2020 Blue-Chip Ratio: Penn State is a National Title Contender

By Nick Polak on June 12, 2020 at 6:09 pm
Dec 28, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts to a touchdown in the game against the Memphis Tigers at AT&T Stadium.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One of my personal favorite preseason articles each offseason is Bud Elliott's Blue-Chip Ratio study. To give the shortest possible explanation, Blue Chip ratio is the percentage of a school's roster that is made up of four and five-star talents, only counting players recruited and signed by that school. A mark of 50% or better makes you a title contender. Elliott notes that transfers and walk-ons do not get considered in this study, because while they can sometimes have a huge impact (Burrow, Fields), more often than not, they are relatively inconsequential to a team's season.

Now, college football has many metrics that can predict success. However, in its purest form, a college football program is only as good as it can recruit. There are endless stories of three-stars, two-stars, and walk-ons that beat the odds and go on to be stars, but it's simply a fact that higher-rated players, on average, experience more collegiate and NFL success. There are some well-renowned teachers of the game out there that consistently turn lower-ranked players into stars. But there's a reason that the Clemsons, Ohio States, Alabamas, and Georgias of the world are title contenders year after year – they recruit the best talent.

So with all of that said, let's take a look at the teams that qualify as title contenders according to the Blue Chip Ratio for the 2020 season.

Penn State comes in at 59%, which is tied with Michigan for the second-highest mark in the conference after Ohio State (80%). They are the only three teams in the conference to achieve the 50% mark. The Lions and Wolverines are tied for the sixth-best ratio in the country.

This hardly comes as a surprise given how well James Franklin and his staff have recruited, though it's especially impressive given the transfers of blue-chip talents such as Justin Shorter, Ricky Slade, and Damion Barber, not to mention the medical requirements of Ellison Jordan, Jordan Miner, and Nana Asiedu.

Though the team will still have to prove its worth on the field, getting into the 50% or better range is step one towards achieving a championship. Coaching up your players is important, but having the talent to work with is a non-negotiable for being a national force. James Franklin (and Bill O'Brien before him) has revolutionized Penn State's recruiting and has gotten his roster to national-power status. With that in mind, perhaps 2020 will be the year the Lions get over the hump and qualify for their first college football playoff berth.

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