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Do Rivals’ Rankings Really Matter?

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A 15-year comparison/correlation between Rivals' team recruiting rankings and AP Poll rankings...

Do Rivals’ Rankings Really Matter? @PGarbinDT

Having compiled something similar about a year ago—Rivals’ annual team recruiting rankings correlating to the annual final AP Poll—I wanted to calculate and post an update since the recent release of the final AP Poll for 2016.

Beginning with Rivals’ initial team rankings in 2002 and over a 15-year period through last year, I awarded points as it’s conducted for the AP Poll, allocating one point for a 25th team ranking, two points for a 24th ranking, etc. The result was Rivals’ 15-year team recruiting rankings (2002-2016):

Top 10 All-time Rivals' Team Recruiting Rankings (2002-2016)
Rank Team Rivals' Points

1st

So. California

308

2nd

Florida State

283

3rd

LSU

275

4th

Georgia

271

5th

Alabama*

270

6th

Florida

263

7th

Ohio State

246

8th

Texas

242

9th

Oklahoma

234

10th

Auburn

226

* If the Tide is lower than expected, consider that from 2002 through 2007, Alabama had a top-25 recruiting class just twice, and only once finished in the top 10.

Likewise, for the final AP Poll beginning in 2002 and through the recently released rankings, I awarded points just like above, resulting in what is the final AP Poll’s 15-year rankings (2002-2016):


Article Continues Below
AP Poll 15-year composite (2002-2016)
Rank Team AP Poll Points

1st

Ohio State

283

2nd

Alabama

234

3rd

So. California

224

4th

Oklahoma

208

5th

LSU

200

6th

Oregon

165

T-7th

Georgia

162

T-7th

Texas

162

9th

Boise State

146

10th

Florida State

143

So, is there any type of relationship between Rivals’ team rankings and the final AP rankings? If a strong to very strong correlation is such a “type,” then certainly yes.

I’ve nerdily used and explained the correlation coefficient here before but, again, in a nutshell: It’s a number between −1 and +1 calculated so as to represent the dependence of two variables or sets of data. The nearer the coefficient is to -1, the more negative the correlation between the two sets of numbers; the closer the coefficient is to +1, the more positive the correlation between the two sets of numbers. In this case, the two sets of data are the point totals for the Rivals’ rankings and AP Poll over the last 15 years, whereby the correlation coefficient is 0.793 or what is considered a strong or very strong relationship. Thinking perhaps it takes a year, or three, for a recruiting class to make its impact on the field, I staggered the measuring of the two data sets (e.g., a one-year stagger didn’t measure the two sets straight up—both 2002-2016—but measured the Rivals from 2002-2015 to the AP Poll from 2003-2015). Still, with a 1, 2, and 3-year stagger calculated to have coefficients of 0.777, 0.746, and .718, respectively, the straight-up stagger resulted in the strongest correlation.

Therefore, I then found the FBS’ biggest, what I call, “Overachievers” and “Underachievers” over the last 15 years—programs which somewhat defied the correlation.

The top 10 "Overachievers" from 2002 through 2016, or teams will the biggest positive difference between AP Poll points and Rivals' points:

Top-10 Overachievers (2002-2016)
Difference Team AP Poll points Rivals' points

+146

Boise State

146

0

+134

TCU

140

6

+125

Wisconsin

125

0

+86

Virginia Tech

119

33

+81

Iowa

96

15

+79

Oregon

165

86

+78

Louisville

78

0

+76

Utah

76

0

+68

Oklahoma State

83

15

+64

Missouri

70

6

The top 10 "Underachievers" from 2002 through 2016, or teams will the biggest negative difference between AP Poll points and Rivals' points:

Top-10 Underachievers (2002-2016)
Difference Team AP Poll points Rivals' points

-159

Tennessee

46

205

-140

Florida State

143

283

-131

Florida

132

263

-109

Georgia

162

271

-108

Texas A&M

36

144

-104

Notre Dame

77

181

-101

Miami (Fla.)

82

183

-101

UCLA

36

137

-95

Auburn

131

226

-84

So. California

224

308

So, do Rivals’ team recruiting rankings matter? Well, if you’re looking to find a strong to very strong indicator of how a team performs in terms of their final placement in the AP Poll, as a matter of fact, yes.

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