Having better players than the other guy is crucial to success in every sport. Nothing quite drives that fact home like college football, because of the sheer number of players needed to compete in a 60-minute football game. Front-line talent is essential, but quality depth separates.
Which is where recruiting comes in. Either you can consistently fill out a bunch of different positions with good-to-great talent, or you’re pretty much playing for respectability. That’s the unique challenge to college football. You can’t turn things around with one great class or with just a few big-time recruits; you’ve got to replicate recruiting success year over year over year over year.
Few are able to assemble championship-level teams, as SB Nation’s Bud Elliott outlines in his annual pieces on blue-chip ratio.
Blue-chip ratio is the proportion of blue-chip recruits (top 350ish kids) to non-blue-chip recruits on the roster. Recent history suggests that anybody with less than a 50-50 distribution is out of the national title race before it starts.
NC State, as you probably have guessed, is just a wee bit below that 50-50 threshold. The Wolfpack ranks 47th in blue-chip ratio.
It’s a rough sketch of sorts, because it’s calculated based on each school’s signees, with no accounting for what happens to them once they get on campus, or any imbalance in elite talent in a specific position or unit on the field, which could prove an inefficient distribution of talent, mitigating somewhat the bonus of adding a highly-regarded player.
Still this is an excellent general estimator of a program, and if you want to understand where NC State lives within the college football food chain, and how much ground State has lost to FSU and Clemson, there is no better place to start.