24 Jan 2014
National signing day is only two weeks away, and many of the top college football programs are on track to reload their rosters with another fleet of talented recruits. The Alabama Crimson Tide are at the top of the current RecruitingNation class rankings on ESPN Insider and the defending national champions, the Florida State Seminoles, aren't far behind.
Dominant college football performances have traditionally gone hand-in-hand with strong recruiting hauls, especially when we take a multiyear view of recruiting rankings. We calculate program recruiting rankings as part of our Football Outsiders team projections. These five-year weighted measures of team recruiting profiles unsurprisingly match up well with five-year measures of team performance. Thirteen teams currently ranked in the top 20 in our current Program FEI ratings (possession efficiency over the past five seasons) also ranked among the top 20 in program recruiting in the same span.
Some programs aren't fully loaded with elite talent but have still managed to consistently outperform recruiting ratings in recent years. And some have fallen flat despite having a talent edge in most games. We tallied game results from 2011 to 2013 according to our program recruiting rankings -- which teams won more games against more talented opposition, and which teams fell most frequently despite having a talent edge -- and ignored games in which the talent differential was small to isolate on the biggest overachievers and underachievers.