Who’s Got The Talent and Who’s Doing What With It — Part Two

Here is part two in a series of comprehensive looks at talent and performance in college football by site contributor MB.  Part one measured performance on the field over the last decade….

More interesting to us than absolute performance is analyzing how these teams achieved this success on the field.  It all starts with talent.  Talent is not everything, but it is a big factor in college football success. We recognize that talent is subjective, but we believe that by looking at recruiting rankings as well as NFL draft results, one can make objective observations about talent.  For what its worth, we believe the NFL draft is the far superior way to measure college football talent, but it all starts with recruiting so lets evaluate recruiting over this time frame.  We believe Rivals.com provides the best overall recruiting rankings. Below are the top 25 aggregate Rivals points for the 2002-2009 classes (we stretched to 26 to include Virginia Tech).  We recognize this is not a perfect overlap with the time frame above, but Rivals data does not go back before 2002 and when we analyze the data in detail below we employ a weighting system to address this shortfall.

Most Aggregate Rivals Points 2002-2009 Recruiting Classes-Table 6

Rivals
Rank Team Points
1 USC 20,314
2 Florida 18,039
3 LSU 17,972
4 Florida State 17,493
5 Georgia 17,182
6 Oklahoma 16,997
7 Texas 16,881
8 Miami 16,272
9 Ohio State 15,712
10 Michigan 15,665
11 Tennessee 15,145
12 Alabama 14,785
13 Auburn 13,711
14 Notre Dame 13,236
15 South Carolina 12,612
16 Texas A&M 11,578
17 UCLA 11,489
18 Nebraska 11,065
19 Clemson 10,781
20 Penn State 10,572
21 California 10,279
22 North Carolina 10,163
23 Ole Miss 10,086
24 Arkansas 10,084
25 Oregon 10,028
26 Virginia Tech 9,861

By combining charts 1 (from part one of this series) and 6, we can look at recruiting and performance rankings side by side and draw loose conclusions (while also recognizing that the time frames do not match up exactly).  In a more detailed analysis below, we use weighted data that matches timing much better.

Rivals Ranking and Performance Ranking as Presented Above-Table 7

Ranking
Rivals Perform
Points Points
Alabama 12 10
Arkansas 24 33
Auburn 13 12
Boise 70 14
Cal 21 31
Clemson 19 30
Florida 2 3
Florida St 4 11
Georgia 5 8
Iowa 42 21
Louisville 53 25
LSU 3 5
Maryland 27 35
Miami 8 7
Michigan 10 17
NC St 39 48
Nebraska 18 16
North Carolina 22 56
Notre Dame 14 27
Ohio St 9 6
Oklahoma 6 2
Ole Miss 23 46
Oregon 25 13
Oregon St 50 20
Penn State 20 19
South Carolina 15 34
TCU 61 24
Tennessee 11 18
Texas 7 4
Texas A&M 16 39
Texas Tech 44 23
UCLA 17 36
USC 1 1
Utah 60 22
Virginia 30 47
Virginia Tech 26 9
West Virginia 41 15
Wisconsin 43 28

By looking at the chart we can glean that teams such as Virginia Tech, Boise, Oregon, Oregon St, TCU, Utah, West Virginia have found a way to perform better on the field than in recruiting, while teams like Clemson, Florida St, South Carolina, Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina have done the opposite.  Teams like USC, Florida, and LSU recruit well and perform well.  What we don’t know is how does Virginia Tech do it? Do the Hokies find diamonds in the rough? Does Boise just coach up their talent better? Does Oregon State employ a system designed to maximize the college potential of their players and teams? Does Notre Dame just recruit off of lists or does it not properly utilize its talent?

In order to help answer some of these questions, we need to evaluate one more data set….NFL draft results.  While recruiting rankings project the potential success of a high school football player, the NFL draft provides more of a backward looking hindsight analysis of how talented a college football player is….thus we believe it is the most accurate measure of college football talent. We recognize that some outstanding football players do not translate to the NFL and this is a flaw in the system…fortunately, this is the exception not the rule.  By looking into the NFL draft, we can fill in the gaps to the questions above.  For example, if a team recruits well, performs poorly, but has many NFL players drafted…the problem is likely the coaching or utilization of talent.  If a team recruits well, performs poorly and has poor NFL draft success, the problem is likely either lack of player development or poor talent evaluation in recruiting.

Most NFL Draft Points 2001-2010 Drafts-Table 8

Talent
Rank Team Points
1 Miami 1,081
2 USC 962
3 Ohio St 881
4 Texas 753
5 Florida St 746
6 Georgia 741
7 Florida 739
8 Oklahoma 683
9 Tennessee 629
10 LSU 599
11 Michigan 581
12 Penn St 531
13 Auburn 458
14 Virginia Tech 441
15 Iowa 440
16 Wisconsin 434
17 Notre Dame 417
18 Cal 415
19 Alabama 412
20 Nebraska 400
21 Oregon 379
T22 NC St 323
T22 Maryland 323
T24 Ole Miss 322
T24 Arkansas 322

If you look at the top 10 most talented teams during this time period, those teams won ten of the eleven (two in 2003) national titles in the decade. In addition to the ten titles, those teams also lost in the title game 9 times.  Of the 21 national championship game participants, the top 10 teams in this chart accounted for 19 participants.  NFL talent matters big time in terms of achieving elite success in college football.

The concentration in talent becomes even more clear when you look at the 25 most talented singe season teams. Note that this list is for 2000-2007 as the 2008 and 2009 teams cannot be completely judged until the 2011 and 2012 drafts are complete.  Despite still having the 2011 draft to add to the total, USC’s 2008 team made the list.  We would expect that 2008 and 2009 Florida will be on the list when all the points are in.

If you look at the top 10 most talented teams during this time period, those teams won ten of the eleven (two in 2003) national titles in the decade. In addition to the ten titles, those teams also lost in the title game 9 times.  Of the 21 national championship game participants, the top 10 teams in this chart accounted for 19 participants.  NFL talent matters big time in terms of achieving elite success in college football.  The concentration in talent becomes even more clear when you look at the 25 most talented singe season teams. Note that this list is for 2000-2007 as the 2008 and 2009 teams cannot be completely judged until the 2011 and 2012 drafts are complete.  Despite still having the 2011 draft to add to the total, USC’s 2008 team made the list.  We would expect that 2008 and 2009 Florida will be on the list when all the points are in.

Most Talented Single Season Teams 2000-2007 Based on NFL Draft Points-Table 9

Talent

Rank

Year

Team

Points

1

2001

Miami

432

2

2007

USC

404

3

2000

Miami

402

4

2002

Miami

370

5

2006

USC

342

6

2003

Miami

331

7

2005

USC

325

8

2003

Ohio St

324

9

2004

Florida St

314

10

2005

Ohio St

309

11

2004

USC

297

12

2004

Ohio St

290

13

2005

Miami

279

14

2004

Miami

271

15

2003

OK

268

16

2004

OK

267

17

2003

Florida St

266

18

2002

Ohio St

264

19

2003

USC

262

20

2008

USC

256

21

2000

Georgia

254

T22

2002

Georgia

245

T22

2005

Texas

245

24

2005

LSU

241

25

2005

Florida St

240

Note that a single season is represented by the 3 drafts following that season (with the third draft only counting 50%). For example, a 2006 team will receive full credit for players drafted in the 2007 and 2008 drafts and 50% credit for those drafted in the 2009 drafts.  The idea is to try and give appropriate weightings to players that contribute to the success of a team…while we believe this method is the best and most accurate way to measure talent, it is certainly not perfect.

USC and Miami have ALL of the top 7 spots and 10 of the top 15. USC, Miami and Ohio St have 13 of the top 15 spots. That is pretty amazing.  Also interesting to note that only one of the top 10 teams (Miami 2001) won a national title and only 5 of the top 25 (Miami 2001, USC 2004, Ohio St 2002, USC 2003 and Texas 2005) won national titles.  An additional 4 of the top 25 lost in the title game (Miami 2002, USC 2005 and Oklahoma 2003 and 2004).  Florida St has 3 teams in the top 25 for the decade…and those teams went a shockingly bad 27-11.

We will discuss performance relative to talent later, but the top 5 teams from table 9 above in terms of getting the most out of their considerable talent are (in order) Texas 2005, USC 2004, USC 2003, Ohio St 2002 and Miami 2001.  The 5 biggest underperformers relative to their considerable talent from table 9 above are (in order) Ohio St 2004, Georgia 2000, Florida St 2003, Florida St 2004 and Miami 2005.

Only 6 teams produced single season draft scores of 175+ points in the decade (draft year listed):  2006 Ohio St (194 pts), 2002 Miami (192), 2008 USC (191), 2004 Miami (183), 2004 Ohio St (181) and Florida 2010 (177).

Stay tuned for part three of this series when we look at the talent gaps and conference talent levels.

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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7 Responses to Who’s Got The Talent and Who’s Doing What With It — Part Two

  1. starkweather June 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Am I daft or am I missing something really obvious here. How did we end up with an odd number of title game participants?

  2. Ed Newman June 19, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    I love your analysis. Is there any way to incorporate NFL success into the analysis? Drafting is not a perfect science. Great players are sometimes free agents and high draft picks are often busts. Plus I believe that certain programs have more players drafted based on reputation. When in doubt NFL GMs will take a player from an established program than from Podunk U, either because he is less likely to be criticized if the pick busts or because he feels he has a good chance to pick up the Podunk U player as a free agent. Perhaps you could factor in rosters and pro bowls made with some kind of a point system.

  3. slippy June 21, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    Stark, I think they count the AP Title that USC won (in ’03 I think?) when LSU won the BCS. So in 10 years there were 20 BCS championship participants, but they also count USC as a champion.

  4. mb June 21, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Ed–Couple of thoughts. First, in a perfect world we would take free agents into account. However, it is exceptionally difficult to track free agents for 80 college programs over 13 years. Your point is a good one however.

    Second, we are really trying to measure college football talent more than NFL success, so pro bowls is not something we would factor in. We do agree the draft is not perfect and that the methodology we use is not perfect…goal is to come up with the best system we can and apply it consistently accross programs and years. Good points in your post. Thx

  5. Ed Newman June 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    How are the draft points assigned? Is there a sliding scale based on the round a player is taken in? I hope you aren’t assigning the same draft points for a first rounder as you are for a seventh rounder.

    This relates to my pro bowl and roster comments in that there is a vast scale of “talent”. Someone like Barry Sanders or Peyton Manning has more talent than your average draftee. Are we to judge what a coach has to work with and how much he gets out of his talent based only on the number of good players he has or can we judge him not only on the good players but also on the transcendent ones?

  6. mb June 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Ed–In a perfect world we would assign points by actual draft position, but that is not practical unfortunately. We did assign points by round drafted (Heismanpundit will be posted all formulas at the end). Here is the scale by round

    1st Round-30 pts
    2nd Round-20 pts
    3rd Round-13 pts
    4th Round-9 pts
    5th Round-5 pts
    6th Round-2 pts
    7th Round-1 pt

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Who’s Got The Talent and Who’s Doing What With It — Part Four (Final) | Heismanpundit - June 22, 2010

    [...] that looks at who’s got the talent–and what they do with it.  You can read Pt. 1 here, Pt. 2 here and Pt. 3 here.  Hope you enjoyed our exhaustive study put together by site contributor MB. [...]