Back in October I published an article looking at recruiting class ratings and Big Ten standings. While I don't have the time to conduct a formal statistical analysis, the cumulative effect of recruiting classes definitely influences results on the field.
For this follow-up article, I weighted the recruiting class ratings so that the classes contributing to the roster can be used to predict how a team will finish the season. For example, the 2005-2009 recruiting classes contributed to the 2009 season.
A frequent poster at Gopher Hole who goes by the nickname Schnoodler also did a similar analysis a while back. We use slightly different methodologies, but we both came up results that indicate a strong correlation between recruiting classes and team standings.
First, here are a few graphs that illustrate how Big Ten teams were predicted to finish for 2008 and 2009:
As for comparing these predictions to actual results, I used the Sagarin ratings of the Big Ten teams in 2008 and 2009. Sagarin ratings account for strength of schedule, and prevent teams with cupcake schedules from unfairly benefiting from easy wins. Here's how the Big Ten teams stacked up versus the predicted rankings:
Illinois finished 5 spots below what was predicted for 2009, and Michigan bombed out in both 2008 and 2009. Michigan fans attribute this phenomenon to Rich Rodriguez's rebuilding process. Northwestern has performed significantly better than expectations in both years. Otherwise, every team finished within a spot or two of their predicted rank.
As Barry Switzer once said, "It's not about the X's and the O's. It's about the Johnnies and the Joes." Coaching can make a difference, but generally not much. And yes, I'm aware that a few teams such as Boise State have great coaching and posted excellent records. Those teams are the exception to the rule, not the rule. Additionally, look at Boise State's schedule and you'll see that the only two real challenges that they faced all season were from Oregon at home to open the season and from TCU, another team that posted a great record by feasting on cupcakes.
Once the 2010 recruiting classes have been signed, I'll post my predictions for next season. Stay tuned.