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February 5, 2014

STARS Don't Mean a Thing If The Result is a Down-Swing

Five-star Sony Michel highlights what appears
to be another solid incoming class.  But, will
success in recruiting finally translate to
on-field excellence for the Dogs?
On the eve of National Signing Day, many of us wait with bated breath to see if the Bulldogs can add another highly-rated recruit or two to what already appears to be a solid incoming class.  As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, Georgia's recruiting class is ranked 8th in the nation according to Rivals, 10th by ESPN, and 14th by Scout.com.

Regardless, such positioning leads me to ask if recruiting rankings actually have any merit?  Does a lofty number of "stars" signed by a school eventually translate to success on the field?
Four years ago, I posted a piece on whether team recruiting rankings were meaningful or not.  In short, I discovered that if a team consistently ranked in the top 10 or 15 in recruiting, for the most part, it would likely rank in the top 10 or 15 in the final national polls over a specific period.
With that being said, I'm somewhat puzzled regarding the combined results of the last five years of UGA footballa period the Bulldogs had the program's lowest five-season winning percentage in 16 years.  If memory serves me right, Georgia's annual recruiting has consistently ranked in the top 15 for quite some time, yet an end result was the Bulldogs finishing in the final AP Poll just twice the last five seasons.
Craving a comparative analysis, I first figured the composite AP Poll for the last five seasons (2009-2013), where just like the top 25 polls, I gave points to teams depending where they finished in each season's final AP Poll (i.e., 25 points to No. 1, 24 to No. 2, etc.):
AP Poll (2009-2013)
1. Alabama, 110
2. Oregon, 86
3. Ohio State, 79
4. LSU, 75
    Stanford, 75
6. Boise State, 65
7. Oklahoma, 61
    South Carolina, 61
9. TCU, 56
10. Florida State, 53
23. GEORGIA, 28

Georgia's No. 19 finish in 2011 (7 points) and 5th in 2012 (21 points) gave the Bulldogs 28 points for their five-season total, ranking just 23rd nationally.
Regarding recruiting, as I've mentioned here before, I prefer using Phil Steele's recruiting rankings because he combines the ratings of roughly a dozen reputable recruiting services into one.  Therefore, acknowledging that it takes some timeperhaps a couple of seasonsbefore a particular recruiting class on the whole can truly make an on-field impact, I combined Steele's top-25 recruiting rankings for five seasons from 2007 through 2011, believing this duration would correspond with the 2009 through 2013 pollsa two-year stagger.  Points were given to schools in the same manner as the composite AP Poll above.
Recruiting (2007-2011)
1. USC, 114
2. Alabama, 106
3. Florida, 104
    Texas, 104
5. Ohio State, 99
6. Notre Dame, 96
7. LSU, 94
8. GEORGIA, 89
9. Oklahoma, 73
10. Florida State, 65 

In comparing on-field performance with recruiting for the past five seasons, here are the top "Overachievers," or the teams with the largest positive difference between their AP Poll points and points from recruiting rankings, and the top "Underachievers," or the teams with the largest negative difference:
1. Boise State, +65
2. Stanford, +58
3. Oregon, +57
4. TCU, +56
5. Wisconsin, +49
1. USC, -83
2. Texas, -73
3. Notre Dame, -68
4. Florida, -64
5. GEORGIA, -61     

Georgia's 28 poll points compared to 89 from recruiting equals negative-61 points, or the fifth-lowest total of the approximately 70 teams which were ranked in at least one final AP Poll and/or one or more set of annual top-25 recruiting rankings.  In other words, like USC, Texas, Notre Dame, and Florida, the Bulldogs' high-ranking recruiting classes from 2007 through 2011 didn't quite translate (on the whole) to high positioning in the final AP Polls when staggered two years.
I know what some of you might be thinkingit's rather convenient I analyzed only the latest, disappointing five-season period, and didn't include the previous seasons, like 2008 when the Bulldogs finished 13th in the final AP Poll, and 2007 when Georgia ranked No. 2 in the nation.  Therefore, I did the exact same analysis and comparison including those two banner seasons for the Bulldogs.
For the last seven seasons2007 to 2013Georgia totaled 65 AP Poll points, or the 12th-most in the nation (now, that's more like it).  Staggering two seasons, from 2005 to 2011, the Bulldogs' recruiting points were 123, ranking 6th nationally.  However, Georgia's negative-58 total (65 minus 123), which included lofty No. 2 and No. 13 final rankings in 2007 and 2008, respectively, still ranked as the 8th-lowest total in college football:
Underachievers (2007-2013)
1. Notre Dame, -92
2. USC, -87
3. Michigan, -83
4. Texas, -77
5. Tennessee, -72
6. Miami (Fla), -67
7. Florida, -60
8. GEORGIA, -58

Revisiting what I originally pondered four years agoif top 10 recruiting classes eventually delivered top 10 performances on the fieldsure they doThat is, if it's Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU, and Florida State doing the recruiting and playing.  In Georgia's case for the last several years, there have been plenty of recruiting "stars" to sign with the Bulldogs, but in comparison, there hasn't been enough of what matters moston-field success for the Bulldogs.


Anonymous said...

Patrick Garbin. That's not like you. Maybe now. But, for many years, this would not be you, but me.

Something happened to us after 2007. What was it ?

Anonymous said...

Duwop duwop duwop duwop duduwop du waaa...

Anonymous said...

I believe you're leaving far too many factors out to call this a legitimate analysis.

For instance, what is the average deviation between recruiting ranking and poll position? You're presenting us with a stilted picture by presenting an assumptive value of '0' to all teams but those you list.

To be clear, I'm not saying your argument is faulty, I'm just saying that your data is incomplete and thus only offers a partial picture.

Patrick Garbin said...

Anon 11:56,
Thanks for reading and your comment. Although arguably partial, here's my “analysis” in a nutshell: I think most everyone who has followed college football closely the last five to seven years, including yourself I'm guessing, would agree that the listed underachieving teams have done just that on the whole--underachieved considering the high-ranking recruiting classes they've each signed. -- Patrick