The Blue Chip Ratio Revisited: Conference Data versus Schedule Data

Last week in this space we examined how a hypothetical “conference” containing Notre Dame compared to the five major football conferences on the strength of their recruiting. Now this  conference was nothing more than Notre Dame’s opponents the past four years (minus the schools from non-AQ conferences + plus ND). A number of you gracious readers pointed out that the power conferences playing in divisions with a championship game don’t play the same conference schedule, e.g. Florida and Georgia aren’t on Alabama’s schedule every year, while Notre Dame literally played everyone in the figurative Conference Notre Dame, and so it would be interesting to compare actual schedules as opposed to just conferences (see what I did there?).

Well, at HLS we strive to bring you what you want.

In the table below I looked at the four year recruiting data for every program on Notre Dame and Alabama’s schedule. (I’d love to do it for a lot of other programs but getting the data together for even one team is tedious to say the least and I fully expect this pattern to hold for all the top programs). The entries below represent 1) the conference blue chip ratios from last week’s piece, 2) the four year blue chip ratios for all AQ conference opponents played, and 3) the four year ratios for all programs on their respective schedules.

Alabama

Notre Dame

Conference Score

35.9 (SEC)

29.0 (CND)

Schedule vs. AQ only

32.4

25.6

Schedule vs. Everyone

25.7

20.1

How do you interpret this data? Well I think the reason most people asked me to include the non-AQ teams in the earlier analysis was the presumption there would be an even narrower gap between ND and the top SEC programs (and a corresponding widening gap between ND and the other power conferences but analyzing those are for another day). The reason being that the teams on the softer part of ND’s schedule would presumably still be tougher (i.e. recruit better) than the open dates your typical SEC program schedules against various directional schools from the Southern Conference. And there is indeed a slight narrowing, but it only amounts to just a 1.2 percentage point difference which is pretty insignificant.

This says more about the shortcomings of a simple measure like the blue chip ratio than it does about ND’s opponents. The blue-chip ratio treats all the variation at the 3 star level and below as the same and clearly it isn’t. Just using the blue chip ratio there is a miniscule difference between programs like BYU and Navy on one hand and Chattanooga and Western Carolina on the other. Why? Because with the exception of less than a handful of 4 star recruits for BYU over a two year period on ND’s schedule, none of those programs have been able to land any blue chip prospects. At all. Nada. Zip. Zilch. But no one would take that information and claim Chattanooga recruits at the same level as BYU in real life.

The blue-chip ratio is good at looking at elite talent recruited by the top programs but pretty meaningless when trying to assess the overall attractiveness of a program that signs a lot of solid three star recruits. And those three star recruits help a program win games, making life much tougher for opponents.