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Alabama basically has the same Playoff odds as the other 3 combined. The reason? Recruiting.

There's only one recruiting megapower in this year's Playoff, but it's the biggest and baddest.

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For the last 15 years, college football's national champion has recruited more four- and five-star prospects than two- or three-star prospects over its previous four classes. Most of the teams those champs have faced in the championship game have, too.

In the inaugural College Football Playoff, the streak looked to be in jeopardy as Ohio State went into the final as a slight underdog. But the Buckeyes who met the mark crushed Oregon, which had not.

The streak could again be in jeopardy, as Alabama is the only one of the four 2015 Playoff contenders that meets the mark. I argued in August that it might be easier for a team that doesn't recruit at the super-elite level to win the title thanks to the Playoff.

But the Tide don't just meet the mark, they exceed it as by far the best recruiting team in the country. An incredible 77 percent of the recruits signed by Alabama over the last four years have been four- or five-stars, 78 blue-chippers in all.

The Tide start this by dominating in-state recruiting over rival Auburn and any program that might try to come in. But Alabama only produces about 10 such players on a yearly basis, so Alabama must go out of state to fill its talent coffers, doing well in Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. Alabama also cherry picks unique national prospects and does a great job with junior college players, particularly from the Mississippi circuit along the defensive line.

The most striking thing about this Alabama team is its imposing front seven, which it used to shut down Leonard Fournette without even having to load up the box often. That shows up in the recruiting rankings as well -- the Tide have 22 former four- or five-star recruits among their defensive linemen and linebackers. That's more blue-chip recruits in the front seven than opponent Michigan State has on its entire team.

The refrain that Alabama comes in waves is not an overblown media narrative. It makes line changes like a hockey team.

The Tide might be the only team in the mix to meet the mark, but that championship-level talent is the reason why the Tide are basically a Vegas coin flip against the field and given a 42 percent chance of winning the Playoff by S&P+. The other contenders have betting odds between 3/1 (Oklahoma), 6/1 (Clemson) and 9/1 (Michigan State).

Via, the title odds for Bama and for anyone else are essentially the same:

How does Alabama's 77 percent compare to the others? Very favorably.


Clemson is the next best Playoff team on the recruiting trail, signing 47 percent, good for 13th nationally. If Clemson signed just one more blue-chipper per season, it would be at the 50 percent mark, and there's a good chance the Tigers surge ahead in the future, given their on-field success.

South Carolina only produces about seven or eight top prospects per year, so like Alabama, Clemson must go out of state, namely to Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. That includes superstars like Heisman finalist QB Deshaun Watson (Georgia) and first-team All-ACC cornerback Mackensie Alexander (Florida).


The team Clemson will face has been the 16th-best recruiter by this metric, at 38 percent. The Sooners also find their home state cannot support a national championship on its own, so Oklahoma turns to Texas. The Sooners have signed 11 four- or five-stars out of the Lone Star State in the last four classes, including star running back Samaje Perine.

While recruiting rankings keep getting better, it's worth noting Oklahoma is led by a walk-on QB in Baker Mayfield who had offers from Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and Rice. Great players do slip through the cracks of the recruiting evaluation process.


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Michigan State

If you really hate recruiting rankings, your team is Michigan State. The Spartans have by far the longest Playoff odds, and part of that is due to talent level. MSU has signed 21 percent blue chips in the last four classes, less than half of the level of recent champions. Star quarterback Connor Cook was a three-star, as was defensive line star Shilique Calhoun.

The Spartans' staff has been great at scouting and evaluating, though they have made an effort in recent years to land more talented recruits.

Michigan is a talented state, but the Spartans must share it with the Wolverines, who, under Jim Harbaugh, are taking the bigger half. MSU has gone into Ohio, signing 19 players from the Buckeye State over the last four classes. It's been a formula that has produced 64 wins in East Lansing since 2010.

Will you place your chips on the super recruiter? Or is this the year recruiting rankings get busted?