Ranking college football recruiting isn't an exact science, but they provide enough data to create a glimpse into the future of college football. And as Bill Connelly explains, they're more predictive on the defensive side of the ball. Signing better defensive prospects has a higher correlation with improving team quality than signings on the other side do.
Since the nation's powers rise and fall on the strength of their defenses, we can guess which teams are primed for big 2016 seasons based on the players they've brought to campus over the past five years.
The teams at the top aren't surprising. Alabama has amassed talent at an unprecedented rate over the last seven seasons, having the country's No. 1 class for six years in a row now. Other College Football Playoff and BCS veterans like Ohio State, LSU, and Florida State also have a surplus of defensive talent.
So here's the country's top 20 in raw defensive talent entering 2016.
|Defensive blue chips signed, 2012-2016|
Going back to 2012 means including some players who are already gone, and some 2016 players will have minimal impact as freshmen. But for the broadest possible look, both ends are included.
If you're looking for teams that finished 2015 unranked in the AP Poll and could have big turnaround years, this could be a good place to start. Georgia, Texas, Auburn, UCLA, USC and Texas A&M look set to improve, based on what we know about defensive recruiting.
And in fact, plenty of these teams rank highly in Bill's 2016 projections.
Another thing to consider is how these teams stack up in their own conferences.
For example, Texas has a very good concentration of defensive talent after bringing 32 blue-chip recruits to campus over the past five classes. When you compare that to the rest of the Big 12 -- arguably the Power 5's least prolific recruiting conference in general -- the Longhorns' 32 look even better.
The rest of the Big 12 averaged only 5.11 per team over the same period. That's the lowest among Power 5 conferences. Compare that to the highest, the SEC, whose teams average 21.86.
Texas and other traditional powerhouses like Auburn, Texas A&M and USC are building rosters that could leap back atop the college football landscape. However, they'll have to get by Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and established armies of blue-chip defenders to get there.