It is time to start talking about some individual programs. If you have not read Parts I and II you might want to scroll down a couple of posts and start there to find out what this is all about. In short after compiling the rivals class rankings over the last five years HERE only 8 programs have an average ranking below 10.0. I refer to those eight programs as having "elite" talent. For the most part these 8 programs are the ones you would expect to see stocked with this level of talent but there are also a couple of arguable underachievers in this group. These 8 programs account for the last seven BCS Championships and 12 of the last 14 BCS Championship game appearances. Ohio State owns the other two appearances, which were both losses, and they are not far behind this group with an average ranking of 12.0. More on the Bucks in the next installment. Of these 8 programs 4 are from the SEC, 2 are from the Big 12 and the Pac-10 and ACC each have 1. Now on to the programs themselves.
Urban Meyer has really turned the Gators into a juggernaut. With their haul this year the Gators supplant USC at the top of this list and unless Meyer literally keels over I don’t think things in Gainesville are going to slow down anytime soon. An average ranking of 3.6 over a 5 year period is sick. Meyer is fun for opposing fans to root against for a litany of reasons but at the end of the day the guy has a serious football team.
It looks like Lane Kiffin and his cronies are going to keep the party going in L.A. at least on the recruiting front. I still see the Trojans as a bit of a ticking time bomb with the NCAA looming and Kiffin at the controls but they do have quite the stockpile of athletes. One could actually argue that the Trojans have been underachieving since their 2005 ESPN dubbed "greatest team of all time" was beaten by Vince Young and Texas in the title game. The last four seasons Carroll’s crew always seemed to drop at least 1-2 games that they shouldn’t have which relegated them to run ruling Big Ten teams in the Rose Bowl. So despite this talent stockpile the combination of the NCAA and Kiffin leaves the Trojan future a bit of a wildcard. I’m anticipating an NCAA wrist slap this spring followed by a couple of years of full on ridiculousness that rivals "The U" heyday before a full on crash and burn.
Nick Saban is a hired gun that delivers. He has now done the same thing at both LSU and Bama. In both cases he actually inherited a pretty talented roster, then recruited even more talent, put together an elite defense then went to work on offense with a focus on the running game and a serviceable QB. The fact that he just won a title in his 3rd season at Bama definitely verifies his formula. Like Florida I don’t expect the Tide to drop off at all as long as Saban is around.
Les Miles does a great job of stockpiling his roster with top talent but I remain unconvinced that it will ever really materialize on the field the way that it probably should. Despite being very good I don’t see the Tigers dethroning Bama or Florida in the immediate future. Miles is just too much of a wildcard.
Mack Brown has done a tremendous job of locking down the state of Texas. He loses a few kids here and there but generally speaking Brown seems to select the 20 or so kids he wants each year and generally has most of them locked up after junior days a year in advance. It is a well oiled machine at this point and I doubt it will drop off much if any when Brown eventually gives way to Will Muschamp.
The Mark Richt tenure is very interesting. At a glance you think the Dawgs are underachieving with all this talent but in this case it depends on the perspective. Georgia is one of two teams in this group that hasn’t appeared in the BCS Championship game in the last 7 years and the only one that hasn’t ever appeared in it period. In the Richt tenure the Dawgs have won the SEC twice and Richt has racked up a .767 winning percentage since taking over in 2001. Perhaps his ceiling is two losses and a bowl win.
Florida State 9.6
There really isn’t any way to defend Bobby Bowden on this one. I really didn’t like the way they ran him off but at the same time the numbers are what they are and I don’t see any way to argue that the coaching at FSU has been anything better than below average for quite some time. It will be very interesting to see if Jimbo Fisher and Mark Stoops can awaken this sleeping giant.
Bob Stoops is the one guy out there that has been successful going head to head with Mack Brown for the upper crust of Texas talent. He gets his fair share of kids from the Lone Star State and has done very well with them. The Sooners have lost their last 3 BCS Championship Game appearances but remain a national factor.
In the next installment I will discuss the 9 teams with "great" talent as defined by an average class ranking for the last 5 years between 10-20.