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Head-to-Head Recruiting Records and Rankings: Look Quick Before Urban Flips Another

As I've said previously, I am skeptical of the ability of independent recruiting scouts. If they were that good at determining the athletic capacity of a 17-year old, some coaching staff or another would have hired them long ago. Therefore, I have a different way of evaluating classes. Instead of trying to evaluate the recruits themselves, I go by the opinion of those who do that for a living: college coaches. By looking at who gave an offer to a recruit, I get a better idea of their quality than any star rankings.

In this system, if Northwestern gets a recruit with an MSU offer, Northwestern gets a win over MSU (and MSU gets a loss to Northwestern). Repeat this over every recruit to sign with a Big Ten school, and out comes the head-to-head records of the Big Ten teams for 2012:

Teams Illinois Indiana Iowa Michigan MSU Minnesota Nebraska Northwestern ND OSU PSU Purdue Wisconsin
Illinois X 3-5 3-6 0-17 0-8 2-3 1-3 1-4 1-6 0-6 0-4 0-4 3-4
Indiana 5-3 X 1-7 0-10 1-4 3-1 0-5 1-5 0-4 0-9 0-0 3-4 0-4
Iowa 6-3 7-1 X 2-10 2-4 5-3 1-4 3-4 0-3 1-6 1-6 4-1 4-4
Michigan 17-0 10-0 10-2 X 14-1 3-1 4-2 3-3 6-5 6-11 6-1 4-1 5-4
MSU 8-0 4-1 4-2 1-14 X 3-2 1-3 2-1 2-3 2-10 1-1 5-1 4-4
Minnesota 3-2 1-3 3-5 1-3 2-3 X 0-3 0-1 0-4 2-7 0-0 0-1 1-3
Nebraska 3-1 5-0 4-1 2-4 3-1 3-0 X 3-0 3-2 2-4 1-1 4-2 1-2
Northwestern 4-1 5-1 4-3 3-3 1-2 1-0 0-3 X 2-4 1-3 0-3 1-2 0-2
Notre Dame 6-1 4-0 3-0 5-6 3-2 4-0 2-3 4-2 X 1-11 5-0 3-0 5-1
Ohio State 6-0 9-0 6-1 11-6 10-2 7-2 4-2 3-1 11-1 X 7-0 8-0 5-1
Penn State 4-0 0-0 6-1 1-6 1-1 0-0 1-1 3-0 0-5 0-7 X 0-1 1-0
Purdue 4-0 4-3 1-4 1-4 1-5 1-0 2-4 2-1 0-3 0-8 1-0 X 1-1
Wisconsin 4-3 4-0 4-4 4-5 4-4 3-1 2-1 2-0 1-5 1-5 0-1 1-1 X

A few observations:

OSU basically rocked every else. They went 11-6 against Michigan, and 76-10 against the rest.

On the opposite end, Illinois had a losing record against every one else.

Penn State had the fewest head-to-head matchups, while Michigan had the most. I think this corresponds well to their respective recruiting areas.

From those records (and each school's record against the rest of the FBS), I can apply a computer ranking system (Elo) to determine each school's relative desirability on a "generic" recruit. Elo is the system most often chosen for games such as chess and go. It also forms the basis for the Sagarin rankings.

Rank Team Rating Record
3 Ohio State 6.74 264-80
17 Michigan 6.05 259-129
19 Notre Dame 6.04 229-138
31 Penn State 5.18 95-73
32 Northwestern 5.18 108-67
33 Nebraska 5.1 147-142
36 Wisconsin 4.99 82-67
40 Iowa 4.64 142-111
44 Michigan State 4.48 140-135
57 Purdue 3.86 152-185
78 Indiana 3.1 119-174
80 Minnesota 3.07 70-134
83 Illinois 2.99 139-280

The Elo system ratings give the probability of a recruit picking one school over another, and it's logarithmic. I chose 2 as the base, so if Team A's rating is 1 point higher than Team B's, a recruit with an offer from both schools is twice as likely to pick Team A than Team B. For example, look at OSU and Michigan. Ohio State has 6.74 ranking compared to UM's 6.05. The system predicts that OSU would win 2^(6.74-6.05)~= 1.6 times as often as Michigan in head-to-head battles. Ohio State actually won 1.8 times as often as Michigan in direct competition, but the system tries to find the best balance between head-to-head records and the schools' results against the remaining 118 FBS teams.

These rankings are much less kind to Michigan than the recruiting services. They get hurt from going 0-4 vs Texas Tech, 1-4 against Rutgers, and 0-4 against Georgia.

Illinois is the third lowest BCS team, ahead of only Kansas and Connecticut.

Northwestern is much higher than other rankings. Their recruits didn't have the most stars, but many of them had an impressive list of offers.

MSU did (not unexpectedly) poorly against the top programs, but they also struggled against the next tier. Against Arkansas, Baylor, Clemson, Colorado, Missouri, Rutgers, South Carolina, and Tennessee, Mark Dantonio was a combined 1-27.

Indiana actually had a very good class by their standards. They still had a few troubles against the MAC, but much less than usual.

This next chart does the same process, but it has all BCS teams and considers all recruits from 2008-2012 (i.e., those who could possibly be on the team next year).

Rank Team Rating Record
1 Texas 9.16 722-65
2 Ohio State 7.22 889-224
3 Alabama 6.96 968-395
4 LSU 6.95 785-278
5 Georgia 6.84 858-358
6 Southern Cal 6.68 765-335
7 Oklahoma 6.68 870-375
8 Notre Dame 6.63 961-406
9 Florida State 6.46 985-497
10 Virginia Tech 6.38 626-231
11 Penn State 6.33 594-246
12 Texas A&M 6.31 611-335
13 Florida 6.25 888-560
15 Miami (FL) 6.02 888-522
16 Auburn 5.98 865-586
17 Clemson 5.9 617-458
18 Oregon 5.87 708-384
19 California 5.85 624-351
20 UCLA 5.75 707-431
21 Michigan 5.72 906-586
22 Oklahoma State 5.69 672-399
23 Georgia Tech 5.68 603-362
24 Texas Tech 5.48 652-460
25 South Carolina 5.48 779-628
26 Rutgers 5.47 653-423
27 Stanford 5.42 745-591
28 North Carolina 5.3 657-587
29 Missouri 5.27 454-327
30 Washington 5.26 532-360
32 Baylor 5.15 500-412
33 Northwestern 5.13 448-270
34 Michigan State 5.1 567-391
35 Tennessee 5.06 769-908
36 Virginia 5.01 463-448
37 Pittsburgh 4.99 579-419
38 Arkansas 4.98 642-606
39 Iowa 4.94 557-419
40 Nebraska 4.93 684-725
41 Mississippi 4.85 652-624
42 Mississippi State 4.85 479-440
43 Boston College 4.74 454-436
44 Wisconsin 4.74 504-442
45 South Florida 4.7 555-505
46 Arizona State 4.53 461-487
47 Vanderbilt 4.44 639-678
48 Wake Forest 4.35 364-434
49 Colorado 4.32 491-551
50 Kentucky 4.32 493-528
51 North Carolina State 4.25 386-550
53 Utah 4.15 422-495
54 Oregon State 4.14 290-345
55 West Virginia 4.08 554-756
58 Maryland 4.02 369-601
59 Illinois 3.95 621-831
60 Purdue 3.94 449-620
62 Arizona 3.91 456-710
63 Minnesota 3.91 448-595
67 Cincinnati 3.74 477-602
68 Louisville 3.7 466-764
69 Syracuse 3.55 286-467
70 Duke 3.52 278-567
71 Kansas 3.49 356-622
73 Iowa State 3.36 320-511
79 Kansas State 3.19 263-506
80 Indiana 3.16 339-515
81 Connecticut 3.14 176-341
86 Washington State 2.98 206-408

For what it's worth, this chart from last year predicted the order of finish in the Big Ten, except that Purdue and Wisconsin finished higher while OSU finished lower.

One final chart: here are the rankings if every conference were considered a single team. For example, Ifeadi Odenigbo went to Northwestern, but he also had offer from Alabama, so the Big Ten gets a win over the SEC for that.

Rank Conference Rating Record
1 SEC 5.83 6269-4015
2 Big 12 5.66 3919-2543
3 ACC 5.64 5000-3904
4 Pac-12 5.57 3835-2815
5 Big Ten 5.49 5289-4035
6 Big East 4.96 3092-3546
7 C-USA 4.21 2305-3766
8 Mountain West 4.0 1124-2170
9 WAC 3.86 712-1415
10 Sun Belt 3.76 1044-2188
11 MAC 3.09 735-2927

Miscellany notes: I got all the data from Rivals, so it's as accurate as theirs. For conference membership, I only included the moves that all sides agree are happening next year. In other words, Texas A&M and Missouri are in the SEC, but WVU and TCU are not in the Big 12. The 2012 data is here. My article from last year goes into further detail on how the rankings are calculated.

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