wants to be part of a winning program, and, USC's struggles this year aside, the Trojans have produced NFL talent consistently since Pete Carroll took over.
USC got Henderson' most recent visit, on December 4th, and did an outstanding job rolling out the red carpet for him (as only Hollywood Pete can do).
Like dark horses? Pick Iowa. The Hawkeyes were dead in the water on Henderson's recruitment coming into the year, but picked up steam enough to make the final seven and get Seantrel on campus for the Iowa-Minnesota game, a 12-0 blanking by the Hawkeyes to close the year.
Ohio State is also making a strong pitch—Jim Tressel visited Henderson in his home a few weeks ago, and also had Henderson in the stands for the USC game (which might have been like introducing your girlfriend to your better-looking rival).
Tough call on this one. I live in fear of USC from a recruiting standpoint, but I like Iowa and Ohio State to sway Henderson towards playing Minnesota in the Big Ten, one of the things he's reportedly favoring. The big-time programs have the allure, but for a soft-spoken kid like Henderson, it might be difficult to get too far from home.
Ohio State: 25%
Notre Dame: 5%
Jeffcoat is the no. 1 overall strongside defensive end, with a quick step that gets him past offensive linemen, and that's in spite of the fact that he focuses on football during football season, then changes his entire regimen for basketball.
Jeffcoat narrowed his list to six—Florida, USC, Texas, Houston, Arizona State, and Oklahoma. The Cougars are the hometown favorites. Not only are they local, but Jeffcoat's father Jim is Houston's defensive line coach. Jeffcoat recently scheduled a visit to Houston in December.
But the visit is probably a formality—he's probably seen the campus and met the coaches already. For insiders, this is a battle between USC and Texas. The Longhorns got Jeffcoat on campus for an official in late November, and the belief is that Jeffcoat will remain in Texas in spite of the national following.
The Trojans likely won't lay down, however, and the recruiting machine there is really heating up now that Tony Jefferson is back in play. Pete Carroll must be sending a strong "Moving On" message because recruits are listening. Texas better tighten their hold.
The breaking news on Chris Martin is that he has committed to Cal as of today.
The former Notre Dame commit and native of Oakland wavered throughout the season before dropping Notre Dame outright a few weeks back. The nation's no. 2 strongside defensive end to Rivals chose the Cal Bears this morning.
Barring some unforeseen incident, it appears Martin will treat the verbal with the gravitas it deserves and sign his letter of intent in February.
Lache Seastrunk, besides winning the battle for best recruit name, has done almost no work in narrowing down his list of candidates.
It appears he favored Auburn to start the year—if so, the Tigers would suddenly be overflowing with running backs—making waves in the offseason by calling out Nick Saban at an on-campus event at Auburn (for which he later apologized to Saban himself on the phone). Seastrunk remains on Auburn's radar, and vice versa.
He took only two officials, to Cal at the beginning of October, and the other to UCLA. The Golden Bears have been in and out of his top five ever since.
He flirted with LSU, but Scout speculated that the connection was likely lost when running backs coach Larry Porter left for the Memphis job.
To continue with the theme, USC has come on strong for Seastrunk in the last month, and despite being a Texas kid, Seastrunk clearly has a curiosity for the Golden State.
USC's Scout page talked up Seastrunk's ongoing connection to Trojan linebackers coach Ken Norton, who also pulled down fellow five-stars WR Kyle Prater and ATH Robert Woods into the fold. With his speed and explosiveness, he could look at being the next Reggie Bush for Running Back U.
Oregon also got a lot of Seastrunk's attention, and the same coastal rules apply. He visited for Oregon's demolition of the Trojans, and that, coupled with the attractiveness of the Ducks' running game particularly for a speedster like Seastrunk, may tip the Ducks in his favor.
And of course, there's always Florida.
This is another decision that may not break until signing day. Percentages?
Sharrif Floyd is the no. 1 overall defensive tackle to both Rivals and ESPN, and he's indicated that he knows where he is going and that his "final five" is actually between six schools: Florida, USC, Ohio State, North Carolina, South Carolina and Penn State.
We won't find out until signing day, but the speculation leans towards the Gators. Though Floyd took an official to Ohio State two weeks before declaring his silent commitment, and is a Pennsylvania native who was recruited hard by Penn State as well as Michigan, Penn State is off the list as of late November.
Charlie Strong's departure to Louisville might have shaken his commitment up, but Rivals indicates that Steve Addazio was his Gator contact, so unless the Florida staff also cut him loose (and most people think they should), the commitment to Gainesville's proud baking tradition probably hasn't wavered.
He sounds like a man on a mission, and the upcoming visits to UNC and South Carolina are likely formalities. Unless we have him read all wrong, I think he's Gainesville bound.
Ohio State: 20%
South Carolina, UNC, USC: No dice
The recruiting gurus differ in their assessments of Sean Parker—he's the no. 6 safety to Scout, the no. 26 overall recruit to ESPN, but is only the no. 21 safety to Rivals and isn't nationally ranked.
Still, his recruitment is worth following. He visited Michigan at the start of December, and the Wolverines were his best visit so far. But after eliminating Notre Dame earlier this year, the Maize and Blue are now the only Midwestern team on his final list of schools that also includes USC, Washington, Oregon, and Cal.
He still wants to check out Oregon, and also mentioned USC, and has visits set up to both, so I'm not optimistic he travels most of the way across the country and goes blue. Though USC might secure the commitment of safety Tony Jefferson and push Parker away, Oregon has plenty of room and is playing up-tempo enough to make them an attractive out-of-state option that isn't too far from home.
In addition, the Wolverines already have five defensive back commitments in the fold and are in position to sign Florida CB Tony Grimes and DT Clarence Murphy, at which time they will be out of scholarship room unless they can backdate some of the commitments.
Darius White is the third best WR and a five-star to Scout, drew comparisons to AJ Green by the Rivals people, and was likened by ESPN to WR Reuben Randle, another five-star monster whom the LSU Tigers pulled in in last year's top-notch haul.
He's a country kid, hailing from Texas, and the Sooners and Longhorns top a list dominated by southern schools. The farthest north he's considering is likely Utah, and the Utes actually got a visit out of him.
But an Oklahoma news outlet speculated that his final decision will be between Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, LSU, and Texas.
The Cowboys were the latest to get White on campus. He and his mother visited Stillwater this past weekend, a visit he vowed to make before deciding this month.
It's been a loopy recruitment—many thought he was an Oklahoma lean before he contacted the Texas staff about his official visit—but I would say it comes down to how well T. Boone Pickens and co. wined and dined him.
I think they left him believing he's the next Dez Bryant, and I believe you'll see him playing in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State: 35%