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What Blue Chip Ratio can teach us about the college football national championship picture

You need great players if you’re going to compete in college football, and that disqualifies most of the field before the season even starts

Trevor Lawrence of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball against Grant Delpit of the LSU Tigers during the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

“Recruiting is the lifeblood of the program.”

You’ve heard it from every college football coach forever. You can’t win games without good players, no matter how well-coached they are. It’s why entire departments of FBS operations are dedicated just to finding and wooing the best players to campus.

And’s Bud Elliott has a metric to find out who is eliminated from winning the College Football Playoff before the season even begins. His Blue Chip Ratio determines the number of players on a team that were blue-chip prospects, or given 4-stars or 5-stars by various recruiting services.

The formula is simple: sign more 4-5 stars than 2-3 stars, and you have a roster capable of taking down the trophy. The threshold is 50% or higher. And it’s been 100% effective in eliminating the wheat from the chaff for every national champion since 2005.

Out of 130 FBS teams, here are the 15 schools that qualify under the 2020 Blue Chip Ratio, with their odds to win the national championship at DraftKings Sportsbook right now:

Blue Chip Ratio 2020

School Blue Chip Ratio Odds
School Blue Chip Ratio Odds
Alabama 83% +400
Georgia 82% +1200
Ohio State 80% +250
Texas 64% +4000
LSU 63% +1800
Oklahoma 63% +3300
Clemson 63% +250
Florida 63% +1800
Michigan 59% +6600
Auburn 59% +5000
Penn State 59% +5000
Notre Dame 56% +2800
Washington 54% +10000
USC 50% +5000
Texas A&M 50% +3300

Remember wide distribution of talent alone isn’t the only factor in determining who can win it all, but it’s a big one. There are six teams with more talent returning than co-favorites Clemson, but they don’t have Trevor Lawrence. There are other factors that work in the Tigers favor, including their creampuff ACC schedule and only one challenging out-of-conference game at Notre Dame (which might not even have fans to improve the homefield advantage this year).

Whereas the preset path of college football breaks perfectly for Dabo Swinney’s team, Jim Harbaugh’s is on the other side of that fence. He’s 0-5 against Ohio State, whom he has to play every year, as well as Michigan State and Penn State in the same division. The overall balance in the Big Ten East makes the path more difficult just to get to the conference championship game, and thus the playoff.

Washington +10000

You might see a team like Washington on this list at 100-1 and think “hey, there’s value here!” — but that might not be the best way to interpret the data. The Pac-12 has only put their champion in the final four twice in six years, the Huskies have to travel to Oregon this season, they host a Michigan team where they’re almost a touchdown underdog to open the season, and redshirt sophomore Jacob Sirmon as their projected starting quarterback has no meaningful game experience.

And that’s why BCR is a terrific baseline, but shouldn’t be used as the end-all when looking for value in college football futures. Where it really helps is as a guide to helping find where the value might lie. So now we look for some value picks if you want to see who can win it all in 2020.

Alabama +400

Don’t let two years without a natty let you forget who the king of the hill still is. The team with the most talent at 4-1 sounds pretty good, and the advantage of taking an SEC West team is that even if they don’t qualify for their conference championship game, they still might make the playoff.

Their kickoff game against USC in a place where they’ve had huge neutral-field success before (and are currently a two-touchdown favorite) adds another quality win that the committee will factor in later. With two potential QB’s that can win games, and a typical Nick Saban defense filled with elite future NFL stars, there’s value here.

Texas +4000

That Week 2 game at LSU looks tough, but the Tigers did lose about 750 players to the NFL Draft off last year’s title winners. And even a loss in Death Valley wouldn’t necessarily be a death knell as they could win a Big 12 Championship Game to beat someone twice to improve their resume. With Sam Ehlinger returning at quarterback, there’s a lot of room for growth on the 2020 Longhorns squad. And the talent to compete and possibly finish 13-0 is clearly there.

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