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Southern superiority (cont.)

Posted: Monday February 4, 2008 4:09PM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 5:29PM
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While going through the raw data, it occurred to me that some of the "averages" may be disproportionately affected by so-called "statistical outliers." For instance, in 2007, 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams ranked in the top 60 -- and then Indiana all the way down at 97th. Or, in 2006, the Pac-10 had USC at No. 1, but no one else in the top 15.

So I recalculated the scores using each team's "median" rather than its average. It didn't affect most of the leagues' numbers all that much -- except, of course, for the SEC, whose lead over the others grew even larger.

Median Rivals.com class rankings, 2003-07:

SEC: 19.5
Pac-10: 29.5
ACC: 31
Big 12: 36.5
Big Ten: 38
Big East: 50.5

Obviously, one thing that obviously stands out is the significantly lower rating for the Big East, which shows a much larger gap than has been reflected on the field, where Big East teams have won their past three BCS bowl games.

Part of this is due to the fact I used current conference lineups (to reflect the current product on the field). Prior to 2005, three league members -- Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida -- were operating under the Conference USA umbrella. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is on the cusp of landing its second top-25 class in four years under Dave Wannstedt.

However, the conference failed to produce a single top-10 class during entire span -- even West Virginia, which has won 11 games each of the past three seasons.

"There's no [natural] recruiting pool for West Virginia," said Farrell. "They have to be very creative where they end up going. They pulled Pat White from Alabama because everyone else was recruiting him as a receiver. Steve Slaton wanted to go to Maryland but they pulled their offer."

Meanwhile, the SEC produced more than twice as many top-10 classes as its next closest competitor.

Rivals.com top-10 classes, 2003-07:

SEC: 21
Big 12: 10
ACC: 7
Pac-10: 6
Big Ten: 4
Big East: 0

One need look no further than the above list to see why the Big Ten has had increasing difficulty keeping up with the nation's elite recently. Once upon a time, you could count on at least Ohio State and Michigan and, back in the '90s, Penn State, to produce near-annual top-10 classes. However, over the past five years, the Wolverines have netted two such classes (2004 and '05), the Buckeyes ('04) and Nittany Lions ('06), one.

The discrepancy continues, though not quite as drastically, when counting top-25 classes per conference.

Rivals.com top-25 classes, 2003-07:

SEC: 37
ACC: 25
Big 12: 21
Pac-10: 21
Big Ten: 17
Big East: 2

You might be surprised to see the ACC so high on some of these lists. After all, the traditionally basketball-oriented league has a pitiful 1-9 record in BCS games.

However, I've long felt the bigger deficiency in that conference was coaching (see the likes of recently departed Chan Gailey, Ted Roof, Chuck Amato, Larry Coker and John Bunting), not talent. As evidence, note that over the same time period, the conference's 12 current members produced 37 first-round draft picks -- two more than even the SEC.

"The ACC's been a little overrated," said Farrell. "Miami and Florida State have been a disappointment, and the quarterback play in the ACC the last few years has been so bad. [Florida State's] Xavier Lee, [Miami's] Kyle Wright -- those were five- star quarterbacks that turned out to be not very good."

Finally, even though the purpose of this piece was to examine recruiting prowess by conference ... I know you're curious about the teams themselves. Here were the 10 with the best average rankings over the past five years.

Rivals.com top class averages by school, 2003-07:

1. USC: 1.6
2. Florida: 5.4
3. LSU: 7.0
3. Georgia: 7.0
5. Oklahoma: 7.6
6. Miami: 9.8
7. Florida State: 10.0
8. Michigan: 10.6
9. Texas: 11.0
10. Tennessee: 12.0

Hmm ... four SEC teams in the top 10. Shocker.

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