As I noted in a piece that I wrote for Athlon this week on the talent of Big 12 rosters, Oklahoma made a bit of a breakthrough in 2017. For the first time in recent memory, the Sooners have the most talented team in the conference (albeit by an admittedly crude measure of roster talent).
OU reached that point by holding the line. The squad’s average national recruiting ranking over the past five seasons ticked up from 15.2 in 2016 to 14.4 this year. Meanwhile, Texas’ lackluster 2017 class dropped UT’s average ranking down to 16 from 11.2.
In other words, the Sooners took the top spot by being only marginally more talented now than a year ago. Kinda sounds like a bigger deal than it really is.
But what kind of advantage do the Sooners enjoy over the rest of the Big 12? One way to measure that is to compare OU’s average ranking against the conference median of 37.9, a difference of 23.5 spots. Now let’s look at that gap relative to the rest of the power conferences.
A couple quick takeaways:
*Looking at the median numbers, this shakes out as the SEC and then a cluster of the other four conferences - no shock. As such, I don’t necessarily buy the argument that the Big 12 is a less-talented league than the ACC, Big Ten or Pac-12.
*Given that this suggests a relatively flat distribution of talent in the SEC, you could interpret Alabama’s dominance in the last three seasons as an indictment of the league’s coaching as a whole.
*The differences between the top recruiters and the medians suggest that the Sooners don’t have the same talent edge on the rest of the Big 12 that Florida State has against the ACC or that Ohio State has against the Big Ten.
This is interesting to me in the context of conference realignment from the earlier part of the decade. OU and Texas might have made their lives tougher from a competitive standpoint by slimming down the conference.