How Do Recruiting Rankings Translate To ATS Success

As a general rule people aren’t nearly patient enough when it comes to the impact of recruiting in college football. Fans hear about the big names that their NCAA team has signed, and they expect the results to show up on the field right away. It’s rarely as quick or as easy as that, and anyone who has been a fan of a college football team for a while has as many stories of spectacular recruiting failures as they do of big wins.

Recruiting may be an inexact science, but it is unquestionably and obviously important for college football bettors – good recruiting teams stand a pretty good chance of being good teams at some point. You could also make the argument that recruiting strength should indicate overall team strength because it’s going to be easier for a team to recruit top players if those players think they are going to be joining a strong team. I thought it would be interesting to look back over the last four years to see how the top recruiting NCAA football teams each year performed against the spread in the year following their recruiting success. A team that succeeds on the field after topping the recruiting rankings obviously isn’t doing it just because of that recruiting, but it should still be interesting. Here’s a look (recruiting rankings are from Rivals):


Alabama led the way in football recruiting, and that helped them to a national championship. They wound up at 8-5 ATS. That’s profitable, but only the 24th best ATS record of any team in the country. They were much better than LSU – the second best recruiting team – though. The Tigers were a pitiful and costly 5-7 ATS – a real disappointment given their 9-3 record. Ohio State was the third best recruiting team in the country, and the third best ATS team in the country as well – they finished at a nicely profitable 9-3 ATS. USC and Texas rounded out the top five in recruiting, and both were horrible at the betting window. Texas finished the season at 5-7-1 ATS. That’s ugly, but it looks great next to the 3-9 ATS that the Trojans wound up at. Just six teams in the whole country had an ATS record as bad or worse than USC. Notably, one of those six team was Florida State – the seventh best recruiting team in the country. Overall, only two of the top five teams in the recruiting rankings were profitable, and they combined for a 30-31-1 ATS record. In sort, betting on the teams with the biggest and best recruiting hauls didn’t pay off. n contrast, the best ATS team in the country – UConn – was ranked just 75th in the recruiting rankings.


Alabama again had the top college recruiting class, and they were again solid against the spread – 9-4 this time around. Notre Dame was second best at recruiting, but certainly not second best on the field. They wound with a lousy 6-6 record both straight up and ATS. The third best recruiting team – Florida – and the sixth best – Oklahoma – tied for the best ATS record in the country at 10-2. Ohio State had the fourth best recruiting class and a solid 10-2 record, but they were a disastrous team to bet on with just a 5-6 ATS mark. Miami snuck into the top five with a surprisingly strong recruiting class, but they are still waiting for that recruiting haul to pay off – they were just 5-6 ATS. The top five this year combined for a more impressive 35-24 ATS mark. That’s a nicely profitable total for sports bettors.


Florida led the way in recruiting this year. They were respectable for their backers as well – their 8-3 ATS record was tied for the fifth best in the country. USC was second best in recruiting, but a very disappointing 6-6 against the spread. Tennessee – back before they had ever heard of Lane Kiffin – were third in the recruiting rankings, and a solid 12th ATS at 8-4-1. LSU had the fourth best recruiting class, and they finished with a solid 11-2 record, but against the spread they were a brutal 5-7-1. Texas rounded out the top five and continued the trend this year of underwhelming ATS performance – they were just 6-6 ATS. The 33-26-2 combined ATS record isn’t as good as last year’s for the top five, but it is still pretty impressive. The top two ATS teams in the country this year – Kansas and Air Force – had the 50th and 108th recruiting classes respectively.


USC led the way here in college football recruiting. Continuing the trend we have seen here so far they were also a disappointing team against the spread – 6-6 this time. Florida had the second best class, but were an even more frustrating 4-8 ATS – in large part because their potent offense led to massive spreads. Florida State had the third best class, and split the difference of the teams ahead of them with a 5-7 ATS record. Georgia was the fourth best recruiters, and another lousy ATS team – 4-6-1 this time. Texas continued the streak – the fifth best recruiters were just 5-6 ATS. Remarkably, none of the top five recruiting teams were profitable, and they combined for an ugly 24-33-1 ATS overall. Ouch. Showing just how strange college football can be sometimes, the top ATS team, Central Michigan, had the 103rd best recruiting class, the second Best ATS team was Nevada and their 87th ranked recruiting group, and East Carolina and their 69th ranked recruiting class was third best ATS. College football bettors take note: recruiting strength and betting strength are often far from related.

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