It's All In The Numbers
National signing day: The time of the year where you try to convince yourself that stars and recruiting rankings really don't matter.
I beg to differ...
The following is a list of schools that have brought in a Top 5 rated recruiting class within the last 5 years:
Florida (SEC) National Champions 2006
Texas (Big 12) National Champions 2005
LSU (SEC) National Champions 2003
USC (Pac-10) National Champions 2003/2004; appearance 2005
Oklahoma (Big 12) National Championship appearance 2003/2004
Ohio St.(Big 10) National Champions 2002; appearance 2006
Miami (ACC) National Championship appearance 2002 (Champs in 2001)
Michigan (Big 10) National Championship appearance 2003
When you look at the numbers:
During this time frame, the national championship games were Miami vs. Ohio St., LSU vs. ou (And technically Michigan vs. USC), USC vs. ou, USC vs. Texas and Ohio St. vs. Florida. All of these schools have garnered a Top 5 recruiting class at least twice in this time period. Only 4 teams on the list have not played in a BCS game with national title implications. Tennessee is the only school on the list that has not played in a BCS bowl the last 5 years.
The Big East, post the exodus of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, has not scored a Top 5 class but is allowed to play in BCS games due to conference tie-ins. The only schools not listed above to reach a BCS bowl are Washington St., Iowa, Kansas St., Utah, Pittsburg, West Virginia, Penn St., Boise St., Louisville and Wake Forest. As you can see, those with a Top 5 recruiting classes outnumber those who do not. In terms of consistency in playing in a BCS bowl, those that had Top 5 classes more than doubled the appearances of those that had not.
The player may never live up to the stars he was awarded, but it is consistently been shown that you need a strong batch of recruits to compete at a national level.