Big 12 Recruiting

Big 12 Football’s Correlation Between Recruiting and Wins

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State

There was a lot of discussion regarding my article last week about what the Big 12 needs to do to become a regular contender in the college football playoff. I discussed recruiting rankings and specifically compared the recruiting rankings of Oklahoma and Texas to that of the teams that almost always make the four-team college football playoff. I decided to take a deeper dive at the recruiting rankings of the Big 12 programs and analyze the trends. My theory is that the recruiting rankings of the programs in the Big 12 mirror how each team finishes in the conference.

The 247Sports composite recruiting rankings seem to be the most accurate rankings out there, so that’s what I used for this research. 247Sports has a recruiting service that ranks all of the high school talent in the country by classification (five-star, four-star, three-star, two-star, etc.) and by number. To come up with their composite score, they look at the player ratings of other services and combine them all to come up with a composite ranking that takes into account the scores of all the services combined.

This is not an exact science, but it’s as close as we can get. Since transfers and redshirts aren’t always reflected, I went back nine seasons to 2012, the first year TCU and West Virginia competed in the league, to get a full picture of how the Big 12 programs have recruited over time and compared that to how they have fared on the field.

Below I’ve listed the recruiting ranking average of each program in the Big 12 from 2012 to 2020. Next to that number I’ve listed the average league finish during the same period.


Texas: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 1.33. Average Big 12 finish: 4.56

Oklahoma: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 1.67. Average Big 12 finish: 1.67

TCU: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 4.33. Average Big 12 finish: 4.88

Baylor: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 4.44. Average Big 12 finish: 4.78

Oklahoma State: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 5.33. Average Big 12 finish: 4.11

West Virginia: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 5.44. Average Big 12 finish: 5.67

Texas Tech: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 6.33. Average Big 12 finish: 7.56

Iowa State: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 7.78. Average Big 12 finish: 6.78

Kansas State: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 9. Average Big 12 finish: 5.11

Kansas: Big 12 average recruiting ranking: 9.33. Average Big 12 finish: 9.89

Another way to illustrate this is to look at the average recruiting rankings and the average league finish side by side.

RecruitingBig 12 Finish
Texas (1.33)Oklahoma (1.67)
Oklahoma (1.67)Oklahoma State (4.11)
TCU (4.33)Texas (4.56)
Baylor (4.44)Baylor (4.78)
Oklahoma State (5.33)TCU (4.88)
West Virginia (5.44)Kansas State (5.11)
Texas Tech (6.33)West Virginia (5.67)
Iowa State (7.78)Iowa State (6.78)
Kansas State (9.00)Texas Tech (7.56)
Kansas (9.33)Kansas (9.89)

A few things stick out to me. Oklahoma’s average recruiting rating exactly matches their average league finish of 1.67. In three cases, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas, the program’s average recruiting rankings exactly match their average league finish. In other cases, there is a variance of a place or two. The only anomalies are Oklahoma State and Kansas State. In both cases, the programs outperform their recruiting rankings by three spots. Most of Kansas State’s numbers reflect the time period that Bill Snyder was head coach and the jury is still out on Chris Klieman. As I mentioned last week, Texas consistently underperforms its recruiting rankings, averaging the best recruiting class in the league while averaging a fourth place finish in the league.

More importantly, what does this mean going forward? Oklahoma and Texas have had the number one or two ranked recruiting classes every year since 2012, so I would expect both programs to remain at or near the top of the league until that changes. TCU has had the number three class in the league the last four years, so I would expect them to contend for the league title in the near future. Iowa State was an anomaly this season, making the Big 12 title game and coming close to winning it. Their recruiting has slowly improved in the last few years, but they are currently sitting at number six in the Big 12 in 2020. That just goes to show this is not a perfect science, but it does show trends over time. Oklahoma recruits at or near the top of the league year after year and they win the league every year.

What I’ve shown here might seem obvious to some and I’m not breaking any news here. Other than a few exceptions, this shows the direct correlation that great recruiting has to success on the field. Since I have all the numbers on an excel spreadsheet, I fiddled with the time frames a bit to see if it changed much of anything. Changing the years did adjust the numbers slightly, but there wasn’t much of a variance from what I showed here so I ultimately decided to give a full picture of the current Big 12 configuration going back to 2012.

In general, my assumption is correct. Recruiting rankings mirror results on the field, with a few exceptions that I have pointed out. What needs to happen for the team you root for to perform better in the Big 12? In general, the coaching staff needs to recruit better.

*If you like what you’ve read from Joe Mathieu, find more on his personal K-State site:*


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