National signing day in 2016 featured click-bait hype across this great land -- cue up Ric Flair braggadocio speechifying voice -- with dabbing, trash-talking, airplane-jumping, Texas-surging, commitment-flipping, wheeling and dealing and -- woo! -- Florida State signed the nation's No. 1 class, according to ESPN RecruitingNation.
Now cue up Zach Galifianakis between his ferns: The Pac-12 did not have a top-10 class for the fourth time in the last five years.
That's not a unified world view, as recruiting speaks in many voices. Scout.com ranked UCLA's strong late charge good enough for the nation's No. 7 class, while USC ranked eighth with both Rivals and 247Sports. If there was a general consensus, it was that USC, UCLA and Stanford led the Pac-12 and Colorado brought up the rear. In between things were fairly fluid, though Oregon fans aren't feeling as good this day-after -- ESPN's biggest downward-mover, losing six spots Wednesday -- as Arizona State, Washington, California and Utah fans probably do.
Everyone knows the West Coast is infinitely cooler than the rest of the country. The veracity of that statement is proven -- as if it needed validation! -- at this very moment by the sorts of people who are outraged after reading that sentence. To you, we reach out and pet your collective head, feeling sympathetic for your apple-red visage and outraged blather.
Pac-12 folks, that offering of arrogance and smugness hopefully will operate as some sort of crutch for what follows.
The SEC landed 109 players ranked in the ESPN 300 and has signed the most such commitments in every recruiting cycle in the ESPN 300 era. The SEC West signed 74, 24 more than any other conference. The SEC has secured at least one-third of the ESPN 300 recruits in each of last five seasons.
Seven of the top-10 teams in ESPN's final recruiting rankings -- and in just about everyone else's final rankings -- are located in the Southeast, as Clemson and Florida State reside in the ACC mostly as SEC-ish refuges.
If stockpiling talent is important in football, and we're willing to suggest that it is, that's not a good thing for those hoping for more regional equity in the sport. A team from outside the Southeast -- Ohio State in 2014 -- has won just one of the last 10 national titles.
If you were going to project a Power 5 within the Power 5 over the next five or so years, more than a few folks would set it up like this: Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, Clemson and the SEC. (You could make a case that the SEC is kind of becoming Alabama and everyone else, but we're not going to make that case today).
USC? Let's see some coaching stability first. TCU and Baylor? Let's see a few more marquee wins, particularly with Texas perhaps waking up. Oklahoma? Well, maybe, but we liked the symmetry of five entities. Michigan State? Also maybe already there, but it would be tragic if Mark Dantonio stopped seeing his program as an underdog because we'd miss out on all sorts of his sour, delightful harrumphs.
As it is, we're starting to feel like Dr. Seuss' Lorax, only instead of speaking for the trees, we're whining about a continued growing regional inequity in college football, one that the College Football Playoff doesn't seem to be reducing all that much. Here's a guess that more than a few West Coast fans' second-favorite team over the next decade will become the Big Ten champion if the Pac-12 continues to find itself left out of the CFP on a semi-regular basis, with the hope it quiets some of the down-south gloating. Funny how the sweet honey of a southern accent loses much of its charm when the subject is college football.
If folks out West want to cling to others' misfortune, at least you're not Maryland, Rutgers or ACC schools in North Carolina. Maryland and Rutgers did a nice job of boosting the Big Ten footprint, as that conference signed 15 of the 18 ESPN 300 recruits from Maryland and New Jersey. Only Rutgers and Maryland didn't sign any. As for the Tar Heel state, it boasted 10 ESPN 300 prospects -- seventh-most of any state this cycle! -- yet none signed with UNC, Duke, Wake Forest or North Carolina State.
On the downside, 11 of the 34 ESPN 300 players from California signed with non-Pac-12 schools, including five of the top eight.
While teams such as Baylor (17th), Michigan State (21st) and TCU (22nd) had their highest-ranked classes of the ESPN 300 era, the Pac-12 struggled to place four teams in the consensus top 25. Arizona State was ranked 25th by ESPN and Oregon was 24th with Scout, but Rivals and 247 dumped the conference's No. 4 class into the "others receiving votes" category.
In other words, no Pac-12 team surged in recruiting. They either approximated an established status quo or fell short of expectations. Not good.
Of course, all the signing-day analysis guarantees little. Auburn has signed four consecutive top-11 classes and it went 7-6 this year and nearly lost to Jacksonville State. USC has mostly owned Pac-12 recruiting rankings, yet it owns zero Pac-12 championships, the same number of titles its top recruiting rival, UCLA, also has won, by the way.
Still, as we turn from the speculation of recruiting evaluations to the nuts and bolts of spring practices, where eight Pac-12 teams are uncertain at quarterback in the Conference of Quarterbacks and every conference team other than Washington has significant issues on defense, it's fair to wonder if our Chicken Little here has a point.
If postseason and recruiting rankings are falling, might the sky shortly follow?