Recruiting rankings and the star system that accompanies them are a convenient punching bag in college football. Any time a two-star prospect makes an All-American team or hears his name called in the first round of the NFL Draft, everyone gets to take their whack at the recruiting piñata.
In aggregate, you can poke holes in any system that ranks 2,500 or so prospects every year. If projecting talent three years from now was so easy, no first-round draft pick would ever bust and no fifth-rounder would ever make an All-Pro team.
Of course there will be busts and sleepers in this class. There's no point in debating otherwise. But let's take one step backward and look at the bigger picture. There's plenty of data out there that proves winning a championship requires a high recruiting ranking. If you want to know who will be winning three years from now, look at today's recruiting rankings.
So let's do just that.
Here are the top five recruiting classes for all 10 FBS conferences, as rated by Rivals.com.
1. Alabama (national ranking: 1)
2. LSU (2)
3. Tennessee (5)
4. Texas A&M (6)
5. Georgia (7)
Note: Alabama obviously deserves credit for its sixth recruiting championship in seven seasons, but let's give a nod to Butch Jones and Tennessee. The Vols are the first team to post a top-five ranking coming off a sub.-500 season since Notre Dame in 2008.
1. Florida State (national ranking: 4)
2. Miami (11)
3. Clemson (12)
4. North Carolina (23)
5. Virginia Tech (25)
Note: The last time a team other than Florida State won the ACC recruiting title? 2008. This year's No. 4 ranking is actually the highest the Seminoles have finished in their half-dozen years of ACC dominance.
1. Ohio State (national ranking: 3)
2. Michigan State (21)
3. Penn State (24)
4. Michigan (31)
5. Nebraska (32)
Note: Urban Meyer is now three-for-three in booking top-five classes in Columbus. The 18-spot gap between the Buckeyes and second place Michigan State is the largest among the Power Five conferences, and second only to Western Michigan's 29-spot win in the MAC in all of FBS. Michigan dropped 26 spots from 2013, while Penn State jumped 19 spots from a year ago. Just think what James Franklin will do with an entire year to recruit.
1. Stanford (national ranking: 13)
2. USC (16)
3. UCLA (17)
4. Arizona State (20)
5. Oregon (26)
Note: The last time Oregon won the Pac-12 recruiting championship? 2011. That also happens to be the last time the Ducks won the Pac-12. This year marks Stanford's second Pac-12 recruiting title in three years.
1. Oklahoma (national ranking: 14)
2. Texas (19)
3. Oklahoma State (27)
4. Baylor (34)
5. West Virginia (37)
Note: The last time a team other than Oklahoma or Texas won the Big 12 recruiting title? Try never, at least since the Rivals rankings launched in 2002. This year is the second year in a row the Big 12 did not have a top 10 class. That only happened once before 2013. Baylor's No. 34 ranking is the lowest for a defending Power Five conference champion by 13 spots.
1. South Florida (national ranking: 39)
2. Cincinnati (58)
3. Temple (61)
4. Central Florida (74)
5. Houston (76)
Note: Up is down in the American, where South Florida and Temple - who both went 2-10 this season - beat defending champion Central Florida.
1. Boise State (national ranking: 69)
2. San Diego State (72)
3. Colorado State (76)
4. Fresno State (80)
5. Air Force (97)
Note: This year marks four in a row that Boise State has won its recruiting conference championship belt.
1. Marshall (national ranking: 64)
2. Western Kentucky (76)
East Carolina (76)
4. Tulane (82)
5. Florida International (83)
Note: Doc Holliday has been Marshall's head coach for four seasons, and today closed his fourth consecutive Conference USA recruiting title. Not bad.
1. Western Michigan (national ranking: 61)
2. Northern Illinois (90)
3. Toledo (91)
4. Ball State (99)
5. Central Michigan (100)
Bowling Green (100)
Note: Say this for P.J. Fleck - his recruiting in no way reflects the way his team performed on the field this season. The Broncos finished 1-11 on the field in year one of the Fleck tenure, but lapped the field in recruiting, winning the league by nearly 30 full spots and finishing in a tie for third for all mid-major programs.
1. Arkansas State (national ranking: 87)
2. Texas State (95)
3. Louisiana-Lafayette (103)
4. Louisiana-Monroe (104)
5. Idaho (107)
Note: Congratulations to Bryan Harsin, the only coach in college football that can claim he built two conference champion recruiting classes in one year. For what it's worth, incoming members Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were not rated by Rivals.