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:
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.
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).
|51||North Carolina State||4.25||386-550|
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.
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.