Want to Win a Natty? You Better Be Blue Chip

Jon Joseph Editorials

Over the years, there have been massive upsets in the world of college football. Sports Illustrated ranks the three biggest college football (CFB) upsets. Mr. FishDuck took some time from his fun with NFL Betting to reminisce with me about these stunning games. Yet the bigger aspect in these games are the presence (or not) of Blue-Chip Rosters within the elite ranks of college football.

No. 3 – November 16, 1957 – Notre Dame 7Oklahoma 0

Unranked Notre Dame came into Norman, Oklahoma to face the No. 2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma team had won 47 games in a row and was favored by 19 points. (Wilkinson was a member of the Minnesota team that won three straight titles from 1934 to 1936 and was the legendary Keith Jackson’s broadcast partner for many years after his retirement.) The Irish returned to South Bend with a huge victory.

No. 2 – October 6, 2007 – Stanford 24No. 2 USC 23 – The ‘What’s your deal?’ game.

In his first season as the Stanford head coach, Jim Harbaugh brought his team to the Coliseum as a 41-point underdog. The previous season, under coach Walt Harris, Stanford finished 1-11. This game put Jim Harbaugh and a rebuilding Stanford on the map. Stanford, an Oregon nemesis and vice versa, would have many successful seasons under Harbaugh, and then David Shaw.

No. 1 – September 1, 2007 – Appalachian State 34Michigan 32.

Michigan was ranked No. 5 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (BCS.) App State came in ranked No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS.) The Mountaineers became the first FCS program to defeat a ranked BCS opponent. The upset happened in front of 109,218 fans in the Big House.

Dennis Dixon was a leading Heisman candidate until derailed by injury, also ending Oregon’s Natty hopes in 2007. (Photo by John Giustina)

The next Saturday, September 8, 2007, Oregon came to Ann Arbor and behind quarterback Dennis Dixon demolished the Wolverines 39-7 in front of 109,733 very disappointed Wolverines fans. Michigan rebounded to finish 9-4 with a Capital One Bowl win over Florida and Heisman-winning QB Tim Tebow. Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury, or he might have won the Heisman the year after Tebow.

With upsets like the above and myriad others since Rutgers defeated Princeton in 1869, 6 to 4, isn’t it against all odds that the 16 winners of the BCS Championship from 1998 – 99 through 2012-13 and the ten winners of the 4-team playoff contested from 2014-15 through Michigan’s victory in 2023 – 24, won 26 BCS and playoff titles with a Blue Chip Roster; that no team without a Blue Chip Roster has come out of nowhere to win a football crown? (A Blue Chip Roster is a roster made up of 50% plus, 4* and 5* recruits.)

I mean, Holy Hickory High School! Where is Joey Chitwood? Where is Norman Dale (not the coach played by Gene Hackman, the ‘real’ coach) where the heck is Shooter? Where is the win ‘for all the little guys who never made it this far?’

OBD came this-close on January 10, 2011, losing to Auburn (Dyer’s knee was down!) 22 – 19, playing without a Blue Chip Roster, but with an inventive scheme on offense and an underrated coordinator of the defense.

Alas, Auburn with a 51% Blue Chip Roster won the game behind one of college football’s first players, Cam Newton, to have an agent, his Old Man, who put Cam’s NIL out for bid. A real trailblazer was Cam and also his Dad. In the SEC, ‘If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.‘ Isn’t it time to give $cam his Heisman Trophy back? (Oops, I meant to say, Reggie.)

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Jordan Burch was an important Lanning recruit. (Photo By Eric Evans)

In 2023, 16 teams came into the season with Blue Chip Rosters. By percentage of 4* and 5* players on a roster, here are the Sweet 16: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Texas A+M, (76 million reasons to LOL) Clemson, LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, OREGON, Notre Dame, Florida, (no Bowl of soup for you Gator!) Miami, (Take a Knee and a TO, Baby!) Penn State, Michigan, USC, and our dear friends at Auburn. Pastor Newton, Can I get an amen?

All of these 16 teams, and only these 16, also made 247 Sports Combined Roster Rankings, a ranking that includes both 4* and 5* recruits and 4* and 5* players on a roster who were signed out of the Transfer Portal. Michigan in 2023-24 with a 54% Blue Chip Roster defeated Washington, a team without a Blue Chip Roster, to win the title and keep the streak alive.

Transfer portal signees are now being included in the Combined Roster Rankings. The Blue Chip Roster and Combined Roster Rankings for 2024 have yet to be released by ESPN’s Bill Connolly, the man who developed (discovered) the Blue Chip formula for championship success. Connelly’s updated Blue Chip Roster and Combined Roster rankings will not be released until the portal entrants are signed from when the portal opens for the second time in 2024 from April 15th through April 30th.

Have the B1G Combined Roster Ranked teams, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 9 Oregon, No. 13 Penn State, No. 14 Michigan, and No. 15 USC recruited high school and the transfer portal well enough to retain their Combined Roster Ranking in 2024?

Oregon is in the lead finishing (per ESPN) 4th in high school recruiting and 3rd to date in transfer portal rankings. This is further evidence that Dan Lanning and friends are doing a fantastic job of assembling a playoff-quality roster in a time of very difficult roster management. The Ducks are likely to move up in the 2024 Combined Roster Rankings with Dan possibly adding a Blue Chip or two from the second portal wave of transfers.

Elite players like Jeffrey Bassa make the difference. (Photo by Nancy Paiva)

Using ESPN, ESPN+, and SP+ rankings:

2024 High School Recruiting: No. 3 Ohio State; No. 4 Oregon; No. 11 Penn State; No. 16 Michigan; and No. 17 USC.

2024 Transfer Portal Rankings: No. 3 Oregon; No. 8 Ohio State; No. 15 USC. Michigan and Penn State are not ranked in the top 25 portal rankings.

2024 Returning Production: No. 23 Penn State – 70%; No. 28 Oregon – 69%; No. 70 Ohio State – 61%; No. 99 USC – 50%; No. 128 Michigan – 36%. (FYI, Washington 130 – 36%.)

All five of the Blue Chip Ranked and Combined Roster Ranked B1G teams did well in 2024 high school recruiting. Oregon and Ohio State have done very well signing players out of the transfer portal, and USC has also done well.

Returning Production? If a team stunk it up in 2023, why would you want the skunks back? But Michigan is returning only 36% of its championship team production and USC is returning only 50% of its Holiday Bowl-winning roster. USC has good, not great transfer portal results to date. With only 36% of its roster returning Michigan better step it up with the second portal wave of transfers.

Ohio State and Oregon will both remain in the top 10 Combined Roster Rankings with Ohio State in the top five and Oregon likely to move up a spot or two. Danno is doing the job quite nicely.

Jon Joseph
Aiken, South Carolina
Top Photo by Dave Peaks

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