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A Comparison of the Final 2018 Top 25 to Average Five-Year Recruiting

OSU was 36th in recruiting and 37th in the polls.



The polls have been voted on, and Oklahoma State landed at 37th in the final 2018 AP Poll, which, wouldn’t you know it, is about what you would have expected based on their recruiting average over the past five years.

I took everyone who received votes in the final 2018 AP Poll and looked at their five-year average recruiting rankings to see if they finished better, worse or about the same as expected. For example: Alabama’s five-year average finish in the 247 Sports recruiting rankings was 2.2. This was the lowest number of all teams so they were the No. 1 recruiting team over the past five years. They finished second in the 2018 AP Poll, which is about what you would expect based on recruiting.

OSU’s average recruiting ranking was 37th, according to 247. This ranked 36th among all teams. They finished 37th in the 2018 AP Poll, which is about what you would expect.

This doesn’t mean this is a hard and fast rule — Clemson was the eighth-best crootin’ team on average over the last five years, and they have the trophy. Also, teams that don’t recruit in the top 100 at all (my limits were that you had to have at least four top 100 classes in the last five) — like UAB, Army and Utah State — all finished ahead of the Pokes and in the top 40.

I know the AP Poll isn’t perfect, and even more than that I know that often it is voted on based on recruiting rankings and perception, but it was either the AP or the Sagarin rankings, and an equal number of people would have complained about both (Mississippi St., for example, is No. 8 in the Sag) so I went with the AP.

Here’s a look with some notes at the bottom.

Team Final Rank Crootin Avg. Difference
Clemson 1 8 7
Alabama 2 1 -1
Ohio State 3 2 -1
Oklahoma 4 13 9
Notre Dame 5 9 4
LSU 6 6 0
Georgia 7 3 -4
Florida 7 14 7
Texas 9 10 1
Washington State 10 46 36
UCF 11 67 56
Kentucky 12 32 20
Washington 13 23 10
Michigan 14 18 4
Syracuse 15 57 42
Texas A&M 16 12 -4
Penn State 17 15 -2
Fresno State 18 83 65
Army 19
West Virginia 20 41 21
Northwestern 21 52 31
Utah State 22
Boise State 23 64 41
Cincinnati 24 66 42
Iowa 25 47 22
Appalachian State 26
Stanford 27 22 -5
Mississippi State 28 25 -3
Utah 29 42 13
UAB 30
Iowa State 31 58 27
Auburn 32 7 -25
Oregon 33 19 -14
Missouri 34 37 3
Troy 35
Georgia Southern 36 86 50
Oklahoma State 37 36 -1
Wisconsin 38 38 0
NC State 39 39 0

• I don’t know if I’m more annoyed that OU is currently out-performing its own recruiting rankings or that it is gaining significant ground when it comes to recruiting (or both).

• Teams that were in the top 20 in recruiting but not in the AP Poll: FSU, Tennessee, USC, Ole Miss, Miami, UCLA.

• It’s crazy that Clemson and OU had the biggest variation of teams in the top nine.

• Washington State had a very Oklahoma State-like year in 2018 where it didn’t recruit but it figured out how to win 11 games regardless. Syracuse also had this kind of a year.

• UCF might be a weird outlier. It’s hard to know what to do with them.

• Kentucky is recruiting better than Oklahoma State. At football.

• Auburn and Oregon: 😷

• The stretch between No. 18-25 is littered with bad crootin teams, but I think it’s worth noting that five of them are non-Power 5 squads.

• Coincidentally OSU and Wisconsin are two of the best teams in the country at doing more with less, and this was a rare year in which they played to the level of their talent.

I think the biggest lesson for me here is this (and this is not gospel truth or something that applies across all years or organizations): You can recruit like Oklahoma State and have a top 20 or top 15 team annually — Washington State, West Virginia, Kentucky and Syracuse were those teams this year.

But it’s very hard to put together a top-eight or top-10 team when you recruit like that. And if everything is equally distributed — two teams in the top 10 from each of the Power 5 conferences — it’s going to be hard every year to break into that top two, win a conference championship and play in a NY6 bowl (or better). Not impossible — and conferences have years when the upper crust is down for reasons unrelated to recruiting — but still really, really difficult.