Six Characteristics For a Playoff National Champion

ESPN analyzed 10 years of recruiting trends to determine 6 characteristics to predict a playoff national champion. 29 of the 30 total occurrences (6 characteristics × 5 playoff national champions) held up.

(Spoiler: The Hokies are a long way off. Although, they apparently didn't recognize QP as an ESPN 300 quarterback.)

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TL;DR, If you have good players, you're going to win games.

Big, if true

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

1: A
2: L
3: A
4: B
5: C
6: L

Interesting.

Saban and the Crimson Tide owned the nation's top recruiting class in both 2015 and 2017 -- both years they won the national championship.

But most of the players that participated in the 2015 Championship game were not from the 2015 class. The 2015 class definitely had an effect on the 2017 team.

I'm not saying talent doesn't matter. It does. But some of what is cited doesn't necessarily translate to success in any given year.

For example, "Are you locking down your home state?" and "Five-star recruits on your roster". Georgia had the most five-star recruits but did not lock down their state. I bet BYU locks down UT all day long but that is clearly irrelevant.

Or...

Do you have an ESPN 300 quarterback on your roster?

All five College Football Playoff champions have had an ESPN 300 quarterback on their roster (though not necessarily playing in the championship game).

Out of 130 FBS teams, 62 currently have at least one ESPN 300 quarterback on the roster. Notable teams that don't include Florida State, Arizona, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech.

I'm fairly sure having QB #250 or #197 is completely irrelevant. This has to be more narrow than 300. I would think once you get past 20 it's all noise.

I would say 2, 3, 5 and 6 are the most relevant. But, I guess you don't get to self agrandize your own rating system (EPSN 300) and six is better than having only 4 factors.

IDK. It's ESPN.

Regardless, we don't have any of that. Though, as others have mentioned, I'm surprised Dwayne Lawson Quincy Patterson wasn't mentioned.

Espn300 qb would mean top300 player who's a QB. Not top 300 QB.

But your point about UGA getting disqualified for not locking down the state is on the money. The fact that they eliminated UGA for that despite the insane number of 5 stars they brought in is so dumb I stopped reading

Espn300 qb would mean top300 player who's a QB. Not top 300 QB.

Leg for the clarification. Thanks.

Doesn't that still make it a bit useless? Why not just have an ESPN rating for QBs if that is a major factor?

It seems like with a little extra work they could have just said, "Have a Top X QB" and then provide a list.

It's just espn trying to promote their *ESPN300* recruiting brand. But their recruiting coverage is trash anyway.

LOL.

So we agree it's (ESPN 300) mostly irrelevant?

But your point about UGA getting disqualified for not locking down the state is on the money.

I'm wonder if 'not locking down the state' is a symptom of something else. Maybe schools that don't 'lock down the state' have too short of window before another program starts taking their recruits, or something like that.

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I'd like to see how these metrics apply to every team that made the playoff each year. Alabama and Clemson have accounted for 80% of CFP championships and 70% of the CFP finals appearances so essentially whatever metrics you invent that eventually separate them from the pack are going to appear to be the most accurate.

LSU makes it to the 6th metric before they are eliminated and they've never made the CFP (and it's not just because they play Alabama every year- they haven't lost fewer than 3 games since the CFP started).
Michigan makes it to the 5th metric before they are eliminated and they've never made the CFP (they also haven't lost fewer than 3 games since the CFP started).

Edit: went back to do some historical digging. Marcus Mariota, Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, Blake Sims, Jake Coker, Kelly Bryant, Jalen Hurts, Baker Mayfield, and Ian Book were not ESPN 300 QBs. So 11 of the 20 teams that made the CFP didn't start an ESPN 300 QB and 3 of the 5 championship teams didn't start an ESPN 300 QB (disclaimer: that's including Jalen Hurts in 2017).

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

went back to do some historical digging. Marcus Mariota, Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, Blake Sims, Jake Coker, Kelly Bryant, Jalen Hurts, Baker Mayfield, and Ian Book were not ESPN 300 QBs. So 11 of the 20 teams that made the CFP didn't start an ESPN 300 QB and 3 of the 5 championship teams didn't start an ESPN 300 QB (disclaimer: that's including Jalen Hurts in 2017)

I think this actually supports the need for an ESPN 300 QB in order to win the CFP. It's really tough to beat two top 4 teams in back to back weeks. You're probably going to need a hell of a QB to pull that off.

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Not exactly because 2 out of the 5 seasons, the CFP champion didn't play an ESPN Top 300 QB. Honestly I believe there are just too few data points with only 5 seasons and 2 teams dominating the playoff.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

Maybe that's why they won - b/c at QB, the winning team had such an advantage over their two opponents.

However you cut it, it's super hard to beat two top 4 teams in a row, and I think there are things (QB ability, bluechip ratio, etc) that separate the #1 team from teams #3-4.

Twitter me

I don't necessarily disagree that these characteristics make a champion but I also think this study was clearly built by singling out Clemson and Alabama and working backwards to figure out criteria that led to them rather than reaching that conclusion organically.

Agree 100%. They make it seem like a linear process. As in, you have no chance if you don't have a Top 300 QB, so out of the running right there. Next up, do you have a five star player? So, what if you have a 5-star player but not a Top 300 QB? Well you're off the list already b/c of a nonsense algorithm.

And then it gets WAY worse at the end. "Top tier" defensive talent apparently means 5 Top 50 defensive players. Not 4, because that's definitely too few. Or is it b/c that lets you eliminate Michigan?

And then the very last criteria is "one of the top" in your conference. Not top... "One of the top" which is just a way to eliminate 2 more. And voila, you have Clemson and Alabama!

Silly article. But I read it...so...

Yeah a couple of the early criteria to weed out most of the teams is pretty legitimate but what they used to narrow down the last 10 or so to Clemson/Bama was so arbitrary.

They're the best two teams, and they'll probably be the last two standing again, but it's not because of the cherry-picked stats they used to separate them from Georgia, LSU, etc.

This is what those in the data game call "liar statistics". It would be more accurate to talk about their probabilities to win the CFP, but that's hard math so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I see it as more of a function of Clemson and Alabama dominating the metrics due to the number of times they made the playoffs. They've made (won) the playoffs multiple times, thus swinging the metrics towards teams that look like them, especially considering how few CFPs there have been to date. Selection Bias and Small Sample Size are working overtime here.

Ex: If you are looking at only Final Fours in the 2010s, and there were two dominant basketball teams with 5'6" point guards which were in the Final Four most of those years and won the championship twice each, you'd end up with metrics that would indicate needing a 5'6" point guard to win the Final Four. Which is would be a ridiculous result.

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

Each of the five playoff champions consistently finished with top-10 classes on the signing days

Leaves us out.

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

This is all just so incorrect, I can't address it.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

And it doesn't seem to be great for the ACC either. #Rigged

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Josh Jackson, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

Winning trumps all of those.

There are wolves and there are sheep, I am the sheep dog

QP wasn't mentioned as a top 300 player out of high school because he wasn't. He was consistently rated in the 25-30 range for QB's. Yes he had all that elite 11 praise but a lot of that was about his size and how he looked the part already.

I hope QP comes in and lights it up as much as anyone but honestly he's a project and was from the beginning.

Come on now, a 5 second Google search will tell you he was #275 in the 247 composite and #257 in the ESPN 300. ESPN and their terrible recruiting service somehow put him as a ATH even though he went to the Elite 11 QB camp (that's actually racist).

But I agree with you he is raw and is why I dont see him being ready this year. Just hoping he will be developed enough to go in 2020.

Is Lawson still playing for Illinois? He is listed as a ESPN300 QB for them.

1-0 every week

lol no Lawson never even stepped on campus at illinios after failing multiple drug test attended hutchingson community college and then transferred from there to garden city community college where he played in 8 games last year throwing for 354 yards 2 TDs and 4 ints as a back up.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

Auburn being eliminated on #3 is horse apples too. #11 vs. #10? And just on ESPN rankings, not on the composite (where they're like #7 over the last 4 years)? Cmon.

Dumb article.

Six Characteristics For a Playoff National Champion....
1. nick saban
2. dabo Sweeney
3. be an SEC team (you are guaranteed at least a shot because you will be in the national championship every season)
4. have a good bag man (see #5)
5. recruit, recruit, recruit,
6. win the games you are supposed to win.
and a bonus.... start the season ranked in the "ESPN preseason" top 5.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

I like this better. Definitely more accurate.

According to this, ODU is closer to winning the playoff than we are. Yep, stupid article.

Sorry, but we haven't reached the necessary time passed (to forget a monumental upset) in order to be able to talk down to ODU yet.

HTHokie93

Their analysis is likely to predict Alabama and Clemson since it is based on the result; they should have simply asked, "what do Alabama and Clemson have in common?"

A ton of 5-star recruits?

HTHokie93

It seems most people are far too concerned with finding specific aspects to poke holes in this and not acknowledging the bigger reality presented (albeit in a flawed manner) that Virginia Tech is a long way from competing for a national title. While ALL of these criteria presented here might not apply to every champion for a long time back, the blue-chip ratio does. Here are your national title winners since the new millennium.

2000 - Oklahoma
2001 - Miami
2002 - Ohio State
2003 - LSU
2004 - Southern Cal
2005 - Texas
2006 - Florida
2007 - LSU
2008 - Florida
2009 - Alabama
2010 - Auburn
2011 - Alabama
2012 - Alabama
2013 - Florida State
2014 - Ohio State
2015 - Alabama
2016 - Clemson
2017 - Alabama
2018 - Clemson

Find me the school on here that doesn't recruit at an elite level. Find me a school on here that is similar to the Virginia Tech of the last seven seasons.

I think my hope is if we can get back into that top 10-15 level and have a special season like a Michigan State or Washington, we could get into the playoff and have that one and done shot at the championship. Clemson is the obvious hurdle (of course the Coastal, but all are beatable if we continue to improve) but for me, getting into a 4 team playoff would almost feel like a championship even if we didn't win those next two games.

It's something else to think that we're in the esteemed company of Oregon as the only other team to have even appeared in a national championship game without having won one prior to the BCS era. Folks talk about the divide between the haves and have nots in college football like it's a recent phenomenon, but it's been this way for a good long while. It's really just that the pool of haves has gotten smaller over the last decade or so.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

The playoff has filtered the haves even more. Clemson is "perfect timing" team of the playoff. They take the next step with a transcendent QB (Watson) right as the playoff starts. They have benefitted greatly from the narrowing of the pool and they jumped in at the last minute. Their success paired with the ACC deciding to fall apart has essentially created a situation where Clemson not only has a good culture and good players, but they also have the easiest path to playoff every year. Talk about selling point that speaks for itself.

southern cal is similar to VT in the last 7 seasons. neither has been great. and high rated west coast recruits mean diddly squat when they go against high rated southeast recruits, except for the ones that come to the southeast to play.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

I'm talking about being remotely similar when they won a national championship. The mid 2000's USC teams were ridiculously loaded with talent and had great coaching as well.

we were ridiculously loaded with talent during that same period and had pretty decent coaching for the most part. (defensively anyways) and none of our games were rescinded so there's that. id argue that we were legit 1 player away (percy harvin) from winning a notional championship he was the equivalent to what reggie bush was for USC. Had we gotten harvin instead of UF I believe that 2007 would have been a national championship team.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

Once again, we aren't disagreeing, I specifically asked which teams on that list are similar to the VT program of the last 7 years. from 2000-2011 we had some real shots at a title. We had some title quality teams with quality coaching. We finished 4th in S&P in 2009 and the 2007 team was one game away (beating BC or LSU losing to Tennessee in SECCG) away from probably playing for a title anyway. That said, if we had won a title in that period we still would have probably been the least talented team to do so.

Isn't it contradictory to say we had real shots to win a title from 2000-2011 and then go on to say we don't have a real shot anymore because of recruiting when the recruiting wasn't drastically better from 2000-2011 compared to the past two seasons?

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

In my opinion, not really. My assessment of 2000-2011 is retrospective and based on what observably happened. We definitely had a shot in 2005, 2007, 2009, etc. However, the reality is that we also never did for various reasons, some of which probably was our talent level/depth. Even though we were close, we were never good enough to not drop that one (or two) game(s) we couldn't afford to lose. Some of that is shit luck, some of that might be poor coaching, some of it is lack of depth/talent. I've also stated many times that I don't think it can be said with any certainty that our recruiting was the exact same back then as it is now because of how drastically the recruiting service/scouting environment is from then to now. The only issue that can be taken with what I said is if you apply a great deal of significance to what it means to have "a shot," because ultimately the conclusion we have to land at is that we just weren't quite good enough to win a championship no matter how close we got in those years. We haven't sniffed being in the title race in November since 2011.

We had real shots because we actually came really close, but we never did actually accomplish it. Oregon also came really close but couldn't do it. Washington made the playoff but wasn't good enough. There is a clear caliber of team that can actually WIN the championship and we don't look anything close to one right now.

Honestly I don't know how to interpret or respond to a statement like, "we definitely had a shot but also we never had a shot." I will say one of the major issues with these discussions is defining what it means to have "a shot" and the fact that everyone probably views this slightly, if not drastically, differently.

Yes, we don't look anything close to a championship caliber team as we're coming off a 6-7 season with the worst defense in 30+ years. However, only two years ago we were coming off an ACC championship game appearance with the potential for Evans, Ford, and Hodges to return. If those guys all return, the 2017 offense would likely have been better than 2016. Combined with the 2017 defense (S&P #9), we have similar metrics to championship caliber teams. Obviously those guys left and we shouldn't repeatedly create hypothetical scenarios to excuse long-term performance, but I'd contend that it wasn't very long ago that we did look like a championship caliber team essentially. This past season went awry because of numerous reasons but essentially amounted to hitting the reset button on a team where the offensive and defensive talent misaligned in the wake of a coaching change. It will be interesting to see how Fuente builds the program but I think most would agree we have a solid base of young talent on offense. If Bud can get the defense back to a S&P top 10 unit (not a given), I think it's conceivable for us to be one step below championship caliber in 2 seasons. Perhaps we strike gold with QP and he becomes an elite QB to further narrow that gap. Even if all things don't align, I think we should be looking to see if Fuente can build on some momentum to acquire more talent and then take another step toward being a championship contender.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

Find me the school on here that doesn't recruit at an elite level. Find me a school on here that is similar to the Virginia Tech of the last seven seasons.

The best case for an outlier is Oregon in 2010, who lost in the national championship by a field goal as time expired. Oregon had the 50th, 14th, 34th, 30th, and 12th best recruiting class from 2006-2010, respectively. Average 5 year recruiting class was 28th overall (4-year average was 22.5 overall, 3-year average was 25.3 overall).

That's the only team that even came close to winning with just top 25 level recruiting. Without digging into the numbers, I bet the next closest team to winning without great recruiting was Clemson in 2015, which probably had an average recruiting class around top 10-15 (someone else can validate). I've heard some people point to 2006 Oklahoma as not having a top 10 class within the 4 years prior to their title, but (1) recruiting rankings from 2002-2006 were not very accurate and (2) in a time before youtube and Hudl, I imagine Oklahoma's resources allowed them to scout way better than most other schools.

EDIT - 2 more points:

  1. I'd also throw the 1999 Hokies in there for poorest recruiting team to win or almost win a national title. Both the 2010 Ducks and the 1999 Hokies had a weapon that no one else was able to replicate. For us, it was Mike Vick. For the 2010 Ducks, it was the most unique offense in decades. Either way, it's probably more difficult to reinvent the game than it is surpass the blue chip ratio.
  2. I wonder if 2010 Oregon, similar to 2006 OU was able to scout at a ridiculously (or at least noticeably) higher level due to Nike Money. Another possibility is that their offense was just so unique, that the existing recruiting rankings were not able to value the type of players that Oregon wanted.

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Probably doesn't really apply to college football with constantly changing rostersl, but "The Captain Class" by Sam Walker was a good read about what he found to be a common factor in championship teams.

Article may be flawed in various ways, and we can argue how the stars don't (always) translate into on field performance, but teams with elite recruiting classes have always had a better chance to win it all. I would argue this from the perspective of depth alone. Elite players should be able to produce on field much faster, so when the injury bug inevitably hits, the damage to team performance is less. A great example of this would be 2014 Ohio State who, despite and embarrassing loss in the Horseshoe (what a Great memory!)...went on to win it all, even with their top 2 QBs having season-ending injuries.

HTHokie93

Number one characteristic is win the championship.

#Let's Go - Hokies

You are onto something... I can shorten their characteristics to 1 qualification and achieve the same result...
1. Have you won the CFP Championship within the last 4 years?

Alabama. Clemson. Done.

To win a national championship, you need to make the CFP. So what would be more interesting to me is looking at what the teams who have made the CFP have in common. Somehow, I don't think having an ESPN 300 QB on your roster has any bearing on anything, if he is not playing. It's like the author of the article never heard the phrase correlation doesn't equal causation.

In terms of making the CFP, the easiest route is being a P5 school and winning all your games. Do that and you're in. Don't do that, and you are getting evaluated by a committee that is made up of humans, and thus has biases (whether they realize it or not). One interesting note that I haven't seen discussed much is that every school who has made the CFP to date is a program with multiple claimed national championships. When you get down to people in a room trying to separate two teams, your program history and cache is going to enter the discussion. I'm not going full conspiracy theory and saying it's the only thing or even the main thing, but it's certainly something that is in the back of people's minds, even if it's just subconscious. The first CFP was a good example where you had a non-traditional power team (TCU) who was 3rd in the 2nd to last ranking who won their last game and dropped out of the top 4. Of course people can slice and dice arguments however they want but there is certainly a bias factoring in. It's also why a team like UCF can finish as low as they do, even when their actual SOS isn't that much worse than some P5 teams. I put all that out there to say that even though Tech has more cache than TCU or UCF, for Tech to make a CFP, it is going to need do it pretty decisively on the field as I don't see a one-loss Tech team getting in over one of the good ol' boys schools.

To win a national championship, you need to make the CFP. So what would be more interesting to me is looking at what the teams who have made the CFP have in common.

I don't think there's much value in looking at the teams that have made CFP, just because the teams that have won the CFP have really separated themselves from those who have just qualified. IMO, the distance between Clemson and ND is greater than the distance between ND and an upper/middle class team like Stanford.

Twitter me

I don't think there's much value in looking at the teams that have made CFP, just because the teams that have won the CFP have really separated themselves from those who have just qualified

I'm not entirely certain of that. While there haven't been major upsets in the CFP (though #4 Ohio State over #1 Alabama in 2014 and #4 Ohio State over #2 Oregon were upsets), champions have suffered head scratching losses in the regular season (OSU to VT in 2014, Clemson to Pitt in 2016). I tend to think if championship teams can lose to mid-level or worse teams, that it's certainly possible for them to lose to another CFP team. I would hypothesize that the additional preparation time between the regular season and playoff games reduces the chance for upsets though.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

I tend to think if championship teams can lose to mid-level or worse teams, that it's certainly possible for them to lose to another CFP team.

So, I think it's possible that a 'champion-caliber' team can lose to a lesser team, even in the playoffs. I think it's nearly impossible that a non-championship-caliber team can beat two top 4 teams in a row.

Now, it is possible that there is a season where there are no championship caliber teams (like 2007), but that has happened once in the 20 years since the BCS was established, and may never happen again - I don't think it would be wise for a program to plan as if a season like this occurs frequently.

Twitter me

Pretty much win your conference or be the team in the conference with the most prestige and highest ranking.

Considering Clemson is in our conference, the prospect there don't look much better

"I regret nothing. The end." - Ron Swanson

I'm very confused by this statement. You believed the football program from 2012-2015 was closer to winning a national championship than it ever was from 1999-2011?

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

I think he's comparing it to other sports, such as wrestling or soccer. Or you know, Buzzketball.

That makes a lot more sense. Still, the women's soccer team had a much, much better chance at a national title than the football team from 2012-2015. There have been years when softball, men's soccer, and track & field had a better chance than the football team as well. You could argue wrestling as well but since Penn State's dominance far eclipses even Alabama football, I don't know if I'd actually go that far.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

Yea there were years other teams had more success than football but as an all around program I've never felt like any were really closer to breaking that class ceiling because of the other schools that routinely dominate their field. I know we've had teams like women's soccer and wrestling make some runs deep in the postseason, but still didn't know if they were ready to compete with the really elite on a regular basis. I'm also not saying I was right to wait this long to come to this conclusion, you're probably right that its been for a few years now. Accepting the idea that football isn't our best program anymore at Tech is tough to swallow.

Back when Frank was in his twilight, I stated my prediction that in 10-20 years VT will be a basketball school first. I hope not because I prefer football and attending football games, but landscapes change and things go in cycles.