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Recruiting in the B1G

How well does UW recruiting compare to its future rivals?

The final season for UW in the Pac-12 is nearly upon us, but an awful lot is changing right now in the UW athletic department as we get ready to head to the Big Ten starting next summer. That affects the whole of Husky athletics, but since it’s football season—and since football is really the main reason this move is happening in the first place—one of the questions people have been asking is how this is likely to affect UW’s chances of success in the future.

There was something to be said for hanging on in a diminished conference, racking up wins with fewer serious rivals at the top and winning a lot of games. Call it the Boise State or Gonzaga model if you like, though honestly Clemson—and before it, Florida State—have done much the same in absolutely dominating the ACC over the last 35 years, as did Miami for much of the lifespan of the football version of the Big East. There’s always the worry that a team that stomps a mediocre conference will get “exposed” when they play a team from an allegedly superior conference, like TCU getting steamrolled by Georgia in last year’s title game, though in fairness TCU didn’t get exposed against Michigan when they won the Fiesta Bowl to get to the title game.

In any case, there is some anxiety in Husky fandom that UW might be trading in their presumed better opportunity to win conference titles in the Pac for a steeper road ahead of them in the B1G. They’re not wrong. Just in terms of sheer numbers, you’re looking at going up against 17 conference rivals rather than 11 (or 9, if they had swapped San Diego State for the departing Colorado and things had stabilized as a new Pac-10). You’ve still got teams at the bottom, in the middle, and at the top, but there are simply more of them. True, you’re never going to play all of them in any season, but there’s still that variance where you have more chances for teams to be exceptional (or to be trash) than in a smaller conference.

The real question is where UW is likely to land in the future pecking order. Will they challenge the top of the conference? Drift to the bottom? Be mired in the middle? There are a lot of unanswered questions, which I’ll address in more detail below. To start, though, we can look at the past for clues to the future. Namely, how has UW’s football recruiting in the recent past compared to its future B1G rivals?


Recruiting Class Rankings 2018-2023

Team Median Nat Median Pts Median B1G Rank Nat Rank Nat Pts B1G Rank 2023 23 Pts B1G Rank 2022 22 Pts B1G Rank 2021 21 Pts B1G Rank 2020 20 Pts B1G Rank 2019 19 Pts B1G Rank 2018 18 Pts B1G Rank
Team Median Nat Median Pts Median B1G Rank Nat Rank Nat Pts B1G Rank 2023 23 Pts B1G Rank 2022 22 Pts B1G Rank 2021 21 Pts B1G Rank 2020 20 Pts B1G Rank 2019 19 Pts B1G Rank 2018 18 Pts B1G Rank
Ohio State 4 297.935 1 5.2 297.955 1.5 4 290.72 1 4 300.95 1 2 321.78 1 5 294.92 1 14 262.3 4 2 317.06 1
Oregon 10.5 269.33 3 10 268.095 2.8 9 278.44 3 13 243.37 4 6 287.67 2 12 259.43 3 7 279.44 1 13 260.22 4
Michigan 11.5 262.14 3.5 13.2 256.7917 3.8 17 245.13 5 9 262.13 3 13 262.15 4 10 262.7 2 8 278.08 2 22 230.56 7
Penn State 13 271.39 3.5 12.3 263.7217 4 14 270.1 4 6 278.66 2 21 219.13 8 15 255.84 4 12 272.68 3 6 285.92 3
USC 13.5 262.535 5 28.5 239.1967 8 8 280.44 2 70 165.48 17 7 281.92 3 63 171.51 17 19 244.63 7 4 291.2 2
Washington 21 238.575 6.5 33 222.2433 8.5 26 223.92 8 95 129.55 18 30 211.54 10 16 254.96 5 15 260.26 5 16 253.23 5
Nebraska 21.5 226.38 7 24.3 227.055 7.5 25 224.12 7 41 198.64 11 20 219.73 7 20 243.28 6 17 247.92 6 23 228.64 8
Maryland 31 211.635 8.5 32.3 212.6483 9.2 36 206.46 9 31 213.62 8 18 232.64 6 31 209.65 8 50 195.18 15 28 218.34 9
Michigan State 31.5 217.74 10 33.3 211.65 9.7 24 224.87 6 23 221.83 5 46 194.42 14 44 193.3 13 33 221.18 10 30 214.3 10
UCLA 35 207.245 10.5 37 206.8383 10.8 37 206.15 10 61 175.37 16 32 210.04 11 33 208.34 10 40 203.36 12 19 237.77 6
Wisconsin 36 209.09 10.5 36.3 211.5883 10.3 58 188.21 16 44 194.42 12 16 243 5 26 225.72 7 28 223.14 9 46 195.04 13
Iowa 37.5 204.055 11.5 35.2 207.425 10.7 41 204.36 12 30 215.05 7 24 217.01 9 35 203.75 11 41 201.04 13 40 203.34 12
Minnesota 41.5 200.28 12.5 42.2 199.7417 12.8 45 201.22 13 49 189.38 15 38 203.38 12 38 199.34 12 45 198.47 14 38 206.66 11
Purdue 45 197.355 12.5 48.3 195.7617 12.8 68 179.36 17 38 206.4 10 75 163.12 18 32 209.21 9 25 228.17 8 52 188.31 15
Northwestern 49 191.15 14.5 50.3 190.39 15.2 47 200.11 14 48 191.62 14 50 187.59 15 47 190.68 14 52 192.16 16 58 180.18 18
Indiana 52.5 186.045 14.5 48.8 192.1883 13.3 69 177.6 18 25 219.8 6 55 181.32 16 57 177.37 15 37 206.27 11 50 190.77 14
Rutgers 56.5 187.32 15.5 51.8 189.7617 14.7 57 190.36 15 33 209.71 9 39 203.17 13 60 172.87 16 66 178.18 18 56 184.28 17
Illinois 55 186.33 16.5 59 181.5883 15.3 38 205.64 11 46 192.59 13 73 165.76 17 87 152.88 18 56 186.83 17 54 185.83 16


I looked at recruiting class rankings using the 247 database over the past 6 recruiting classes, 2018 through 2023. For UW, that’s 2 classes each for DeBoer, Lake, and Petersen. I tracked overall national ranking, class aggregate point value, and the ordinal ranking of that class among the future B1G schools, including UW, UO, USC, and UCLA along with the existing 14 B1G schools. I then derived both mean and median values for all three numbers.

Quick Note for Non-Stat People: Mean is simply the arithmetic average - count them up, divide by the number of values, and that’s it. Median is the middle value among a group of values, which tells you more about what the likely midpoint value is going to be, as it’s less impacted by statistical outliers. The mean value of a set (1, 1, 1, 1, and 20) is 24/5 = 4.8. That’s true but doesn’t really reflect the shape of the data set very well. The median value of the same set would be 1, which is probably more representative of the contents of the set.

The mean/median distinction comes into play several times in these data. It will not shock you to know that Ohio State is the #1 recruiting school in the B1G. Their recruiting classes finished #2, #2, #4, #4, #5... and #14 in the nation. In the immortal words of Sesame Street, “One of these is not like the other ones, which one doesn’t belong.” USC had a similar breakdown, but even more extreme, finishing #4, #19, #7, #8... and #63 and #70. Wisconsin’s classes were #58, #44, #26, #28, #46... and one year jumped up to #16. Our UW, of course, had a similar fluke with finishes at #16, #15, #16, #18, #26... and #95. Because we’re trying to look retrospectively to learn something prospectively, median values give us better insight than means, so that’s what I’m using for ranking purposes, but you can browse through all the data yourself in the table below or, if it doesn’t come up on your browser for whatever reason, you can check the Google Sheet yourself here.


You can break down the recruiting success of the future B1G members pretty easily, as it turns out. The schools are listed with their median ranking among the 18 future B1G schools, followed by national median ranking and median class points.

Tier 0

Ohio State: B1G 1, Nat 4, Pts 297.94

As I noted above, it will shock no one to learn that Ohio State is the top-recruiting school in the B1G and it’s not particularly close. They had one fluke year with a class that was only 14th-best in the nation (it ranked #4 in the group that year, behind Michigan, Penn State, and Oregon). Other than that, they are the recruiting kings of the B1G.

Tier 1

Oregon: B1G 3, Nat 10.5, Pts 269.33

Michigan: B1G 3.5, Nat 11.5, Pts 262.14

Penn State: B1G 3.5, Nat 13, Pts 271.39

USC: B1G 5, Nat 13.5, Pts 262.54

These four schools are all recruiting powerhouses and their names will not surprise you either. What also shouldn’t surprise you is that we are bringing our main recruiting rivals with us, as USC and Oregon have been out-recruiting UW in the Pac-12 and, so by definition they’ll still be in front of us when we all arrive in the B1G. Will they stay in front of us? Maybe. Probably. Hopefully not. We’ll see. But they’re definitely ahead of us in recruiting right now. So are Michigan and Penn State. Again, no surprises here.

Tier 2

Washington: B1G 6.5, Nat 21, Pts 237.58

Nebraska: B1G 7, Nat 21.5, Pts 226.38

Take heart, Husky fans! We’re pretty much in the same place in the B1G as we were in the Pac when it comes to recruiting: looking up at Oregon and USC (and their 3 recruiting-peer schools in the B1G) and looking down at just about everyone else. In Pac recruiting, Stanford or Utah usually hovered not too far from the Huskies, but just a bit little below, and that’s about where Nebraska fits into the B1G recruiting landscape.

Frankly, I’m as surprised as you are that Nebraska recruits this well, considering how abysmal their on-field product has been for most of the past decade. For a school with their epic tradition, they’ve had ONE winning season since 2014, and their only bowl win came in 2015, when they went to the Foster Farms Bowl as a 5-7 team, winning to finish 6-7. That Nebraska name still seems to carry some cachet, though, because recruits keep coming.

Tier 3

Maryland: B1G 8.5, Nat 31, Pts 211.64

Michigan State: B1G 10, Nat 31.5, Pts 217.74

Another surprise to me is how well Maryland has recruited. They’ve been almost as bad as Nebraska, with their only winning seasons since 2014 being the past two years at 7-6 and 8-5, but they’ve been able to bring in some pretty good players. Michigan State has been up and down on the field, with great seasons and terrible ones, but also brings in solid classes.

Tier 4

UCLA: B1G 10.5, Nat 35, Pts 207.25

Wisconsin: B1G 10.5, Nat 36, Pts 209.09

Iowa: B1G 11.5, Nat 37.5, Pts 204.1

Here comes our final Pac-to-B1G school, and unsurprisingly it’s UCLA, one of those “does less with more” schools like Texas A&M that just never seems to add up to be more than the sum of its parts. They should be better at everything but they’re just not. They’re kind of a funny counterpoint to Iowa and Wisconsin, which are the exact opposite, seemingly always doing more with less. They get decent classes, though rarely exceptional. Wisconsin’s #16 class in 2021 and Iowa’s #24 class the same year are the only time that either school cracked the top 25 in the recruiting rankings, but they’ve made hay with success on the field with identical 51-23 records (.689 winning percentage) over those 6 years. UCLA twice pulled in top 25 classes but limped to a pathetic 33-36 (.478) over the same span.

Note: Just from reading the chatter, I get the sense that this is around the level that people emotionally feel (or worry) that the Huskies are going to land in the B1G when it comes to recruiting, but past history suggests that’s probably not going to be the case.

Tier 5

Minnesota: B1G 12.5, Nat 41.5, Pts 200.28

Purdue: B1G 12.5, Nat 45, Pts 197.36

Here’s where it feels like we really start to take a step down in terms of success. These are schools that are not bad but just kind of churn along in mediocrity, pulling an upset or two here and there and occasionally collapsing into badness but never really seriously threatening for an NY6 bowl and beyond. Purdue managed to eke out a B1G West division title last year at 8-4, got crushed by Michigan in the B1G title game, and then disintegrated by LSU 63-7 in the Citrus Bowl to finish 8-6. Their last NY6 bowl was with Drew Brees in 2001 and we all know how that turned out, and they’ve literally had one 10-win season in their history, in 1979. Minnesota managed an 11-2 Outback Bowl season in 2019 but the last time before that they finished ranked was in 2003 and their last NY6 bowl game was the Rose Bowl in 1961. Still, their recruiting is a clear step above the bottom tier.

Tier 6

Northwestern: B1G 14.5, Nat 49, Pts 191.15

Indiana: B1G 14.5, Nat 52.5, Pts 186.05

Rutgers: B1G 15.5, Nat 56.5, Pts 187.32

Illinois: B1G 16.5, Nat 55, Pts 186.33

At first I was going to split these into two bottom and super-bottom tiers, but this point why bother. These four are clearly the dregs of the conference in recruiting. Almost every last last, second-to-last, and third-to-last finish in the B1G rankings comes from this group. The only year any of these four teams finished higher than 11th-best in the B1G was 2022 (Rutgers 9th and Indiana 6th). Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the aberration year where the three worst classes in the future B1G group were from UCLA, USC, and Washington. It was a weird year.


That’s hard to say for sure, because there are a lot of unknowns:

  • Will moving to the B1G improve national recruiting? It definitely can’t hurt. Bigger conference with vastly more eyes on us, exposing more people to the product than ever before, games with higher national profile, having a national network invested in promoting rather than slagging on our brand (hello, cupcakes). We have coaches with roots and experience in the Midwest and South. KDB has suggested the B1G move won’t massively change our recruiting strategy, but there’s a clear path to getting some more talent from outside the area to come our way.
  • Will moving to the B1G improve local recruiting (especially in Washington, but on the West Coast in general)? Again, probably. Big schools will continue to fish for top West Coast and WA talent, but the “I want to be on national TV/in big games/in a big-time conference” lever will tilt more in our favor now than it has recently (and definitely more than it would have with a theoretical streaming-only/heavy deal). Is it enough to keep the top local talent home? We’ll see, but it’s at least another finger on the scale in WA’s favor.
  • Can KDB and staff (including Courtney Morgan) recruit at the top level? That remains to be seen. The transition year after the Lake implosion was a recruiting disaster, at least in terms of rankings. Maybe those players will turn out to all be great diamonds in the rough, but it was a rough start. Last year’s class was very good. Not top-level good, but good, solid building blocks. This year has been decent but a step down so far from last year. What has been stopping them from getting/keeping their top targets to commit and stay committed, and more importantly is it something they can improve?
  • Will the move to the B1G push UW to boost its NIL? Maybe. It seems like we’ve mostly been sitting out the bidding war for tip-top stars. More money coming in might change our strategy or it might not. If this is the permanent new reality, UW can either play the game or not. They’ve already pushed their chips into the money table by moving to the B1G. To me, it feels like “in for a penny, in for a pound,” so they may as well get all the way in rather than half-stepping it. The staff may disagree. For now, they’ve been focusing NIL on guys who have shown up and already proven they can get it done (i.e., talent retention) rather than placing bets on future stars (talent acquisition). That’s definitely a safer investment and fortifies your program against players getting poached, so a good defensive strategy, but I think you may have to play some offense in that game as well.
  • How do we rate transfers vs. HS/JC recruits? That’s a good question. KDB has definitely expressed a preference for leaning into the transfer portal to get already-developed guys at the starter and depth levels. Again, it’s a safer play, because (generally, at UW’s level of transfer portaling) you’re finding guys who have already had success. I don’t know an easy way to rank portal “plus/minus,” but Max has done a lot of study on that. It feels like UW has lost very few guys who were more than JAGs (Laiatu Latu, Puka Nacua, and Jackson Sirmon were easily the best of those who left) while acquiring major contributors, so again, that strategy is working well. The question is whether we can combine savvy portal acquisitions, strong NIL to keep our best players here rather than jumping ship, and yet still bring in a higher grade of HS recruits.

Those are all questions we really don’t know the answer to yet, so the next year or two is going to be very interesting as we see how this whole thing plays out. The one thing we definitely can say, however, is that unless UW sinks well below its recent level of recruiting, we are very well positioned for success in the B1G.

We are clearly a step below the top-recruiting programs right now. Maybe we can catch up. Maybe we can’t. But we’re definitely right behind them in that next tier, and well ahead of other B1G programs that have managed considerable success in the conference. More to the point, we’re close enough in terms of recruiting talent that we’re still in the ballgame. This isn’t some David and Goliath situation where we’re just hoping and praying for a lucky shot to take down one of the big dogs. With worse recruiting classes than our UW, their UW went to 6 NY6 games in a 10-year span from 2010-2019. If we can maintain or improve our recruiting that we’re already doing with more money, more exposure, and a bigger budget, there’s no reason the Huskies can’t thrive in the B1G in recruiting and on the field.

Go Huskies!