The Sporting News' Matt Hayes (correction, not Stewart Mandel) compared Rivals recruting rankings with on-the-field results over the last five years for BCS programs, then ranked teams from the teams that did the most with the lowest rated classes to the teams that did the least with higher recruiting rankings. With that criteria, you pretty much know where Nebraska ranks, especially considering that period of time coincides with the Bill Callahan Clusterfool.
Yep. Tied with Michigan, Arkansas, and UCLA for 53rd place out of 66 BCS programs, to be specific. Nebraska's rankings were #15 in recruiting, but ended #32 in wins, resulting in a net difference of -17. Best in the nation was Cincinnati, who had the worst recruiting rankings for the last 5 years, yet still managed to win the Big East this season. In the Big XII, the most productive schools were #7 Texas Tech (#42 recruiting; #13 wins), #14 Missouri (#35 recruiting, #17 wins), and #16 Kansas (#46 recruiting; #30 wins). The least productive schools were #58 Kansas State (#30 recruiting; #51 wins) and #64 Texas A&M (#16 recruiting; #43 wins). (No surprise since those schools were coached by quality coaches like Bill Callahan, Ron Prince, Dennis Franchione, and Mike Sherman.)
(Mandel's) formula has a flaw that allows the results to be questioned. The first season of results on the field (2004) were accomplished primarily by players who were ranked by Rivals prior to 2004. (Yes, some of the jucos and freshman did contribute that season, but for the most part, the players that season were recruited prior to that season.) Likewise, relatively few players recruited last season contributed on the field. Most only saw spot duty, and some were redshirted.
Problem is that it's impossible to completely eliminate those factors, but if Hayes (
Mandel) had used a longer period (say seven to ten years), the impact of those factors would have diminished.
Nevertheless, the numbers are striking enough to point out that highly ranked recruits don't necessarily correlate to wins on the field. In fact, the Bearcats show that you can win a trophy with a bunch of players that Rivals panned. Meanwhile, fans at Florida State, Miami, and Michigan have to wonder just what the heck the folks at Rivals were thinking as their highly ranked classes keep laying eggs on the football field.