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Bama finished with Signing Day 2017’s top-ranked class, but Ohio State’s is just as good

For maybe the first time in seven years, Alabama’s class isn’t the nation’s clear best.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The functional difference between the Nos. 1 and 2 recruiting classes in college football is rarely all that big.

Evaluations of players are inherently subjective, and old men with computers can only do so much to accurately assess the football potential of young men playing the games.

Anyway, Alabama is ending National Signing Day with the country’s No. 1 class. It’s the seventh year in a row Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have nailed that down. Ohio State is No. 2.

But for one of the first times in that run, the Tide don’t for sure have the best class in the country. The Buckeyes have a reasonable claim to that mantle. It’s basically a toss-up.

Bama has more commits, but OSU’s average commit is rated better-rated.

The Tide have 29 players committed, and the Buckeyes have 21, according to the 247Sports Composite. The average player rating on a 100 scale is 93.6 for Alabama and 94.5 for Ohio State. At least in the consensus opinion of people who evaluate recruits for a living, Ohio State’s average quality is slightly better.

I have no idea if the average Ohio State commit is actually, in real life, better than the average Alabama commit. A matter of decimal points means almost nothing, especially when the science is as inexact as it is in college football recruiting.

So let’s just say the players in the classes are about even.

Ohio State’s small class isn’t just impressive; it’s helpful.

That’s because of the rules. The NCAA limits teams to 25 “initial counters” per year, meaning only 25 players can first get a scholarship in any class. Ohio State only has 21 commits in total, including nine who enrolled at the start of the spring semester. The Buckeyes are going to be able to distribute several of those early enrollees to their 2016 class, and in turn, they’ll have a good bit of room to take a huge class in 2018.

The roster fits here are great, too. Ohio State is losing three members of its starting secondary to the NFL. So the Buckeyes went ahead and signed three blue-chip cornerbacks, including five-stars Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade.

The Tide are in pretty good shape here, too. They have 12 early enrollees who could count in either class, so Saban’s allowed himself extra roster flexibility.

Both the Buckeyes and Tide regularly see underclassmen declare for the NFL Draft. Neither team is likely to have much problem staying within the NCAA’s 85-total scholarship limit, and it’s not like Alabama’s class will be a hindrance in any way.

But the Buckeyes were able to pack a whole lot of elite talent into just a 21-man class, and that’ll afford them extra wiggle room down the line.

The teams are returning about the same amount of production next season — which is to say, not relatively much. But both are recruiting so well that they’ll be fine.

In the past, Bama’s been pretty clearly better than everyone else.

This year, that’s not the case. Ohio State’s class has the same quality, and what it lacks in quantity makes sense within the Buckeyes’ broader roster management. Pound-for-pound, you could say the Buckeyes have the country’s best class, and nobody could claim you were being ridiculous.