In the last installment I discussed the 8 teams that have an average rivals class ranking over the last five years that is below 10. That group was chock full of 5 star talent and recent BCS Championship success. In this post I will talk about the 9 teams that have an average ranking over the last five years between 10 and 20. Of these teams there are 3 from the SEC, 2 from the Big Ten, 2 from the ACC, 1 from the Pac 10 and 1 Independent in Notre Dame. With 4 teams in the "elite" category the SEC has 7 of the top 17 rankings which is sick. While the correlation between talent and on field success was readily apparent in the elite group with their domination of the BCS Championship game over the last several years this group is made up of programs that are fighting to get back on top and into that elite realm. That is most evident in the fact that of these 9 teams only Ohio State and South Carolina will enter the 2010 season with a head coach that has been in place more than 4 years. The other 7 teams in this group are all in various stages of the "rebuilding" process. The full spreadsheet is HERE if you don't want to scroll down to the previous installments to find it. Let’s take a look at these 9 programs.
Notre Dame 10.4
No rebuilding process has been more scrutinized than the one that has been taking place in South Bend over the last few years. While Charlie Weis will most likely be remembered for his last three records of 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 another number that I find significant is 10.4 which is the average class ranking he left his successor. Last Year I summed up this series of posts with a detailed look at the evolution of the Notre Dame roster during the Weis tenure but the bottom line is that the Irish have steadily climbed back to this level of talent and depth over the last few years. Over the last four years this number has improved from 20 to 17.8 to 15.4 and now rests at 10.4 heading into 2010. I consider that to be significant progress. Another less obvious measure of talent and depth in South Bend is apparent in the Notre Dame roster now having 83 scholarship players. This is the closest that ND has been to the 85 scholarship limit in years. As recently as 2007 the Irish had only 71 players on scholarship and when Weis first took over in 2005 that number was in the 60s. That is essentially a full class short which is almost unheard of.
As I have previously discussed the results of 2007 and 2008 were to a degree inevitable due to those challenges. The dip was arguably lower than it "should" have been but regardless there were some serious personnel issues that had to be worked through. The 2009 season should have been the turning point and when it didn’t materialize Weis was already out of leash. Enter Brian Kelly. I will sum up this series of posts in the next few days with the long version of how I feel about the state of the Notre Dame program under Brian Kelly but the very abbreviated version is this. Coach Kelly went 12-0 last season with a team that ranked out at a smooth 81.6 (last in the Big East) over the last 5 seasons. We know he can fly a turboprop and we are about to find out what he can do with a jet.
Ohio State 12.0
The Bucks are the only team in this category to have appeared in the BCS Championship game in the last seven years losing both in 2006 and 2007. At 12.0 the Bucks are tops in the Big Ten and it has materialized on the field under Jim Tressel since he took the reigns in 2001. I talked about some of the challenges the Big Ten faces in Part II but all things considered the Buckeyes do pretty well for themselves.
In my opinion the man that has benefited the most from all of the attention on Charlie Weis over the last couple of seasons is Rich Rodriguez. Now that Weis has moved on the national media will be looking to exploit the next great perceived underachiever and Rich Rod should be high on the list of those likely to find himself in the cross hairs. The Wolverines have far too much talent to be knocking around at the bottom of the Big Ten and without a significant step forward in 2010 Rich Rod may be on his way to Franchione town. They are already growing tired of hearing about the difficulties of installing a new system in Ann Arbor. Brian Kelly could throw a lot of fuel on the fire when the Irish host Michigan this fall.
The Gene Chzik era at Auburn will be interesting. If the Tiger fans are patient he may get them back into the mix of the elite but he has a couple of challenges. Heading into 2010 Chzik has a bit of a bubble in is Sophomore #18 and Junior #33 classes that could really manifest themselves in 2011 but with a strong 2010 he should survive that and potentially have the Tigers back in the mix from 2012 and beyond. Signing the #4 rated class this year certainly helps the outlook.
The Canes are second only to Florida State in terms of talent in the ACC. While also a bit of a sleeping giant the Canes are still relatively young and also appear to have a few of what Crash Davis might call "million dollar arm and 5 cent head" type guys in key positions. This is particularly true under center where hey also have no depth due to transfer mania last fall. It will be interesting to see how long "The U" lets Randy Shannon keep tinkering.
Slick Rick heads into his 3rd season working through a situation that is somewhat similar to the one Charlie Weis faced at Notre Dame. He has a bubble in his senior class #40 but his recruiting classes the last three years have been trending positively with a capstone of a #8 ranking this year. Neuheisel has won at his last two stops in Coloardo and Washington and I expect he will eventually do the same at UCLA. The Bruins could be a real factor by 2011.
I think of Clemson as a slightly watered down version of Georgia. They aren’t quite as talented, or quite as good on the field but they seem to have a pretty similar ceiling. They might continue to be in the mix for an ACC Championship but odds are they probably won’t actually win one any time soon. I kind of see them as a perennial 8-9 win team that has the ability to give just about anybody a game come bowl season.
South Carolina 19.2
Williams Bryce Stadium is cursed. If Holtz and Spurrier can’t quite get you there it probably just isn’t going to happen. These guys are very similar to their Palmetto State neighbor Clemson.
Mira the Vols grade out at 19.6. Unfortunately for Rocky Top the future is a relatively big question mark as they enter 2010 with their 3rd coach in as many seasons. The Lane Kiffin show left town but it did at least leave some pretty talented players in its wake. It will be interesting to see What Derek Dooley does with them.
In the next installment I will take a look at the 11 teams with "Good" talent with average class rankings between 20-30. There are some very successful programs in that group.