10-year review: A look at the Big 3.

To kick off the 150th season of college football, Florida played a week 0 game against old rival Miami Hurricanes. Florida won 24-20, which is great. This season is a rarity for Florida; they get to face FSU and Miami just like the old days. To commemorate this season, I decided to look at the state of each program over the last decade. I was curious as to how different each team has done both in recruiting and on the field relative to each other. Of course, they’ve all had their ups and downs since 2009. But have they been that much different overall? Let’s see what the numbers show us…


I first wanted to see how each of the teams fared in recruiting since 2009. I picked 2009 as a starting point because there was a sharp change in recruiting at that time. I don’t know exactly what changed, but I do know that the average rating for the top 1000 recruits went up significantly that year and has maintained a fairly steady climb. Check out https://thefaircatch.com/2019/07/04/the-changing-baseline-of-composite-college-football-recruits/ for a detailed outline.

Anyways, the chart below shows the 4-year moving average for each of the teams’ composite recruiting ratings with heatmapping applied.

B3 rec ratings

A quick glance at the colors shows that Florida was the strongest up until 2014 when FSU surpassed them. Miami has been bringing up the rear for the entire cycle but is improving. I also looked at the data with the numbers standardized to get an idea of what degree of separation there was between the teams.

B3 rec data

What these standardized numbers mean is that the average for the group is zero. Relative to zero, we can see how good or bad each score over the years was, relative to all of the years by each of the schools. For instance, in 2009, the Gators were 0.49 standard deviations above the group mean, while FSU (-0.34) and Miami (0.21) were slightly below. It makes it easy to see that the 2012 Florida team held the best 4-year average for any squad included at 1.63 standard deviations above the mean. Miami’s 2013 team took the honors (?) for the worst class at -1.67. FSU’s 2018 team had their best 4-year average over the span (and were rewarded with a 5-7 record…).


I then looked at how each team did in terms of win percentage over the same period of time. 2009 was Tim Tebow’s final year at Florida, and UF’s decline after that is apparent. The chart below shows each school’s win percentage for that season.

b3 win perc

Again, the heat mapping helps see the degree of separation. The 2013 ‘Noles had the best season of the group, going undefeated and picking up a Natty. Terribly, UF had the worst season that year as well winning 33% of their games (4-8). Here is a look at that data standardized as before:

B3 win graph standard

Recruiting and Winning

Next, I wanted to see if each team experienced the ups and downs in recruiting consistently with their own ups and downs in winning. Intuitively, it would make sense. However, each of the teams faired differently in regard to their wins-to-recruiting ratio.

Miami Hurricanes:


In this graph (and the others to follow) the horizontal line with the numbers (1 through 10, one for each year) is just below zero, which, again is the average wins and recruiting rating standardized. For Miami, their recruiting (blue line) was consistently below the average for the group without much fluctuation in their win percentage. If you look at the 5th season (2013), their recruiting was at its lowest, but wins were actually up. Miami’s winning rate is also on the climb.

Florida State Seminoles:

The ‘Noles started off the period with average winning and below-average recruiting. However, the recruiting has sky-rocketed over the last ten years, starting in 2011. Florida State also experienced a rise in winning percentage while they had Jameis Winston. However, they haven’t been able to maintain winning at a rate commiserate with their recruiting levels.


The disparity between FSU’s 4-year moving average in recruit rating and win percentage in 2018 is significant.

Florida Gators:

Florida has had a precipitous and well-documented drop in recruiting since Will Muschamp was landing top-5 classes. However, those classes have not performed well in terms of winning. Florida has shown some recovery in both recruiting and winning in the first year under Dan Mullen.


Florida is the only team of the 3 to trend upward in recruiting and winning as of 2018. This is encouraging, as it will put them in the top position among the Big 3. Beyond that, however, there is still work to do, but that is for another analysis. For now, let’s hope Mullen can keep things going in the right direction. Go Gators.

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