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Swimming in the Talent Pool

Just before Signing Day, we talked here about the Recruiting Rankings analysis that SMQ performed and he concluded how accurately Rivals was predicting winning percentages.

"Rivals was very, very good at picking the top teams – of the top 25 winningest teams of the last six years, all were either pegged in or very near their respective positions by the recruiting rankings or achieved them by winning against overwhelmingly lower-ranked opposition; of the top 25 teams according to the recruiting rankings, 18 are in the top 30 in winning percentage."

I also noted how narrow the field really is for teams that can win a BCS national championship.

The BCS Champions since 2002 (Ohio State, LSU (2x), USC, Texas, and Florida) were all in the top 12 of the recruiting averages. Of the "other" 7, OU and Miami both played for in the BCS NC game; Auburn got snubbed in 04 when they were undefeated; Michigan was a game away in 05; and Georgia made an argument to be in the BCS NC game this season.

To project for the upcoming season, I decided to built a model on top of these same Rivals rankings after adding the incoming freshman class (and removing the recruiting classes that are no longer on campus) to see who could actually be in the running to win it all. I ran two models on the Rivals rankings from 2004-2008 (5 classes): simple average (same as SMQ's original analysis) and a weighted average model. The weighted average model uses the following percentages for 04-08 classes respectively: 15%, 35%, 25%, 15%, and 10%. Essentially, 4 year seniors account for 35% while incoming freshman account for 10%. Yes, completely arbitrary, yet educated guesses.

Ironically enough, the same 12 teams make the cut to win it all using both calculations. The order is different, however.

Simple Average
1. USC 2.4
2. Florida 5.6
3. Georgia 7.0
4. Florida State 7.4
5. Oklahoma 7.8
T6. Michigan 9.2
T6. LSU 9.2
8. Miami 9.6
9. Texas 10.8
10. Alabama 11.0
11. Ohio State 11.4
12. Auburn 14.2

Weighted Average
1. USC 1.6
2. Florida State 5.5
3. Oklahoma 6.1
4. Florida 6.4
5. Georgia 6.6
6. Michigan 8.3
7. Miami 9.3
8. Ohio State 10.6
T9. Texas 10.7
T9. Auburn 10.7
11. Alabama 11.1
12. LSU 11.2

Bodog's NCAA futures seem to overwhelmingly agree:
USC 3/1
Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State are all 6/1
LSU 12/1
Auburn 20/1
Texas, Michigan 30/1
Miami 35/1
Alabama 40/1
Florida State 50/1

The only teams better than 50/1 according to Bodog are Missouri at 14/1, Clemson at 22/1, West Virginia at 25/1, UCLA at 35/1, and Virginia Tech at 40/1.

Clemson comes in at #20 and #15 in my simple and weighted average formulas, respectively. UCLA #24 and #22. Virginia Tech #25 and #21. Missouri #36 and #40. West Virginia #44 and #39.

These five all seem like "ride the wave" picks as opposed to legitimate title contenders.

Your thoughts?