** Non-BCS/automatic-qualifier until 2012.
Data via Sports-Reference.com.
A few points of explanation:
- Teams like Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Tennessee have outstanding football histories. If you're reading this, odds are good you can remember at least one glorious season for each. But current recruits weren't alive for those programs' greatest successes. Class of 2015 kids (and younger prospects) all grew up in a world in which Alabama, the SEC, and a few other megapowers have won almost every national title. Many quality programs are close to our arbitrary 100-wins mark (of those five, Miami, Michigan, and Nebraska have 86 or more), but are unquestionably a step behind championship-grade teams in the current recruit's mind share.
- After quizzing ourselves on the ages at which we first figured out the teams that were good in our favorite sports, we settled on somewhere around five or six. For example, the first Super Bowl champion I remember was the New York Giants in 1987. Because of that, the Giants will probably always seem a little better than they are to me.
- We thought about giving more weight to recent seasons, but decided to treat them all equally. First impressions can count as much as last year's standings.
- Boise State ranks tops after feasting on WAC and Mountain West competition. However, it accomplished this with its own WAC and Mountain West facilities, coaching salaries, and recruits. Very few players will accept a Boise State offer over an offer from another school on this list, but there's a reason the Broncos are one of the handful of mid-majors who recruit at a decent power-conference level.
- Obviously, there's a lot more to recruiting than just which teams are good. Geography, fit, academics, availability, and the influences of family members and coaches all impact decisions to varying degrees. And that last factor means having good teams in days of yore can still help influence a prospect.