Winning on Signing Day is critical to winning on Saturdays, or so we’re told. Given that it’s the middle of February and we’re a long way away from actual football, I decided to investigate the veracity of this so called truism.
I went back to the 2009 season and compared 247sports composite team recruiting rankings, final BCS or Playoff Committee rankings, year-end AP rankings, wins/loss, and s/p+ strength of schedule for more than a dozen teams. There is a lot of really interesting data that I hope expand on in future posts. Now, though, I want to focus on what we can learn from the four undefeated seasons since 2009 in what we now call the “power five + Notre Dame”.
2012 Ohio State*
2013 Florida State
With one exception, those teams had two top-five composite recruiting classes on the roster for their undefeated campaigns. The exception – and it’s notable – was the 2010 Auburn team. That team, as we all know, benefited from the transfer of a Blinn Junior College quarterback: Cam Newton. Newton went on to have, by most accounts, the single most dominant season in college football history. (Plus, the seniors left on that team were part of a top 10 class.)
So, if you’re not going to be loaded with blue chip recruits in multiple classes, you’d better have a historically great QB (or maybe a spare $200,000 to acquire one).
For Notre Dame, the only top-five class on campus (2013) was just gutted by early NFL draft entries. By missing on five-stars like Caleb Kelly, Ben Davis, and, likely, Demetris Robertson the Irish won’t be bringing a top-five class on campus this season either.
That means it would take a total aberration for Notre Dame to go undefeated in 2016.
Many of you will bring up the 2012 season in which Notre Dame finished the regular season 12-0 and played for the national championship. Even that group had one top 15 class (2009) and the composite number one overall class in 2008 still on the roster, at least in part.
So, given who the Irish signed on Feb. 3rd, and who’s still on campus, what can we expect in 2016?
The track record of the power five programs I’ve looked at that have multiple top 15 classes on the roster suggests 10 wins is a solid bet.
Yes, there are a few notable exceptions. None more so than the 2012-2014 Michigan teams who not only failed to reach double digit wins but did so with two top six classes on the roster – which really just goes to prove Brady Hoke was in so far over his head it would not have mattered if he wore the other team’s headset.
But the trend is pretty clear: multiple top-15-class-teams win 10 games far more often than not. Three of the four classes reporting for spring football in South Bend fit that bill. Or to put it another way: To win fewer than 10 games next season would be under performing relative to their level of talent.
*was serving a bowl ban for the NCAA violations.