Predicting Next Year’s CFB Champ Using Recruiting Data
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
Want to know who will win the 2019 College Football Playoff national championship? A look at each program’s recruiting classes over the past few years can yield the answer. All five of the CFP national champions put together top-10 recruiting classes for the season in which they won the title. It’s really no surprise, but with true freshmen now contributing more than they have in the past, it is essential to get recruits that can have an immediate impact. With national signing day just last Wednesday, which programs are best equipped to win the 2019 title?
It Starts with the Quarterback If you want to win a national title, you are going to have to get an ESPN 300 quarterback on your roster. Each of the five CFP champions had at least one. Several schools – Michigan, Washington, Alabama, and Clemson are a few – have multiple ESPN 300 quarterbacks. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence came in last year as a true freshman and we all know how that turned out. It’s simple though. If you want to win a national title, it starts with a talented quarterback.
Five-Star Recruits It pays to have five-star recruits on your championship roster. Each of the five CFP champions had, in fact, multiple five-star recruits on their rosters. Signing a five-star recruit is actually pretty rare. There are only 16 programs in the country – Alabama and Clemson are among them – that have signed at least one five-star player between 2017 and 2019. Only two schools – Stanford and UCLA – in the Pac-12 have signed a five-star recruit in three seasons and each has signed only one.
Annual Top-10 Rankings The past five national champions have consistently finished in the Top 10 in recruiting classes leading up to their title. Alabama, for example, had the top recruiting class in the country in each of the four years leading up to their 2015 national championship. If you take a four-year average of top-10 rankings, there are only six programs that would still remain in the quest for a 2019 national championship: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, LSU, and Michigan.
Stay Home A national champion should win the recruiting battle within its own state. The five CFP champions all got commitments from at least one-third of their in-state ESPN 300 recruits. Georgia, with 39-of-136, falls just short of the mark though the state produced twice as many ESPN 300 recruits as Ohio, Michigan, and South Carolina combined. LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson all won their in-state recruiting battles.
Defense Wins Championships If you want to win a national title, you have to be good on defense. In the four recruiting cycles prior to winning a championship, each of the five CFP champs signed at least five defensive players ranked in the top 50 overall. Currently, those schools are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and LSU.
Conclusion We are headed for another Alabama-Clemson clash if we follow the recruiting numbers. The Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban signed 25 ESPN 300 recruits, two of whom are five-stars. Clemson locked down another top-10 class and restocked a defense with two of the top 15 corners in the nation and five three- or four-star defensive linemen. Could the Tigers repeat? Could Alabama win a sixth national title under Saban? Time will tell.