Combine math makes overachievers of Northwestern, Mississippi

Pat Forde
Yahoo! Sports




Ratings for every FBS team:

Sagarin rank

Combine participation rank

Difference

1. Alabama

T3

Plus-2

2. Oregon

T16

Plus-14

3. Texas A&M

T9

Plus-6

4. Georgia

T3

Minus-1

5. Notre Dame

6

Plus-1

6. S. Carolina

T7

Plus-1

7. Florida

5

Minus-2

8. Kansas State

T16

Plus-8

9. Stanford

T22

Plus-13

10. LSU

T1

Minus-9

11. Fla. State

T1

Minus-10

12. Oklahoma

T9

Minus-3

13. Ohio State

T7

Minus-6

14. Clemson

T33

Plus-19

15. Oregon St.

T45

Plus-30

16. Texas

T33

Plus-17

17. Ok State

T45

Plus-28

18. Baylor

T45

Plus-27

19. Utah State

T45

Plus-26

20. Michigan

T64

Plus-44

21. N'western

T90

Plus-69

22. Wisconsin

T22

Even

23. Nebraska

T33

Plus-10

24. Ole Miss

T90

Plus-66

25. Vanderbilt

T64

Plus-39

26. BYU

T45

Plus-19

27. Louisville

T64

Plus-47

28. Arizona St.

T33

Plus-5

29. SJSU

T45

Plus-16

30. Penn State

T22

Minus-8

31. UCLA

T9

Minus-22

32. TCU

T33

Plus-1

33. USC

T9

Minus-24

34. Mich. St.

T22

Minus-12

35. Cincinnati

T22

Minus-14

36. Texas Tech

T90

Plus-53

37. Syracuse

T22

Minus-16

38. N. Illinois

T90

Plus-51

39. Missouri

T33

Minus-7

40. Boise State

T45

Plus-4

41. Miss State

T33

Minus-9

42. UNC

T9

Minus-34

43. Arizona

T64

Plus-20

44. UCF

T90

Plus-45

45. Ga Tech

T45

Minus-1

46. Tulsa

T90

Plus-43

47. W. Virginia

T22

Minus-26

48. Miami

T45

Minus-4

49. Ark. St.

T90

Plus-40

50. La Tech

T16

Minus-35

51. Rutgers

T9

Minus-43

52. Washington

T64

Plus-11

53. Va Tech

T16

Minus-38

54. Iowa State

T45

Minus-10

55. Tennessee

T16

Minus-40

56. SMU

T33

Minus-24

57. Fresno St.

T45

Minus-13

58. Pitt

T64

Plus-5

59. Kent State

T64

Plus-4

60. Utah

T45

Minus-16

61. UL-L

T90

Plus-28

62. NC State

T22

Minus-41

63. Arkansas

T9

Minus-55

64. SDSU

T45

Minus-20

65. Ball State

T64

Minus-2

66. Minnesota

T90

Plus-23

67. Toledo

T90

Plus-22

68. Iowa

T45

Minus-24

69. Purdue

T45

Minus-25

70. Duke

T45

Minus-26

71. BGU

T64

Minus-8

72. Ohio

T64

Minus-9

73. Indiana

T90

Plus-16

74. UL-M

T90

Plus-15

75. Cal

T16

Minus-60

76. Nevada

T22

Minus-55

77. Auburn

T33

Minus-45

78. Navy

T90

Plus-11

79. Rice

T64

Minus-16

80. ECU

T90

Plus-9

81. MTSU

T90

Plus-8

82. USF

T33

Minus-50

83. Virginia

T64

Minus-20

84. UConn

T22

Minus-63

85. WKU

T64

Minus-22

86. Kentucky

T64

Minus-23

87. Kansas

T45

Minus-43

88. Temple

T64

Minus-25

89. Maryland

T90

Even

90. Troy

T90

Minus-1

91. Wazzu

T64

Minus-28

92. Marshall

T64

Minus-29

93. Houston

T64

Minus-30

94. Wake

T64

Minus-31

95. UTSA

T90

Minus-6

96. CMU

T64

Minus-33

97. BC

T33

Minus-65

98. WMU

T90

Minus-9

99. N Texas

T90

Minus-10

100. Wyoming

T90

Minus-11

101. Memphis

T64

Minus-38

102. Texas St.

T90

Minus-13

103. Miami OH

T64

Minus-40

104. Illinois

T22

Minus-83

105. FIU

T45

Minus-61

106. AFA

T90

Minus-17

107. Buffalo

T90

Minus-18

108. CSU

T90

Minus-19

109. FAU

T90

Minus-20

110. UTEP

T90

Minus-21

111. UAB

T90

Minus-22

112. UNM

T90

Minus-23

113. E. Mich.

T90

Minus-24

114. Army

T90

Minus-25

115. Tulane

T90

Minus-26

116. Colorado

T45

Minus-72

117. UNLV

T64

Minus-54

118. Hawaii

T33

Minus-86

119. S. Ala.

T90

Minus-30

120. Idaho

T64

Minus-57

121. S. Miss

T45

Minus-77

122. Akron

T90

Minus-33

123. NM State

T90

Minus-34

124. UMass

T64

Minus-61


While performing my American civic duty and watching the NFL scouting combine on TV, it became clear how many college teams underachieved in 2012.

There were multiple Tennessee Volunteers looking impressive in all their drills, fresh off a 5-7 season. There were a handful of California Golden Bears, skillfully putting their 3-9 train wreck behind them. And even four players from Illinois, which went winless in a bad Big Ten and 2-10 overall.

On the flip side, I wondered where the Northwestern Wildcats were. And the Vanderbilt Commodores. And the Northern Illinois Huskies. They all had highly successful seasons, with hardly a 2013 pro prospect to show for it.

This led to an exercise in combine math.

I looked up the 2012 season-ending Sagarin Ratings. Then I looked up the NFL.com school-by-school list of combine participants, and ranked those from most (LSU and Florida State each had 13) to least (35 schools had zero). Then I did the math on the difference between the two rankings.

[Also: Michigan State's Chris Norman chooses seminary over NFL]

A big plus number (high Sagarin rating, low number of combine participants) indicates a program doing a lot with a little. A big minus number (low Sagarin rating, high number of combine participants) indicates a program doing a little with a lot.

Admittedly, this is an imperfect formula. Some teams that had big plus numbers are simply populated with young talent not yet draft-eligible (Louisville springs immediately to mind). And the sample sizes of players at the combine are small enough that a single player can make a big difference (Ball State had one player, a punter, which moved it from a 35-way tie for 90th into a 30-way tie for 60th in the participant rankings).

But looking at the biggest numbers on both ends of the spectrum, it seems to be a pretty revealing look at which coaching staffs seemed to maximize their available talent and which coaching staffs squandered it.

Or, if you want to look at it the other way: which programs have done the best job of recruiting and developing NFL-level talent (regardless of win-loss records).

So the beauty of combine participation – or lack thereof – is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on how you choose to view the math.

The biggest plus numbers were as follows:

Northwestern: plus-69. Sagarin Rating 21st. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Wildcats went 10-3 and won the Gator Bowl.

Mississippi: plus-66. Sagarin Rating 24th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Rebels went 7-6 and won the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Texas Tech: plus-53. Sagarin Rating 37th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Red Raiders went 8-5 and won the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Northern Illinois: plus-51. Sagarin Rating 39th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Huskies went 12-2 and lost the Orange Bowl.

Louisville: plus-47. Sagarin Rating 27th. Combine participant rating tied for 64th (one). The Cardinals went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.

Michigan: plus-44. Sagarin Rating 20th. Combine participant rating tied for 64th (one). The Wolverines went 8-5 and lost the Outback Bowl. (If offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, considered a lock first-round pick, had entered the draft, the number would have been plus-25.)

[Also: NFL scouts blame coaching for Matt Barkley's struggles]

UCF: plus-45. Sagarin Rating 45th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Golden Knights went 10-4 and won the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

Tulsa: plus-43. Sagarin Rating 47th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Golden Hurricane went 11-3 and won the Liberty Bowl.

Arkansas State: plus-40. Sagarin Rating 50th. Combine participant rating tied for 90th (zero). The Red Wolves went 10-3 and won the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

The biggest minus numbers were as follows:

Hawaii: minus-86. Sagarin Rating 119th. Combine participant rating tied for 33rd (three). The Warriors went 3-9 in a bloody first year in the Mountain West Conference.

Illinois: minus-83. Sagarin Rating 105th. Combine participant rating tied for 22nd (four). Ron Zook recruited plenty of talent to Champaign. He never knew what to do with it, and neither did first-year replacement Tim Beckman.

Southern Mississippi: minus-77. Sagarin Rating 122nd. Combine participant rating: tied for 45th (two). The Golden Eagles went a miserable 0-12 in Conference USA, but were not completely bereft of talent. Now you know why they fired Ellis Johnson after just one season.

Colorado: minus-72. Sagarin Rating 117th. Combine participant rating tied for 45th (two). Another school that had to fire a coach quickly (Jon Embree after just two seasons) because the product was so bad.

Boston College: minus-65. Sagarin Rating 98th. Combine participant rating tied for 33rd (three). Notice a theme here? Frank Spaziani was fired at season’s end.

Connecticut: minus-63. Sagarin Rating: 85th. Combine participant rating: tied for 22nd (four). The Huskies were 5-7 in a woeful Big East.

UMass: minus-61. Sagarin Rating 124th. Combine participant rating tied for 64th (one). In their first year as an FBS program, the Minutemen went 1-11.

Florida International: minus-61. Sagarin Rating 106th. Combine participant rating tied for 45th (two). The Golden Panthers surprisingly fired Mario Cristobal after a 3-9 season. It was ugly, but perhaps not as ugly as the laborious search to replace him. (Job not quite as popular as some at FIU seemed to think.)

California: minus-60. Sagarin Rating 76th. Combine participant rating tied for 16th (five). This was probably the winner in the category of tangible talent underachieving. Thus the decision to fire longtime coach Jeff Tedford.

Arkansas: minus-55. Sagarin Rating 64th. Combine participant rating tied for ninth (six). OK, maybe this was the winner in the category of tangible talent underachieving. Bobby Petrino’s mess was not ably cleaned up by John L. Smith.

Nevada: minus-55. Sagarin Rating 77th. Combine participant rating tied for 22nd (four). The Wolf Pack went 7-6 against a soft schedule and lost the New Mexico Bowl to Arizona.

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