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The SEC blew away the field on Signing Day 2017. The Big 12 did not.

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The Big 12 clocks in last among the power conferences, and the American keeps distinguishing itself as the best among everyone else. The SEC’s still the king.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting rankings matter.

It’s true that not everything about college football is quantifiable, but it’s also true that only teams with lots of highly rated recruits win national championships. With the dust settled on National Signing Day 2017, that’s good news (as usual) for the SEC.

Alabama signed the top class in the country for the seventh year in a row, though Ohio State’s class is not appreciably worse. The Tide led an SEC that recruited far-and-away the best classes in 2017, and which outright lapped every league except the Big Ten and the Pac-12. The SEC’s average class ranking was the best by 11 spots, and its average of better than eight four- and five-star signees per team was the best, too.

The full picture, based on the 247Sports Composite:

Recruiting by conference in the 2017 cycle

Conference Avg. rank Blue-chips/team
Conference Avg. rank Blue-chips/team
SEC 21.8 8.4
Pac-12 32.9 4.4
Big Ten 35.9 5.4
ACC 38.6 3.7
Big 12 43.1 3.2
Independent 72.5 3
American 80.6 0.3
Conference USA 96.5 0
Mountain West 99.6 0.1
MAC 100.7 0
Sun Belt 110.8 0
247Sports Composite

Some notes!

  • There were 332 four- and five-star recruits this year. The SEC signed 117 of them, a full 35 percent. That shouldn’t surprise us. This year’s two blue-chippiest states, Texas and Florida, are both in the SEC’s recruiting footprint, as are other heavyweight states like Louisiana and Alabama. Play near talent, and you’ll sign talent.
  • The median total of blue-chip recruits in every non-power conference is zero, and it’s not higher than 5.5 anywhere. Most of the big totals in “average blue-chips per team” are because conferences are top-heavy. Ohio State and Michigan combined to sign up 40 four- and five-star players, and the rest of the Big Ten signed a total of 36.
  • There was no Group of 5 recruiting darling this year. Scott Frost and UCF signed the best class outside the power conferences, coming in 54th after Signing Day. That did beat 12 Power 5 teams, however, including at least one from each league. Houston signed the No. 36 class a year ago, in what might’ve been the best non-power recruiting effort in the history of the sport.
  • The American continues to solidify itself as the best Group of 5 league.
  • The Big 12 continues to solidify itself as the worst Power 5 league. Texas signed its lowest-rated class in the history of ratings, and while that’s understandable, nobody except Oklahoma picked up the slack.
  • Yet, the gap between the American and the Big 12, at least in terms of talent acquisition, is still more of a chasm. The Big 12 signs less talent than its powerful peers but still a good deal more than anyone outside the club.
  • Here’s some similar data from a year ago. The data used here is a one-through-130 ranking of next year’s FBS teams, which includes UAB in Conference USA and Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt.

The SEC wasn’t so good on the field in 2016. Every team not named Alabama lost at least four games, and some of the non-Bama SEC teams were close to unwatchable. But the SEC is the country’s top recruiting conference year in and year out, and it blew away everyone else in the 2017 cycle. Georgia and Florida (which closed really strong) even give the SEC East some hope.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 put up comparable performances after that. The Big Ten had a few more blue-chip signees, mainly because of Ohio State and Michigan. The Pac-12 only had one school, USC, dominate on the trail, but only saw one of its members sign a class outside the top 50. And that team, No. 70 Cal, just had a coaching change.