Obviously the experts don't really know anything when it comes to forecasting athletic achievement. (If they did, these professional experts would not have gone 20-46-12 against the NFL spreads this week, these six professional experts would not have unanimously agreed the Pats would beat the Broncos, and Peter King (5-6-2) would not have done worse against the spread than this guy's randomly generated numbers (6-5-2).)
Anyhow, my focus here is not on expert predictions against the NFL spread, which are impossible, but expert ratings of high school football talent, which should be less impossible, theoretically.
After heavy chatter on Maryland message boards the past few weeks about a football team that wasn't (isn't?) living up to its increasingly strong recruiting rankings, I did some quick checking, based on the number of Rivals.com gold stars given to prep players before they arrived on campus. The 22 starting players Maryland trotted out against West Virginia two weeks ago had a total of 67 gold stars (out of 110), meaning each starter had an average of 3.05 gold stars. The 22 starting players West Virginia trotted out had a total of 46 gold stars, meaning each starter had an average of 2.09 gold stars. Riding the strength of nearly one extra gold star per starter, Maryland trailed by 28 points at the end of the first quarter.
(The scattering of walk-ons and players I couldn't find in the database were awarded one gold star each, in what I thought was an extremely generous move.)
By way of comparison, the Ohio State starting 22 from this past weekend had a total of 76 gold Rivals stars, for an average of 3.45 per starter. But the Ohio State defense had just 33 gold stars, no match for Maryland's 35. (Ohio State's scoring defense is seventh in the country, Maryland's is 54th.)
Also, such data notwithstanding, you can bet that 400 million people will stare at Rivals.com on signing day, clicking refresh maniacally in an effort to see whether State U's signing class receives more purty gold stars than U State's.