Editor’s Note: We know that asking whether Texas A&M is underachieving just three weeks removed from losing to Appalachian State is remarkably poor timing, but this is analysis at a macro level over several years, which isn’t discounted by one game’s result (no matter how embarrassingly bad that one game was).
Texas A&M’s recruiting is in the news once again after the somewhat surprising commitment of the nation’s top defensive linemen, David Hicks, and much of the public discourse following that commitment seemed to fall into two buckets:
- The Aggies are cheating (we aren’t even going to address that one)
- It doesn’t matter, they’ll continue to underachieve
Referring to A&M as a perennial 8-4 team has become a common refrain on social media, and let’s be honest, not a completely unfair one. But how much has A&M actually underachieved relative to the talent they have brought in during Jimbo Fisher’s tenure? Before we dive into any numbers, let’s do some level-setting:
- For this exercise, I limited the scope to the SEC, both with regard to recruiting ranking as well as total wins. This felt like the most objective approach given that A) you often have a “top 10” recruiting class nationally that may only be 5th best in the SEC, and B) The SEC is who we play on an annual basis, so it provides a more comparable data set than trying to compare wins in the SEC to those in the Pac 12 or other conferences.
- I did not include either the 2022 recruiting class or results from the 2022 season, because it felt silly to include results when most teams have only played one conference game so far.
First, let’s take a look at how SEC teams have recruited. Not surprisingly, the answer is “quite well.”
SEC Recruiting Class Scores (2018-2021)
As this table illustrates, as well as A&M has recruited undo Jimbo Fisher, there’s still a significant gap between Bama/Georgia and the rest of the conference, with both of those programs averaging well north of 300 points per recruiting class. If you want to create a second tier, it’s LSU, A&M, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee, all in the 240-280 point range. You then see a significant drop off to South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Kentucky (all within 12 points of one aother), with Mizzou and Vandy bringing up the rear.
If you’re interested in how the 2022 class impact these rankings, the only change it makes is A&M moves ahead of LSU into the No. 3 spot (but still firmly behind Alabama and Georgia).
So now that we know how these teams have recruited relative to one another, how have they fared against one another on the football field?
SEC Conference Wins (2018-2021)
While we’re here, let’s highlight some of the other interesting tidbits from this chart. Most notably, let’s give deserved props to Kentucky (No. 12 in recruiting, No. 6 in wins) and Mizzou (No. 13 in recruiting, No. 8 in wins) for punching above their weight in a conference where it’s very difficult to do so (even if Missouri fans don’t feel like they’re doing well after last week’s bonkers loss to Auburn). There are no HUGE disparities in SEC teams underachieving relative to recruiting rankings. South Carolina does have the biggest drop (No. 8 in recruiting, No. 11 in wins), but most Gamecock fans will lay that blame on the shoulders of Will Muschamp and Mike Bobo rather than second year man Shane Beamer. The same can be said for Arkansas, who is No. 11 in recruiting and No. 13 in wins thanks in no small part to Chad Morris’ two winless SEC seasons in 2018 and 2019.
But back to the Ags. As this table shows, since Jimbo Fisher was hired at A&M, the Aggies are fourth in the SEC in recruiting, but tied for third in conference wins. While that’s hardly a massive overachievement, and A&M fans hope the trajectory goes up from here, the data also paints a very different picture than the public perception that this team has wasted talent or failed to live up to what expectations should have been. The Aggies have recruited as good as any SEC team not named Alabama or Georgia, and in turn, have won as much as any SEC team not named Alabama or Georgia. So in conclusion: