Scoreboard Trumps Recruiting Rankings

Be careful how you interpret recruiting rankings.  When the recruiting classes are announced this Wednesday, college football fan bases will react to the rankings—many will over react.  I saw this piece on Big Ten Recruiting—with the headline: In the Big Ten, there’s Ohio State and Michigan, and then there’s everybody else

The piece made me want to show the numbers again.

Ohio State is far and away, the class of the league, both in recruiting and on-field success.  They have been by any measurement, for a decade.  Through composite recruiting rankings compiled by, the Buckeyes have ranked 5th nationally in recruiting over the past 3-seasons , 4th over the past five years and 12th over the past decade.  Ohio State has parlayed that into success on the field—going 111-21 .840% including a 70-11 .864%

Of the Big Ten’s top 5-programs, only Ohio State matches recruiting success to on-field success.

Checkout the league’s top teams over the past decade to see the disparity in on field wins and national recruiting rankings (Big Ten):

Team                     Wins                     Wins                     Wins                                                                                                                               2014-2016          2012-2016           2007-2016                         Natl recruiting rank 10 years

Ohio State           37 (23)                 61 (39)                  111 (70)                                                12.3 (1)

Wisconsin            32 (20)                 49 (30)                   97 (56)                                                40.6 (5)

Michigan St.       26 (15)                 46 (26)                    90 (53)                                                30.8 (4)

Penn State          25 (14)                 40 (24)                    87 (51)                                                26.2 (3)

Michigan              25 (17)                 40 (26)                    75  (44)                                               14.6 (2)

The biggest takeaway from all of these numbers is that recruiting can be very important—but it is not the best indicator for success.  Ohio State and Urban Meyer have been consistent examples of combining top flight recruiting with great coaching.  At the other end of the spectrum, Michigan has been the league’s second best recruiting machine over the decade…while only producing the conference’s 5th best record.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin which is no better than 5th in the league in recruiting since 2007, is the Big Ten’s second best team by all on-field measures over the same time frame.  The Badgers have won the 2nd most games overall and in Big Ten play.

So when someone tries to tell you (or write), that—It’s  the BIG-Two and everyone else—don’t  believe the words, believe the scoreboard.

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