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Who is Better P-12 North or South Division

The P-12 has had 2 teams make the college football playoffs (CFP), both teams are from the North Division (Oregon & Washington), 1 appearance each). The B-10 has followed a similar path, 2 teams (3 appearances}, Ohio State {2  appearances/ 1 Championship} and Michigan State has 1 trip to the CFP. The SEC, has qualified 6 times in 5 years. involving 2 teams, Alabama {5 appearances / 2 Championships} and Georgia {1 appearance}. The ACC has also sent 2 teams to the Playoffs, Clemson (4 appearances / 2 championships} and Florida State {1 appearance}. Finally, the B-12, which does not have divisions, has qualified only 1 team, Oklahoma ( 3 appearances).

It is worth noting that only the SEC has sent conference reps from both of their divisions, Bama is in the West & Georgia in the East. The ACC has sent Clemson & FSU both from the Atlantic Division, B-10 entries to the CFP are both from its East Division (OSU & MSU), and as mentioned, Oregon & Washington are both from the P-12’s North Division!

These facts support the growing concern of division in-balance and how divisional crossover games may determine who wins the other division. Say Georgia goes 6-0 in the East, while Missouri goes 5-1 (losing to Georgia), The Dawgs have to play Auburn & LSU in their 2 crossover games and lose them both, Missouri plays Arkansas and Ole Miss and wins them both. Missouri goes 7-1 while Georgia finishes 6-2, so Georgia loses the division w/o losing a game with-in divisional play! In fact, the best team in the SEC East does not go to Atlanta!

This year in the B-10, Wisconsin plays @ OSU, & welcomes Michigan & MSU to Mad-Town, these three teams are the best teams in the B-10’s East Division. Wisconsin could go 6-0 in the West and finish 6-3 and out of the championship game in Indy, yet they would have beat every team in the West!

Divisional strength matters! So let’s take a look at the P-12 North & South Divisions from a recruiting perspective and head to head encounters. We will use 2016 through the 2019 recruiting classes and crossover games during the same timeframe! I have not done this exercise and I am interested to see if appearances in the CFP is reflective of divisional strength, does the North Division recruit better & have the better record in head to head encounters.

North Division Recruiting Rankings

1) Oregon 17th (national rank), 2) Washington 20th, 3) Stanford 24th, 4) California 45th, 5) Washington State 53rd, & 6) Oregon State 59th.

South Division Recruiting Rankings

1) USC 9th, 2) UCLA 23rd, 3) Utah 35th, 4) Arizona State 36th, 5) Colorado 49th, & 6) Arizona 52nd!

The best recruiting program in the P-12 is, South Division, USC (9h), followed by the North’s, Oregon and Washington.

Next, it’s the South’s, UCLA @ 23 followed by the North’s, Stanford at 24. Then the South has 2 teams back to back, Utah & Arizona State, 34th & 36th.

Finally, Cal is next @ 45 followed by the South’s, Colorado, 49th and the South final team, Arizona (52). The weakest recruiting programs in P-12 are both in the North Division, Washington State 53rd & Oregon State 59th!

While the North has placed 2 teams in the CFP and the South has failed to place any, the South Division does have a slight a recruiting edge!

Heading into the 2019 season, Street & Smith says Utah will win the South Division and UCLA will finish 2nd with SC 3rd! Phil Steele thinks it’s Utah followed by USC and Arizona State. Athlon Sports is in agreement with Street & Smith, Utah, UCLA & USC, in the South! Finally Lindy Sports agrees with Phil Steele, Utah, SC, & Arizona State!

So why do all these preseason publications have the 35th best roster (Utah) winning the division over the 9th best roster (SC)? One explanation is that recruiting ranking do not consider the configuration of a team’s roster.

USC, is perhaps, the best example of this line of thinking in all of college football. The Trojans are loaded with 4 & 5 stars @ WR’s, RB’s, & DB’s and as a result, their classes are ranked deceptively high.

Most analyst recognize that SC is strong at the skilled positions, yet weak in both the D & O lines. As a result, preseason predictors are picking away from the Trojans, a clear  indicator that recruiting rankings can be flawed depending on how a team’s roster is constructed! It may be fair to say, that a class ranking is more influenced by star power, while the preseason rankings are more reflective of a balanced roster.

The North Division situation is equally interesting! Lindy Sports says it’s; 1) Oregon, 2) Washington, & 3) Stanford, consistent with the recruiting rankings. While, Athlon agrees it is Oregon followed by Washington, but has Washington State third (5th best roster via recruiting numbers in the North)! Phil Steele agrees with Lindy Sports and the recruiting numbers, 1) Oregon, 2) Washington, & 3) Stanford! While Street & Smith aligns with Athlon’s 1) Oregon, 2) Washington, & 3) Washington State.

Utah, according to Steele, has the best D-Line in the country, while he rates Oregon as having the best O-Line in the nation! Steele’s magazines rates USC as having the 3rd best receiving corps and the 11th best QB in all of college football! While SC has the 19th best D-Line and the 25 best O-Line. Clearly, greater weight is placed on a team’s ability to play in the trenches, by these preseason publication’s, than the skill needed to play in space!

The P-12 actually have the same number 12, as teams that have in their league (B-10 has 14 & B-12 has 10)! They play 9 conference games, since the divisions have 6 teams they play 5 divisional and 4 crossover games! In other words, the P-12 teams play all but 2 teams in their league! Let’s start in the North

Oregon 2016: Oregon lost to Colorado, 41-38, USC, 45-20, and beat Arizona State, 54-35 & Utah 30-28; 2017: lost to Arizona State, 37-35, UCLA, 31-14 and beat Utah, 41-20 & Arizona, 48-28; 2018: lost to Arizona, 44-15, and Utah, 32-25, while beating, UCLA, 42-21 & Arizona State, 31-29!  Oregon vs the North is 6-6 since 2016!

Washington 2016: Beat Arizona, 35-28, Utah, 31-24, & Arizona State, 44-16, and lost to USC, 26-13; 2017: beat UCLA, 44-3, Colorado 37-10, & Utah, 33-30, while losing to Arizona State, 13-7; 2018: beat Utah, 21-7, Arizona State, 27-20, UCLA, 31-24, & Colorado, 27-13! Washington 10-2 vs the South!

Stanford 2016: beat SC, 27-10, UCLA, 22-13, & Arizona 34-10, the Cardinal lost to Colorado, 10-5; 2017: beat UCLA, 58-34, Arizona State, 34-24, & Utah, 23-20, yet lost to USC, 42-24; 2018: beat SC, 17-3, Arizona State, 20-13, UCLA, 49-42, while losing to Utah, 40-21! Stanford is 9-3 vs the South Division!

California 2016: beat Uaht, 27-21, UCLA, 36-10, & Arizona State, 37-32 anl lost to SC, 45-24; 2017: Cal lost all 4 games, SC, 30-20, Arizona, 45-44, Colorado, 44-28, & UCLA 30-27; 2018: lost to Arizona,24-17 & UCLA, 37-7 and beat SC,15-14 & Colorado, 33-21. Cal is 5-7 vs the South Division!

Washington State 2016: beat UCLA, 27-21, Arizona State, 37-32, & Arizona, 69-7, lost to Colorado, 38-24; 2017:  beat USC, 30-27, Colorado, 28-0, & Utah, 33-25, lost to Arizona, 58-37; 2018: beat Utah, 28-25, Colorado, 31-7, & Arizona, 69-28, lost to SC, 39-36! WSU is 9-3 vs the South!

Oregon State 2016:  beat Arizona, 42-17, lost to Colorado, 47-6, Utah, 19-14, & UCLA, 38-24; 2017: OSU lost all 4 games, SC, 38-10, Colorado, 36-33, Arizona, 49-28, & Arizona State, 40-24; 2018: beat Colorado, 41-34 in OT, lost to SC, 38-21, Arizona, 35-14, & Arizona State, 52-24! OSU is 2-10 vs the South Division.    

The North Division is 41-31 vs the South Division from 2016 through 2018

The South recruits slightly better than the North and yet, the North has won the head to head battle from 2016 / 2018. There are 2 other elements that we have not discussed and that is “player development” and “situational recruiting”.

Wisconsin’s is a perfect example of player development and why Bucky ends up with a top ten O-line annually. They take 3 stars, who are 6’5 to 6’6 and weight between 260 /280 typically these players are not heavily recruited. The Badgers put 50 to 60 pounds on them over a 2 year time frame. These players emerge as redshirt sophomores @ 6’5 plus and 325 plus pounds. This may explain the low class recruiting rank the Badgers have and their annual top 15 rankings during the season!

Situational recruiting is driven by what a team’s needs are, how will that player fit in with team mates and is he a good fit for the system? This type of thinking may not result in having a top ten class, but it will create a happier locker room and coupled with player development, it will foster a better result on game day!

So is the North recruiting better to its situational needs as opposed to getting as many 4 & 5 stars as is possible? Are they developing their players better than their counterparts in the South Division? For whatever reason, the North is getting a better result recently, I, for one, will be watching these crossover games closely, especially those involving SC!

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