The SEC has won the last seven national titles in college football. And that's mostly because the conference happens to encompass the most fertile recruiting ground in the country -- the Southeast. So good is the area that another conference sits in most of the same footprint and has just as much talent as any conference other than the SEC.
But just how much better is the SEC at recruiting than the other schools? And how do the other conferences compare to each other?
To find these answers, I turned to 247sports' composite rankings, which factor in the four major recruiting services (ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247sports). I looked at the five major conferences, plus Notre Dame. Please note that Notre Dame is not included in any conference, but is placed in the final table to show where the Irish's recruiting class ranks against the other 64 teams.
Here's what I found.
Of course, these are total numbers. And because conferences differ in the number of teams, aggregate numbers can be deceiving. To remedy that, let's look at the average class in each conference below.
- Oversigning zealots, please submit your complaints. The SEC signed 43 more players than any other conference. That's 14 percent and 26 percent more than fellow 14-member conferences the Big Ten and the ACC, respectively.
- It might not seem like it, but the SEC's average star rating of 3.4 is a lot better than any other conference.
- The SEC has double the four and five-star recruits of any other major conference. That is absolutely ridiculous. And as you'll see below, the main reason for the ridiculousness is not the elite teams, which always kill it on the recruiting trail, but rather the job done by schools like Kentucky, which has really stepped up its recruiting game.
- Three-quarters of the B1G's four and five-star players are to Michigan and Ohio State. Half of the conference signed one or fewer such players.
- I was surprised that the Big XII was the worst recruiting major conference. I, like many, expected it to be the ACC. The down years of Texas and Oklahoma were not offset by Baylor's best year ever. Similarly, TCU and Oklahoma State both disappointed, as TCU was hoping the move to the Big XII would improve its luck on the trail, and Oklahoma State cannot seem to turn its recent on-field success into an elite recruiting machine. Also, West Virginia's class, featuring just a single four-star player, is embarrassing for a program that was supposed to strengthen the Big XII.
The verdict? The SEC is still dominant as heck, while the smaller conferences (Big XII, Pac-12) look a little better. On a per-team basis, the SEC does not have double the four and five-star players as the Pac-12. But it is really close.
- The Pac-12 has the second best recruiting haul, per-team, because of the efforts of UCLA, Washington and Oregon, who managed to bring in top-20 classes to offset the slight backslide of USC on National Signing Day.
- Speaking of top-20 classes, the breakdown is as follows: SEC (7), ACC (4), Pac-12 (4), B1G (2) Big XII (2). An arbitrary cutoff point? Sure.
- Ten of the 14 B1G teams had a class that was below average in the conference. Thanks, Buckeyes and Wolverines.
Now let's look at where the teams rank relative to each other:
I acknowledge that this is not a perfect way to show the differences in conference recruiting. For instance, the difference between No. 50 Northwestern and No. 61 Duke is one four-star and one three-star player. Don't try to use this for more than its intended purpose.
- The SEC. Crazy. Twenty-seven major conference recruiting classes, or more than half of the non-SEC schools, are worse than the worst class in the SEC! I wonder what Missouri is thinking. If it were in the Pac-12, it would have the fifth-best class, as opposed to the worst in the SEC.
- Maryland goes from having the eighth-rated class in the ACC to the sixth in the B1G. Again, the Big Ten is Ohio State, Michigan, and everyone else. If Maryland keeps this up, it'll find it easier to make bowl games in the Big Ten than it did the ACC.
- Rutgers goes from having the best class in the Big East to the 10th-rated class in the B1G. Rutgers is facing a large step up in competition.
- Newcomer Louisville, which joins the ACC in 2014 to replace Maryland, is a very interesting team to examine because with recruiting starting earlier and earlier, the Cardinals were unable to overcome the problems that existed for all of 2011 and a good part of 2012 in not knowing in what conference they would play. Being left in the Big East is a huge obstacle for teams to overcome in recruiting, and while Louisville did win the conference and the Sugar Bowl, the early damage was done. Expect 2014 to be a stronger class for Charlie Strong to make up for this disappointing haul.
- Of the 65 power conference schools, the ACC had the five worst recruiting classes. Literally. Nos, 61-65 are Duke, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Boston College. Yikes. And unlike Louisville, Syracuse does not have the excuse of not knowing what conference it would be in, since the deal has been done for some time. The group of five combined to sign just a single player rated four or five stars. Ohio State and Notre Dame each signed 20. Player development, redshirting, and finding players to fit a unique system are all fine, but they cannot overcome massive talent gaps like this.
What else can we learn from these numbers?