Most local “Alabama” and national college football analysts and pundits started in January 2010, telling the nation that Auburn was at least two recruiting classes away from having a team capable of contending for the SEC Championship. Teams like Arkansas and Alabama were said to have far “superior” talent in their own division.
Auburn was predicted to finish third or fourth in the SEC western division alone. Anyone that questioned this collective wisdom was ridiculed as uninformed or an Auburn homer. The winning by recruiting ranking theory was in full bloom across college football.
These same pundits picked Ohio State to win the Big Ten, Southern California to come in second in the Pac-10, Alabama to repeat as national champions, Florida to win the SEC East and Texas to win the Big 12. All of this was based on recruiting rankings.
What most fans are unaware of is that recruiting rankings are largely based on the teams recruiting the player. Even worse than that, the star value ranking of a player is often based in part on what team these players are committed to.
The same recruiting services that rank these recruits are the services that got exactly one preseason conference champion right. Oregon was an easy pick as they largely returned their entire team and won the Pac-10 in 2009. They got nothing else right, even picking Southern California to come in second in the Pac-10.
Why would any pundit with common sense base their predictions and forecast on these services?
There is no logical answer to that question. Recruiting services have a place in college football. They serve to keep fans informed of the players their team is pursuing and what other teams they are competing with for the recruit.
Recruiting services supply some rudimentary analysis of the raw talent of the player and sometimes video clips of the player in action. Their star rating is largely inaccurate and useless.
Basing a preseason analysis on the recruiting ranking of any team is not only inaccurate, but magnifies the problem. Recruiting services survive off of paid subscriptions and it is easy to see that recruits from teams with larger fan bases will receive a higher ranking than they would if committed to a team with a smaller fan base.
If anyone ever thought predicting a team's success could be done by recruiting rankings, then the performance of Texas, Notre Dame, Miami, Florida, Alabama, UCLA and Georgia in 2010 should cure them of this busted theory. None of the current top five teams in the nation have been in Scout's (one major recruiting service) top five class rankings in the last five years. In fact the majority of the current top five teams have not been in the top 20 classes either.
Recruiting class rankings have historically been no more accurate at predicting a team's performance in any particular year than a team all time winning percentage. In fact, Auburn, Oklahoma and LSU are the only teams that should currently be in the top 10 if going by last year's recruiting rankings.
When fans start to compare teams and pick their favorites for upcoming bowl games, they should immediately count out any analysis based on recruiting class rankings. In fact they should pay close attention and see what analyst take shortcuts like this in their work.
If an analyst is doing their job properly, recruiting rankings will be a very small part of the picture as a whole. Fans should tune out those that do not do their homework in other areas.