Fans often like to discount recruiting rankings (especially fans of teams that don't have very high rankings) citing things walk-ons turning into pros and Appalachian State beating Michigan. Sure, those things happen. But more often than not recruiting rankings do matter. So, in keeping with my goal of looking at data to make B1G predictions I wanted to take a look at recruiting rankings.

Mostly just for fun, but also to justify using recruiting rankings as a predictor, I took at look at just how good they are at predicting. This is definitely not a very original thing to do. BHGP just had an excellent player development post that compared recruiting rankings to NFL draftee. More in-line of what I'm looking for though, is this study that's from the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. The study concluded that "up to 45% of the variances in the end-of-season ratings and total wins" could be predicted by the recruiting rankings. That sounds pretty nice, but it's from a few years ago and I still wanted to run the numbers myself.

I took the average Points from's team rankings from 2006-2010 (5 years for the obvious reasons) and compared it to the winning percentage for the 2010 season and to the final Sagarin rankings. The results were actually quite different than the JoQAiS study. I came up with a correlation coefficient of 0.409. That translates into just 16% of the variance in win percentage was predicted by the recruiting rankings. Against Sagarin the results were better. The correlation coefficient was 0.626 which is more like a 40% predictiveness.

So yes, depending on how you define a team's success (wins or ranking), the recruiting rankings do provide some predicting power. The win percentage one was not great, but considering how many factors go into whether a game is won or loss, I'd say it's good enough to take into consideration.

For 2011

Moving forward I wanted to look at the 5-year recruiting ranking average for the B1G for this year. Since the data was there I went ahead and did it for the entire FBS (minus Western Kentucky since they weren't FBS 5 years ago). I again used the Points as my basis.

Here's the B1G:

Ohio State440330324799427128523871.4
Penn State210837623520212627032843.8
Michigan State248424242234159413212011.4

I used the line of best fit from the 2010 analysis and predicted the record for each B1G team based solely on their recruiting rankings.
  • Illinois: 7 - 5
  • Indiana: 6 - 6
  • Iowa: 7 - 5
  • Michigan: 8 - 4
  • Michigan State: 7 - 5
  • Minnesota: 6 - 6
  • Nebraska: 8 - 4
  • Northwestern: 6 - 6
  • Ohio State: 9 - 3
  • Penn State: 8 - 4
  • Purdue: 6 - 6
  • Wisconsin: 7 - 5

Most of those win totals are within a game or two of what I would expect. They seem to be a little bit condensed though with the best team at 9-3 and the worst at 6-6. I'd expect that there will be more seperation between the top and the bottom of the the B1G.

The data...all of it

If you're interested, here's the Google Docs Spreadsheet with the data for all BCS teams. You can copy it over to Excel if you want to sort the columns or do any of your own analysis.