Both signing days have come and gone. All the early entrees to the NFL draft have declared. That means we now have our first real look at Big Ten football rosters for this fall.
I've been doing my own college football preview since I was a sophomore in high school in 1988. However, in recent years the returning starters metric stopped being as decisive as it used to be. That's one reason why I love Bill Connelly's "returning production" data he posts for SB Nation, which we previously took a look at here. However, Connelly's numbers only tell us how good each team's returning talent has proven to be.
In an era when freshmen quarterbacks are perennially leading teams to the college football playoff, I thought we needed a metric to help us determine how good each team's incoming talent could potentially be.
So beginning in 2017, I began compiling a Total Roster Talent Score. This is determined the following ways:
- Teams are awarded points per player based on the 247 composite rankings of the past four recruiting classes (2016-19). 5 points for a 5-star, 4 points for a 4-star, etc.
- The latest transfer in/out information is included. So, yes, Justin Fields is included in Ohio State's score, for example.
- If a player has clearly played above his recruiting ranking, then I raise him a star and thus his team gains more point(s) accordingly (with 5-star being the cap).
- 5th-year seniors are only counted in if they definitely factor into the depth chart.
This metric has proven to be pretty accurate the past two seasons. Correctly predicting the rise of Georgia (3rd in my talent rankings but 14th in preseason AP Poll) in 2017, and that LSU was underrated last season (25th in preseason AP Poll but 5th in my talent rankings) as just two examples.
Here's the initial 2019 Total Roster Talent Score for each Big Ten team, with last season's final preseason score in parentheses for comparison's sake:
Ohio State 331 points (355)
Michigan 322 points (300)
Michigan State 289 points (260)
Iowa (268)/Nebraska (258) 287 points
Penn State 282 points (312)
Purdue 280 points (242)
Maryland 278 points (267)
Minnesota 273 points (240)
Wisconsin 271 points (280)
Indiana 269 points (245)
Illinois 257 points (229)
Northwestern 251 points (234)
Rutgers 250 points (235)
News and notes on these scores:
- Schools like Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Rutgers are finally building some depth after recent coaching turnover.
- Wisconsin's talent score is only 9 points lower than last year, but the rest of the Big Ten West has caught up. However, the Badgers do have 93 roster points from players with senior eligibility, which is the most in the league.
- Iowa was over 300 roster points until several players declared early for the NFL draft.
- Michigan State is finally digging out from the disastrous 2016 recruiting class and will have more depth next season.
- Two teams with rosters that seem better position to compete for titles in 2020 than 2019: Nebraska in the West and Penn State in the East.
- Ohio State has a 4-star recruit scheduled to go on a 2-year church mission instead of enrolling in school this season, so he is not included in this assessment.
- Michigan is still several scholarships over the limit for 2019, so the Wolverines could lose another 10-12 roster points via needed attrition this offseason. And the Wolverines aren't alone, so expect further offseason attrition to impact several of the teams in the league and multiple scores to come down.
- The most plentiful transfer market in the sport's history, and the increasing leniency in granting immediate eligibility by the NCAA, could also alter these scores/rankings the next few months.