Of course it was National Signing Day where football recruits signed their letters of intent with various schools, essentially a contract that takes all leverage away from the player and gives it to the school. If said school's coach wants to leave, he's free to break his contract. But if the player wants to go somewhere else? The school doesn't have to release him from his LOI and even if it does, can dictate where the player can or can't transfer.
Whether the process is fair is another argument. Whether it's right/sane that grown men (and women) treat a day where 18-year-olds they will never meet decide where they go to college as Super Bowl Sunday is also a debate for another story. Recruiting does matter, but there are also no sure things.
SEC Remains King
The SEC's seven-year reign as the BCS national champion ended in the season that the BCS system did, with Auburn losing to Florida State in a thrilling title game. So while the ACC gets bragging rights for one year, the SEC remains clearly the nation's juggernaut conference.
Looking at the three major recruiting rankings, ESPN, Rivals and Scout, there is a general consensus that Alabama once again has the nation's top class. Nick Saban was able to lure the arguably the country's top defensive recruit, end Da'Shawn Hand. It's not difficult to see why Hand chose the Tide over Michigan. Alabama sends players to the NFL in waves under Saban, while the Wolverines were 7-6 a season ago. The Tide have 19 four- or five-star recruits in both ESPN's and Rivals' rankings. One of those recruits was Oklahoma QB David Cornwell, who will be in the mix to replace three-year starter A.J. McCarron, one of the most successful quarterbacks in college history.
Needless to say it's going to be difficult for a true freshman to get a ton of playing time in Tuscaloosa, where there are many, many other four- and five-star recruits already in place. It should be noted that nine of the past 12 teams to finish No. 1 in Rivals' rankings played for the national title within three years and seven won it. Alabama is the 13/2 second-favorite on Bovada's college football odds to win the new NCAA football playoff next January.
The SEC has an absurd seven of the Top-10 recruiting classes, with the Tide followed by LSU (No. 2), Texas A&M (No. 4), Tennessee (No. 5), Florida (No. 6), Auburn (No. 8) and Georgia (No. 10). The Vols are the biggest surprises of that group.
LSU landed the nation's No. 1 offensive player in New Orleans running back Leonard Fournette and the country's top receiver in Malachi Dupre, also from the area. Fournette could start from Day 1 because the Tigers lost leading rusher Jeremy Hill as an early entrant to the NFL Draft. LSU is 18/1 at sportsbooks to win the 2014-15 national title and hosts Alabama this season.
Sunshine State Success
While Texas or California might argue, many experts say Florida has the best overall high school talent in the nation, and the Sunshine State's Big 3 cleaned up. The Seminoles are generally regarded to have the No. 3 class, followed by Florida's No. 6 and Miami's No. 9.
FSU stole a running back and two receivers out of Miami's backyard in Dalvin Cook, Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph as they were no doubt lured by the chance to potentially play with Heisman winner Jameis Winston, who no doubt leaves after next year.
By far Florida's top recruit was QB Will Grier out of Davidson, N.C. He was named the U.S. Army National Player of the Year and Parade Magazine's All-American Player of the Year. The dual-threat Grier set a state record with 77 touchdown passes this past season and is already enrolled at Florida. The Gators' offense was one of the worst in the nation last year. It wasn't good when QB Jeff Driskel was healthy and inept when he was injured. Don't be surprised if Grier pushes the disappointing Driskel for the starting job or at worst is his backup. Florida is 40/1 at sportsbooks to win the national title.
As for Miami, which is 50/1 at sportsbooks, it was easily the best class Al Golden has had with the shadow of NCAA sanctions finally off the program. Five-star defensive end Chad Thomas should play as a freshman on a defense desperate for playmakers. Keep an eye on California QB Brad Kaaya as he could be the 2015 starter. Miami is 50/1 on college football odds to win next season's national title.
Fairly Slow Starts For Newbies
The five biggest coaching changes this offseason have been at Texas (hired Charlie Strong), USC (Steve Sarkisian), Penn State (James Franklin), Washington (Chris Petersen) and Louisville (Bobby Petrino). None of those five schools will have a Top-10 class, although USC is right on the edge and finished with a flourish. USC's four-year ranking from 2010-13 in Rivals' recruiting was No. 3 and Texas No. 7.
USC and Penn State still are dealing with NCAA sanctions in terms of scholarships, while UT hired Strong just a month ago. Petersen always got the best of under-the-radar recruits at Boise State, while Petrino probably had a lot of explaining to do to recruits' parents after his off-field issues at Arkansas. Louisville's group is the worst of these five, somewhere between 45-50 as the Cardinals head to the ACC.
Southern Cal has the shortest college football odds among this group to win the national title at 25/1 for sports bettors.