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Who Has Best 2015 College Football Roster Based on Past Recruiting Cycles?

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2015

Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks to the media during an NCAA college football national signing day press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The correlation between recruiting stars and success is a controversial topic that shouldn't be controversial: It's insanely strong.

This is not an opinion. It's a fact. It's grounded in cold, hard, incontrovertible numbers. Matt Hinton of Football Study Hall wrote the following in his 2014 statistical breakdown of recruiting:

The evidence is overwhelming: Despite some obvious, anecdotal exceptions, on the whole recruiting rankings clearly are useful for creating a realistic baseline for expectations. ...

The exceptions prove the rule: Overwhelmingly, setting aside every other conceivable factor that determines success and failure—injuries, academics, even coaching—individual players and teams tend to perform within the very narrow range their initial recruiting rankings suggest. Some percentage of both groups will not. But when it comes to forming expectations, it should go without saying that you never want to count on being one of the anomalies.

Argue all you want about how J.J. Watt was a Rivals.com 2-star recruit or how none of the Super Bowl XLIX starters were 5-stars, per SB Nation (via EA Sports Madden NFL). Both of those things are true, but they're circumstantial at best.

Want something uncircumstantial? Nineteen of the past 20 national champions have signed two or more top-10 classes in the four years prior to winning, per Clay Travis of FoxSports.com.

Nineteen of 20!

Here's a look at the 2015 college football landscape based solely on how each team has recruited the past four cycles (2012-15). All numbers refer to the 247Sports team rankings:

Top 15 Recruiting Grades Since 2012 (Past Four Classes)
Commits5-Star / 4-StarBlue-Chip %Class AVG.
1. Alabama10221 / 5675.5<strong>315.1</strong>
2. Ohio State1065 / 6263.2<strong>290.2</strong>
3. Florida State9013 / 4160.0<strong>280.9</strong>
4. LSU1046 / 5760.6<strong>278.3</strong>
5. USC7411 / 4068.9<strong>273.9</strong>
6. Georgia1029 / 4250.0<strong>269.8</strong>
7. Florida967 / 3745.8<strong>268.7</strong>
8. Auburn965 / 4956.3<strong>266.8</strong>
9. Texas A&M1019 / 4452.5<strong>265.5</strong>
10. Notre Dame903 / 5564.4<strong>264.5</strong>
11. Texas974 / 4853.6<strong>260.9</strong>
12. UCLA915 / 4453.8<strong>259.2</strong>
13. Clemson904 / 3947.8<strong>253.6</strong>
14. Michigan822 / 4658.5<strong>248.4</strong>
15. Oklahoma992 / 3436.3<strong>247.4</strong>
Source: 247Sports

Alabama rules the kingdom, which is not a surprise. The Tide just signed the No. 1 class in the country for the fifth straight cycle.

"Arguably, they've got the greatest collection of football players ever assembled for a college team if the recruiting services are correct," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said of Alabama at 2014 SEC media days. "And they're pretty much correct."

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The numbers back that up. Alabama has signed more blue-chip (4- and 5-star) prospects the past four seasons than many teams have signed overall players. Roughly three-fourths of its 102 commits were blue-chippers, the highest ratio in the country.

It's not just loading up on 4-star guys, either. Auburn, Notre Dame, Texas, UCLA, Clemson, Michigan and Oklahoma have recruited at a top-15 level despite signing five or fewer 5-star recruits in total; the Tide averaged 5.5 5-star recruits per cycle.

There's a chasm between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State, and a smaller chasm between OSU and No. 3 Florida State. FSU, LSU and USC comprise the third tier although the Trojans have done so with just 74 commits—the result of NCAA scholarship sanctions.

Fifty-one of those 74 commits have been blue-chippers.

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Adoree' Jackson #2 of the USC Trojans celebrates his touchdwon with JuJu Smith #9 to take a 31-7 lead over the Fresno State Bulldogs during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 30, 2014 in Los Angeles
Harry How/Getty Images

But what about that top-10 class thing? All but one national champion since 1995 has signed multiple top-10 classes in the four years prior to winning. That's a 95 percent success rate.

Using that data, we can say with 95 percent certainty—give or take some points for margin of error—that next year's national champion will have multiple top-10 recruiting classes since 2012.

Only 12 teams fit the bill:

Teams With Multiple Top 10 Classes Since 2012
2012201320142015
Alabama<strong>1</strong><strong>1</strong><strong>1</strong><strong>1</strong>
Auburn1113<strong>6</strong><strong>8</strong>
Florida<strong>4</strong><strong>3</strong><strong>9</strong>21
Florida State<strong>3</strong><strong>10</strong><strong>4</strong><strong>3</strong>
Georgia<strong>8</strong>11<strong>8</strong><strong>9</strong>
LSU14<strong>6</strong><strong>2</strong><strong>5</strong>
Michigan<strong>6</strong><strong>4</strong>2038
Ohio State<strong>5</strong><strong>2</strong><strong>3</strong><strong>6</strong>
Tennessee2024<strong>7</strong><strong>4</strong>
Texas<strong>2</strong>1717<strong>10</strong>
Texas A&M16<strong>9</strong><strong>5</strong>11
USC<strong>9</strong>12<strong>10</strong><strong>2</strong>
Source: 247Sports

Will one of those teams win it all? Probably. Not definitely, but probably. Recruiting stars matter.

Always have, and always will.

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35