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Blue-Chip Ratio 2018: 13 teams have recruited well enough to win a national title

Only 10 percent of the 130 teams in FBS have enough talent to win the natty, according to a recent historical benchmark.

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

College football kicks off in one week. But the national champion was likely decided between 28 and 184 weeks earlier, on National Signing Day over the last four years.

Because there is a certain baseline of talent required to win the title.

I track this using my Blue-Chip Ratio statistic. Put simply, teams who win the title sign more four- and five-star recruits than two- and three-stars over the previous four signing classes.

This has been true for about as far back as modern recruiting rankings can be tracked.

It’s easy to think of the stat as the percentage of four- and five-stars signed by a team, out of total signees. Generally, teams whose signees are less than 50 percent blue-chips over the previous four years can’t be considered national title contenders.

Before we look at 2018’s updated rankings, it’s worth it to add a disclaimer:

This metric is quite useful for determining which teams have signed elite talent. It is not the most useful for differentiating between bad and below average teams, or below average and average. Some teams simply do not have much of a shot of signing elite prospects and instead try to find diamonds in the rough. That’s a strategy that can produce wins and conference titles, though perhaps not Playoff rings.

I think coaching and development are extremely important in college football. But talent acquisition is by far the most important element when trying to compete for the sport’s biggest prize. By NCAA rule, coaches get just 20 hours per week with their players. Only so much development can be done.

This year, we have 13 teams in the club.

2018 Blue-Chip Ratio Teams

Team Blue-Chips
Team Blue-Chips
Alabama 77%
Ohio State 76%
USC 71%
Georgia 69%
Florida State 67%
LSU 63%
Auburn 62%
Clemson 61%
Michigan 57%
Texas 55%
Oklahoma 53%
Penn State 53%
Notre Dame 51%

There are no real surprises here. All of these teams recruit like gangbusters.

Alabama has been tops for the last half-decade, while Ohio State has been No. 2 steadily.

This is what I wrote about Georgia in last year’s Blue-Chip Ratio post:

Kirby Smart inherited a good Georgia roster from Mark Richt, but his first two classes are humming at 74 percent, while Richt’s final two were at 53. It’s not yet known if Smart can coach, but Georgia’s talent is being upgraded.

Turns out, Smart seems able to coach pretty well. And he signed the No. 1 class in the nation in 2018. His last two classes are right on par with those of Saban and Meyer.

Texas, Oklahoma, and Penn State are new this year.

Texas was off the list for only a year, but Oklahoma and Penn State have not appeared in some time.

The Nittany Lions have seen their percentage rise from 21, to 28, to 34, to 41, and now to 51 percent. The Sooners have seen a big jump from 36 percent two years ago, to 53 percent this year.

The biggest year-over-year changes:

Among the teams who made the list, five saw their numbers jump more than 5 percent each: Penn State (up 12 percent!), Texas (9), USC (9), Oklahoma (8), and Georgia (6).

BCR v. Vegas

How well does this list match up with whom Vegas believes will win the national championship? Extremely well. In fact, the BCR teams ranked 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 in the early-August gambling consensus.

Among the non-BCR teams, Washington has the fifth-best odds, Wisconsin the eighth, Michigan State the 11th, and Miami the 12th.

The SEC again leads the way.

The SEC has the most teams (four), followed by the Big Ten (three), ACC (two), Big 12 (two), Pac-12 (one), and independents (Notre Dame).

The Big 12 returning to the list has to be a good feeling for a conference that has not won it all since before current recruits were in elementary school.

Miami, Texas A&M, Florida, and Washington could be next up.

If these schools finish out with strong 2019 classes, they could join the club, thanks to good signing work in the 2016-18 classes.

  • Miami is at 46 percent and has a poor 2015 class (23 percent) cycling off the books next year.
  • Texas A&M is at 44 percent and could sign a top-five 2019 class.
  • Florida is at 42 percent, and the poor 2015 class (24 percent) will be coming off the books. With a strong class this year, UF could get back above 50 percent.
  • Washington is at 40 percent and will have the poor 2015 class (21 percent) coming off the books.

I can’t see anyone else making the jump in the next year or two.

Are the top teams getting more talented?

This year is the first time since I’ve been tracking in which five teams eclipsed the 67 percent mark. This isn’t a benchmark I devote the same level of attention as I do the 50 percent mark, but it could be that the best teams are widening the gap on the others.

This will be something worth tracking in the future if the trend continues. Will these teams win titles even more than regular BCR teams? We’ll see.

What numbers have recent past champions posted?

  • Alabama won it all in 2017 with an incredible 80 percent mark.
  • Clemson took home the title in 2016 after signing 52 percent blue chips in the 2013-16 classes.
  • In 2015, Alabama had a 77 percent mark.
  • In 2014, it was Ohio State at 68.
  • In 2013, Florida State was at 53.
  • In 2012, Alabama was at 71,
  • Just as it was in 2011.
  • And so on.

Do all recruits count? What data do you use for this?

All signees count. Transfers and walk-ons do not. Transfers are not governed by recruit rules, are not rated and, though they’re important to every team, are rarely consequential enough to turn a non-contender into a contender. Walk-ons are almost never rated. Sticking with signees helps to standardize the process.

I use the 247Sports Composite, which blends the three major recruiting rankings by 247Sports, Rivals, and ESPN. It formerly used Scout as well, but 247Sports bought Scout, and its rankings no longer exist.

I manually curate it each year because publishers of some of the team sites erroneously list walk-ons under enrollees or signees. Removing non-scholarship players is by far the most time consuming element. Also, older classes are fraught with errors. For data in this current decade, it has improved, but more than a handful of team site publishers still lump in zero-star walk-ons with the others.

I also do not remove signees who fail to qualify academically or who are denied admission due to off-field reasons, because it’s difficult to track, with so many signees on so many teams.

Otherwise, if the school used a Letter of Intent on them during or after Signing Day, they count.