Football recruiting classes and rank of Big10 teams for the last 6 years

Submitted by readyourguard on February 5th, 2009 at 2:09 PM

We all know recruiting is a crap shoot, generally speaking. You're taking 17 & 18year old kids away from home for the first time, putting them amongst 1000's of other students they've never met, AND asking them to kick some ass against equal or better talent on the gridiron. And, oh yeah, don't forget to study or you'll be on a bus back to ____________. It's a lot to handle. But I digress.

I did some research to see if there's a correlation between a team's rank in recruiting and their on-field success.

Here's a re-cap of the last 6 years in the Big 10 (including 2009). Each team's national recruiting rank (per is noted and their rank in the Big 10 is the order in which I've listed the teams. For 2008 and prior I've also noted their finish in the big 10 and their conference record. (NOTE: the national ranking has nothing really to do with my hypothesis but I didn't realize that until I had already typed the entire list up).

Ohio state - ranked 3 nationally
Michigan - 7th nationally
MSU - 16th
Penn St - 25th
Illinois - 32nd
Minnesota - 39th
Wisconsin - 43rd
Northwestern - 58th
Indiana - 59th
Iowa - 63rd
Purdue - 74th

Ohio St - 4th nationally(T1 in conference play at 7-1)
Michigan - 10th (10th in conference at 2 - 6)
Minnesota - 17th (6th at 3 - 5)
Illinois - 23rd (8th at 3-5)
Wisconsin - 41st (7th at 3-5)
Penn St- 43rd (T1 at 7-1)
MSU - 47th (3rd at 6-2)
Iowa - 53rd (4th at 5-3)
Purdue - 63rd (9th at 2-6)
Northwestern - 73rd (5th at 5-3)
Indiana - 78th (11th at 1-7)

Michigan - 12th nationally (finished 2nd at 6-2)
Ohio State - 15th (1st at 7 -1)
Illinois - 20th (3rd at 6-2)
Penn St. - 24th (5th at 4-4)
Iowa-28th (6th at 4-4)
Wisconsin-34th (4th at 5-3)
MSU-42nd (9th at 3-5)
Northwestern-53rd (10th at 3-5)
Minnesota-57th (11th at 0-8)
Purdue-59th (7th at 3-5)
Indiana-97th (8th at 3-5)

Penn St- 6th nationally (finished 4th at 5-3)
Ohio St-12th (1st at 8-0)
Michigan-13th (3rd at 7-1)
Illinois-30th (11th at 1-7)
MSU-33rd (10th at 1-7)
Iowa-4th (8th at 2-6)
Wisconsin-42nd (2nd at 7-1)
Purdue-50th (5th at 5-3)
Minnesota-62nd (6th at 3-5)
Northwestern-81st (9th at 2-6)
Indiana-84th (7th at 3-5)

Michigan-6th nationally (5th at 5-3)
Iowa-11th (4th at 5-3)
Ohio St.-12th (2nd at 7-1)
Penn St-25th (1st at 7-1)
Purdue-29th (8th at 3-5)
Wisconsin-33rd (3rd at 5-3)
MSU-35th (9th at 2-6)
Illinois-51st (11th at 0-8)
Northwestern-52nd (6th at 5-3)
Minnesota-55th (7th at 4-4)
Indiana-72nd (10th at 1-7)

Michigan-5th nationally (1st at 7-1)
Ohio St.-9th (6th at 4-4)
Penn St-14th (9th at 2-6)
MSU-16th (7th at 4-4)
Purdue-20th (5th at 4-4)
Iowa-38th (2nd at 7-1)
Wisconsin-39th (3rd at 6-2)
Illinois-50th (10th at 1-7)
Minnesota-58th (8th at 3-5)
Indiana-59th (11th at 1-7)
Northwestern-78th (4th at 5-3)

What does all this mean (other than I just stole 2 hours of the company's time)?
Ohio State finished with the best recruiting class in the Big 10 twice (08 and 09). They also finished first in the standing twice (07, 06--NOT including ties for first).
Penn State had the top recruiting class once (in 06) and finished first in conference play twice (08 and 05).
MICHIGAN has had the top recruiting class THREE TIMES (07, 05, and 04) yet only finished first in the conference once (04).

My theory is that a higher rank in recruiting does not always equate to success on the field.
I tried to quantify a teams recruiting class rank and their standing in the conference at the end of each season (finish 1st get 1 point. 2nd = 2, and so on). It's somewhat inaccurate because I didn't account for ties. This can be looked at two ways: if a team finished the season with the same record as another team but beat the other team head to head, they were awarded a 1st place finish while the defeated team was awarded 2nd (or a 2). However, if rings are all that matters, then Ohio State is gonna jump to the head of the class since they earned 4 of them over the last 4 years. Frankly, that doesn't sit well with me, so fuck em.

Unfortunately for us, Michigan takes somewhat of a beating: they have an average finish of 1.66 in recruiting within our conference (2,2,1,3,1,1 divided by 6 = 1.66) yet an average finish of 4.2 (10th,2,3,5,1)

Here's the entire list (recruiting avg/standing avg):
OSU 1.833/2.4
Mich 1.66/4.2
Penn St 3.66/4
MSU 5.5/7.6
Iowa 6.16/4.8
Ill 5.3/8.6
Wisc 6.3/3.8
Minn 7.6/7.6
Nthw 9.3/7.6
Purd 8/6.8
Ind 10.5/9.4

The best case scenario is to have a lower standings avg vs. your recruiting avg. Wisconsin faired best in this category by finishing with an avg recruiting rank of 6.3 but an average in standings of 3.8.
The worst finishers are Michigan, Illinois, and MSU. Shit!

There are a lot of factors when it comes to onfield success and converting 4 and 5 star recruits into champions. Coaching changes, injuries, early departures for the NFL. But, in my opinion, these numbers tell a story.

We have some work ahead of us, gentlemen (and ladies).

Flame away!



February 5th, 2009 at 2:20 PM ^

"Unfortunately for us, Michigan takes somewhat of a beating: they have an average finish of 1.66 in recruiting within our conference (2,2,1,3,1,1 divided by 6 = 1.66) yet an average finish of 4.2 (10th,2,3,5,1)"

That is bad, but the 10 might be considered an outlier, since we underwent a significant change in system, the likes of which few (if any) B10 teams had to undergo in this period. In addition to the fact that despite our lofty ratings, we've lost a number of recruits (notably Mallett) who boosted our recruiting but contributed little to ranking.

Still, some interesting things to look at, thanks for the compilation.

PA Blue

February 5th, 2009 at 2:31 PM ^

The data you gave results in a correlation of 0.75 (a strong relationship between recruiting ranking and finish). It isn't a correlation of 1.0 (i.e. it isn't a perfect relationship) but 0.75 is pretty darn predictive. If you know a team's average recruiting ranking you can pretty well predict how well they've done in the standings.


February 5th, 2009 at 3:13 PM ^

Pa Blue - Did you adjust for autocorrelation and preform the necessary data cleaning? Just asking. 0.75 is high, much higher than I have seen in most instances.


February 5th, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

I just offset the recruiting rankings for 2004-06 by two years. You get an ok predictive correlation of .580 with a p-value of 0. A couple of things throw this off:

2008 Michigan, for obvious reasons, #3 (06)recruiting, #10 outcome
2006 MSU, the John L. Smith debacle, #4 (04)recruiting, #10 outcome
2007 Iowa, Few members of that 05 Iowa class remained in school long enough to contribute. #2 recruiting, #6 outcome


2007 Illinois, ZOOK! #8 recruiting, #3 outcome
2008 Northwester, Because when your 04 class is #11, your 05 class is #9, 06 class is #10, and 07 class is #8, you shouldn't be finishing at #5 overall.


February 5th, 2009 at 9:51 PM ^

Lag the data, Most recruits don't make a big impact until their redshirt sophomore or junior years.

You shouldn't run the regression on average conference ranking....That is an ordinal variable...not a continuous one. I would use win %.

Same for recruiting ranking...You need some sort of continuos index here....I would use rivals total points....Even though it is a made up measure, it should be consistent enough across teams year over year.

Last year was clearly an outlier due to the system change, I would not include it in the data set.

If I had the patience I would run win % as my dependent variable and recruiting points (2 year lag), recruiting points (3 year lag), and recruiting points (4 year lag) as my x variables. IE have the last 3 years recruiting class points (lagged 1 year...dont include freshmen class) predict that year's win %.

Assuming Rivals is consistent year over year, you could just sum the total recruiting points for those 3 years (starting a year back) and make it your x variable and run it against win % for the year.


February 6th, 2009 at 8:31 AM ^

sorry, I'll have to let someone else massage the numbers. My goal was to see if a winning team generally finished at the top of the recruiting ranks and vice versa for the worst.

In a somewhat "chicken and the egg" argument, is onfield success a result of better recruiting classes (argument 1) OR are better recruiting classes a result of onfield success (argument 2).

In argument 1, you'd have to say Wisconsin gets a better recruiting class BECAUSE of their onfield success (they finish higher in the standings than their average rank in recruiting). That's an argument for good coaching.

In argument 2, you'd have to say Michigan gets better recruits because of the history and tradition behind the brand name. We've consistently got highly rated recruiting classes but we haven't won the conference championship lately.

These are just theories. All I know is I hope RR takes these kids, gets them to gel, builds them into a team, and kicks the crap out of the opposition.