We already knew the College Football Playoff was full of top recruiting teams, and that teams who recruit blue-chip athletes at a high rate are much more likely to win championships. With Oregon and Ohio State set to meet up in the national championship game Jan. 12, it's time to look at how those two teams stack up from a talent evaluation perspective.
The Buckeyes dominate Big Ten recruiting rankings, while the Ducks have been the Pac-12's best non-sanctioned recruiters (USC's taken smaller classes loaded with five-stars) over the last few years.
The hire of Urban Meyer has seen tremendous gains for Ohio State in recruiting, with three straight top-five classes since (all data in this story comes from the 247Sports Composite). After ranking No. 16 in the 2010 class and No. 7 in 2011, the Buckeyes have ranked No. 5, No. 2, and No 3 in the last three classes, with the current No. 6 for 2015.
Oregon's recruiting rankings have suffered slightly since Chip Kelly's departure to the NFL, but Mark Helfrich is still bringing in top-25 classes. After ranking No. 13, No. 11, and No. 13, respectively, from 2010-2012, Oregon has ranked No. 19 and No. 21 in the last two recruiting classes, with the current No. 19 for 2015.
The championship's biggest blue-chips
When Oregon has the ball, the highest rated offensive player will be former five-star Thomas Tyner, who ran for 511 yards and five touchdowns on 101 carries as a sophomore. The highest rated defensive player will be former five-star linebacker Curtis Grant, fifth on Ohio State with 63 tackles.
When Ohio State has the ball, its highest rated player will be all-purpose freshman four-star Jalin Marshall, who has averaged 64 yards per game, with eight touchdowns. The top defender will be former five-star Arik Armstead, who has 37 tackles with 5.5 for a loss this season.
Based on the Composite's full ratings, Armstead had the highest prospect rating of any player in the game. The 6'8 high school two-way lineman from Elk Grove, California was recruited from as far away as Alabama, Notre Dame, and Texas.
Yep, three-star QBs
Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota is from Hawaii, which is so off the map for most coaches that Memphis was his only other scholarship offer.
And Cardale Jones -- the former third-stringer who's now led wins against top-25 defenses from Alabama and Wisconsin -- grew up a Michigan fan in Cleveland, committed to Jim Tressel's Ohio State in the same class as five-star QB Braxton Miller, spent a season in prep school, nearly went to LSU, and then committed to Meyer's Ohio State.
And the most talented side of the ball is ...
Oregon's likely starting offense averages out at 3.5 stars, as does Ohio State's. On defense, Oregon averages out at 3.5, while Ohio State's comes in at 4.1, giving its expected starting 22 the overall raw-talent edge.
In terms of production, both teams are top-15 on both sides of the ball in most overall stats, with Oregon's offense ranking the best in Football Outsiders' FEI and others.
Both teams would've had higher recruiting numbers at the beginning of the season, with the Buckeyes since losing two blue-chip QBs (Miller and J.T. Barrett) to injury and the Ducks losing former elite prospects like receivers Bralon Addison and Devon Allen and corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Where do they recruit from?
From a collection of maps by John Nelson at IDV Solutions:
Every starter's recruit ratings
The following table includes the Composite's star ratings first and number ratings (which differentiate within star ratings) in parentheses. Bold = player with a number rating .96 or better.
|QB||Marcus Mariota||3 (.8631)||Cardale Jones||3 (.8704)|
|RB||Royce Freeman||4 (.9817)||Ezekiel Elliott||4 (.9693)|
|RB||Thomas Tyner||5 (.9899)||Curtis Samuel||4 (.9695)|
|WR||Byron Marshall||4 (.9510)||Evan Spencer||4 (.9225)|
|WR||Charles Nelson||3 (.8706)||Michael Thomas||3 (.8700)|
|WR||Keanon Lowe||3 (.8810)||Jalin Marshall||4 (.9830)|
|TE||Evan Baylis||4 (.9153)||Jeff Heuerman||3 (.8697)|
|LT||Jake Fisher||3 (.8793)||Taylor Decker||4 (.9290)|
|LG||Hamani Stevens||3 (.8810)||Billy Price||4 (.9157)|
|C||Hroniss Grasu||3 (.8558)||Jacoby Boren||3 (.8702)|
|RG||Cameron Hunt||4 (.9012)||Pat Elflein||3 (.8420)|
|RT||Tyrell Crosby||3 (.8784)||Darryl Baldwin||3 (N/A)|
|DL||Arik Armstead||5 (.9913)||Joey Bosa||4 (.9809)|
|DL||Alex Balducci||4 (.9184)||Adolphus Washington||5 (.9884)|
|DL||DeForest Buckner||4 (.9143)||Michael Bennett||4 (.9715)|
|DL/LB||Tony Washington||3 (.8505)||Steve Miller||4 (.9676)|
|LB||Rodney Hardrick||3 (.8503)||Joshua Perry||4 (.9409)|
|LB||Joe Walker||3 (.8166)||Curtis Grant||5 (.9894)|
|LB||Tyson Coleman||3 (.8824)||Darron Lee||3 (.8595)|
|CB||Chris Seisay||3 (.8739)||Eli Apple||4 (.9747)|
|FS||Erick Dargan||4 (.8921)||Tyvis Powell||3 (.8755)|
|SS||Reggie Daniels||4 (.9085)||Vonn Bell||5 (.9867)|
|CB||Troy Hill||3 (.8579)||Doran Grant||4 (.9694)|
And here's the same thing for Florida State and Alabama, showing both Oregon and Ohio State beat teams that had what appears to be raw talent advantages. FSU and Bama had 10 starters who were rated as high or higher than Ohio State-Oregon's top-rated player.
|QB||Jameis Winston||5 (.9913)||Blake Sims||4 (.8954)|
|RB||Karlos Williams||5 (.9976)||T.J. Yeldon||5 (.9866)|
|RB||Dalvin Cook||5 (.9937)||Derrick Henry||5 (.9928)|
|WR||Rashad Greene||4 (.9390)||Amari Cooper||4 (.9768)|
|WR||Christian Green||4 (.9814)||DeAndrew White||4 (.9482)|
|WR||Jesus Wilson||3 (.8681)||Christion Jones||3 (,8777)|
|TE||Nick O'Leary||5 (.9872)||O.J. Howard||5 (.9909)|
|LT||Roderick Johnson||4 (.9415)||Cam Robinson||5 (.9979)|
|LG||Josue Matias||4 (.8972)||Arie Kouandjio||4 (.9224)|
|C||Cameron Erving||3 (.8505)||Ryan Kelly||4 (.9009)|
|RG||Tre' Jackson||3 (.8160)||Leon Brown||4 (.8914)|
|RT||Bobby Hart||4 (.9715)||Austin Shepherd||3 (.8575)|
|DL||Desmond Holin||3 (.8100)||Jonathan Allen||5 (.9920)|
|DL||Derrick Mitchell, Jr.||4 (.8956)||A'Shawn Robinson||5 (.9834)|
|DL||Eddie Goldman||5 (.9942)||Jarran Reed||4 (.8998)|
|DL/LB||DeMarcus Walker||4 (.9822)||Denzel Devall||4 (.9387)|
|LB||Reggie Northrup||4 (.8931)||Trey DePriest||5 (.9839)|
|LB||Terrance Smith||3 (.8830)||Reggie Ragland||4 (.9790)|
|LB||Mario Edwards, Jr.||5 (.9995)||Xzavier Dickson||4 (.9791)|
|CB||P.J. Williams||4 (.9465)||Eddie Jackson||3 (.8857)|
|FS||Jalen Ramsey||5 (.9921)||Nick Perry||4 (.9016)|
|SS||Tyler Hunter||3 (.8687)||Landon Collins||5 (.9970)|
|CB||Ronald Darby||5 (.9872)||Cyrus Jones||4 (.9784)|