Rivals Rankings Brand Nebraska as Underachievers

Rivals.com has released their ten-year rankings.  Included with the rankings are the actual winning percentages over the past decade.  When viewed together, you can actually see who overperformed and underperformed with talent.  Husker fans can thank Bill Callahan that Nebraska is both one of the top 20 best recruiting teams of the past ten years but only in the top 30 when it comes to winning percentage.

Michigan was in a similar boat this past decade as they produced top 25 results with top 10 talent.  The Big Ten had its share of overacheivers too.  Wisconsin and Iowa each brought in only top 40 talent yet delivered top 15 results.  Perhaps surprisingly, Penn State delivered top 20 wins with top 30 talent. 

But perhaps the biggest story is Ohio State who had the second best winning percentage overall with the twelfth best talent under Jim Tressel.  Tressel was going to be a tough act to follow regardless, but when you see that his results actually exceeded his talent, you realize that the Buckeyes are almost certain to experience some drop-off in the years to come.

For NU fans, perhaps we can take heart.  Bo Pelini has shown an ability to recruit and coach.  Something missing from both Solich and Callahan before him.  You'd love to see him overachieve, but even if he simply delivers on the talent he brings in, things will be brighter than we've been over the past ten seasons.

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It’s hard for me to take much from this.  This assumes the RIVALS rankings are accurate.  Look at players like Cody Green, 4 stars.  Players like that skew the results.  So did Nebraska underachieve while players like Cody attended there?  Good for Neb to be able to pull in “top ranked” talent while other schools are competing for the same pledge.  The name of the game is finding the actual talent, not just where they are ranked/rated by publications.  I just don’t buy it that the RIVALS rankings are the rule.

TJW, very good response. Its Rare that other recruiting services even have a player rated the same or close to it. An example is Aaron Green who ESPN had rated 9th (OVERALL) and rivals kept dropping his rank ( despite a decent year) until he was around 60th. Personally, I think he is one of the best in the class being able to run for 1700 yards with little offensive creativity, a bad passing game, and against some of the best talent in high school. Pelini has shown that he can develop players despite rating, which is the most important thing.

What you can take away from it is that you can recruit all the talent you want but if you don’t develop it once you get it in your program you will be an underachiever. . .

Suh was an intruiging talent until Coach Pelini arrived.  Twenty-four months or so later, he was a Heisman Finalist and putting on one of the best performances of an Defensive Lineman in recent memory.  Phillip Dillard went from doghouse to draft pick.  Prince went from positionless athlete to a 1st rounder.  Alfonzo Dennard, anyone remember his short list?  Sanford, no not Stanford, and North Carolina.  Larry Asante blossomed under proper coaching, and O’Hanlon got drafted as well. . .

You have to have an eye for talent and then get it to campus.  After that, the real challenge begins. . .

TJW.  I agree with you to an extent.  I think the rating services aren’t always the best gage but this comparison is still helpful.  It shows both how well a coach develops talent but also how well they evaluate it.  If you overachieve (winning percentage higher than recruiting ranking) it may be because you develop talent or it may be that a coach does a better job of identifing talent than the scout service.  I would argue that Callahan was good at attracting talent but bad at mediocre at identifying and bad at developing.

Player ratings are crap, pure and simple.  If it was formulaic more services would agree with each other, and a consensus would be evident.  Services can’t account for kids who blossom early, blossom late, develop under a specific coach or style, or any of the thousands of variables that truly determine how a kid performs for the few years he is in college football.  There’s just no way they could.  So for every rating that pans out, there is at least one or more that bombs.  For professional proof, look at the Patriots - not always a lot of high value names, but nearly always a stellar result on the field.

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