Jimbo Fisher signed the most talented class ever, which means the 'championship or bust' clock starts ticking
The hay is in the barn.
Yes, that pun was intended. After all, Jimbo Fisher has ranch-es.
The “hay” is the No. 1 recruiting class in the 247sports rankings era, which is essentially the 21st century. The “barn” is College Station, where Fisher herded more cattle in 1 class than any coach ever, and not without ruffling some feathers along the way.
(I don’t really think recruits are “cattle.” I just ran with the farming metaphor.)
It’s now irrelevant what Lane Kiffin, a Notre Dame vice president and “Sliced Bread” think about how Fisher landed said class. What’s much more relevant is the championship-or-bust expectations that are now on the table.
And to be fair, they were probably on the table the second that A&M gave Fisher, AKA the coach on a fully guaranteed $75 million contract (at the time), a plaque with a TBD date on that first national championship.
A&M now has the top recruiting class ever in the 247sports composite:
1. Texas A&M 2022
2. Alabama 2021
3. Florida 2010
4. Alabama 2017
5. Georgia 2018
Those 2017 Bama & 2018 UGA classes won a natty in Year 4.
So go ahead and etch in “2025” on this bad boy. pic.twitter.com/nAnSfu2Vn7
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) February 2, 2022
That tweet was thrown out there a bit tongue in cheek. Am I actually guaranteeing that A&M will win it all in 2025? Of course not. But it is telling that I had plenty of A&M fans comment on that post with something like “actually, 2024 seems fair.”
What’s totally fair? Saying that Fisher’s time in College Station will be defined by whether he can win it all.
If you think the 8-4 jokes are loud now, guess what. They’ll be heard tenfold as long as the championship drought continues. That target has never been bigger.
The good news for A&M is that history is on its side. It’d be stunning to see Alabama fail to win a title in the next 3 years, and that 2021 class at least played in a national championship. So of those 5 teams, 3 already played in a title game. Obviously, A&M’s 2022 class hasn’t had the opportunity to do so yet.
Florida’s 2010 class is the outlier, of course, because it was Urban Meyer’s last recruiting class in Gainesville. Going through a coaching change should put an asterisk on the 2010 class’ future success. By the way, that group still helped Florida to a top-10 finish in Year 3.
Nobody will pat A&M on the back if its 2022 class’ top achievement is earning 1 top-10 finish. Then again, this group shouldn’t have to worry about a change at head coach. Fisher ain’t going anywhere. Remember, ranch-es.
So let’s dig a little deeper into that. If you want to extend those historic classes out to 6-10, here’s what it would look like (based on the 247sports team rankings):
- Texas A&M 2022 (330.61)
- Alabama 2021 (327.76)
- Florida 2010 (324.62)
- Alabama 2017 (323.87)
- Georgia 2018 (323.31)
- Alabama 2022 (322.29)
- Ohio State 2021 (321.68)
- Alabama 2014 (319.71)
- Alabama 2013 (319.50)
- Alabama 2019 (317.50)
That’s sort of tough to judge the “title or bust” association because 6 of those 10 classes were from Alabama, where the words “title or bust” are heard about as often as an “a’ight” in a Nick Saban press conference. We can apply that same school of thought to evaluating the No. 1 classes of the past decade-plus, all but 3 of which belong to Alabama.
For the rest of this discussion, we’re going to leave out Alabama. Call it “Bama fatigue” if you wish. I call it “too hard to do an exercise because they aren’t a realistic standard for anyone.”
A&M just put together its 4th consecutive top-10 class. That’s a good place to start. I went back to 2010 and found all the programs that had a streak of at least 4 consecutive top-10 classes during the decade (2010-19):
- Alabama, 10 (2010-19)
- Ohio State, 8 (2011-18)
- Georgia, 6 (2014-19)
- USC, 5 (2014-18)
- LSU, 5 (2013-17)
- Auburn, 5 (2013-17)
- Florida State, 4 (2014-17)
That’s it. Only 7 programs accomplished that feat during the 2010s. USC was the only team listed in that group that didn’t even play for a national championship in the 2010s. Go figure that Auburn’s national championship appearance came when that streak began in 2013, while Fisher’s streak at Florida State started right after it played for a title at the end of the 2013 season.
You might be able to make a case that Ohio State was the most disappointing team of that group. Despite the 8 consecutive top-10 classes, it only played in 1 title game during the 2010s. Then again, Ohio State did at least reach the title game in 2020. That’s pretty much the same as Georgia, which actually has an active streak of 9 consecutive top-10 classes and if you include the 2021 title, it played in 2 championship games and won 1 of them. That’s pretty much the same for LSU — 1 title game loss, 1 win since 2010.
Of that group of 7, USC, Auburn and Florida State are the programs that really didn’t have anything to show for their top-10 class streak.
Sure, USC won a Rose Bowl in 2016. It still didn’t make a Playoff and it ponied up a reported 9-figure salary to a new coach.
Sure, Auburn won a division title in 2017. It still didn’t make a Playoff, either, and it ponied up a $23 million buyout to make a coach go away.
And sure, Florida State made the Playoff in 2014. It got blown out in the semifinal and never got back to that level with Fisher or without him … and it paid a $17 million buyout to a coach who couldn’t finish Year 2.
That brings us back to Mr. Ranch-es himself.
So far, every No. 1 class of the Playoff era played at least some part in reaching a championship game. Granted, all of those classes were from Alabama and Georgia (the Dawgs had that title in 2018 and 2020 while the Tide finished No. 1 in the rest of those pre-2022 classes). This is the first time since 2010 Florida that the No. 1 class went to someone not named “Nick Saban” or “Kirby Smart.”
As Fisher fought back against the notion that his program cut a $30 million check to make history, he delivered some words that’ll follow him the next 3 years.
“You don’t like that we’re coming on? Get used to it. We ain’t going nowhere.”
Your time starts now, Mr. Ranch-es.