Let's face it, you're not going to find a bunch of underachievers at Stanford. So it makes sense that Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders dubbed the Cardinal one of five recruiting overachievers over the last few years.
Fremeau looked at the last five seasons and compared teams with higher-rated recruiting classes against the rest of the field. Interestingly enough, teams with the "better" recruiting classes won 67 percent of the time. But five teams with less heralded recruits bucked that trend. Stanford being one of them.
Writes Fremeau: The Cardinal lead all teams in victories (29 wins since 2007) over the last five seasons in games in which they had a recruiting disadvantage. Of those 29 wins, 22 have come in the last three seasons with quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm. Luck was a highly touted quarterback coming out of high school (he ranked seventh among QBs nationally and 61st overall in the ESPNU 150), and he's the most significant reason for Stanford's meteoric rise over the last few years.
But former coach Jim Harbaugh also developed unheralded talent to build the program, and current head coach David Shaw kept that train rolling this past season. The recent success has helped Stanford produce several of its strongest recruiting classes in the last few seasons, but once Luck departs, will that overachieving tradition depart, too? Stanford will continue to play annual games against the Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, along with several other Pac-12 foes, in which it will have a decided disadvantage in terms of recruiting ratings.
The other four teams to make Fremeau's list are Cincinnati, Boise State, Baylor and Oregon State.
But that trend might be changing. The Cardinal have a Top 20 recruiting class in the works, headlined by three players on the ESPNU 150 list. They are still in the hunt for several big-name players -- including three of the nation's top prep offensive linemen. If the Cardinal can close the deal on some of those players in the next week, it could propel them into a Top 15, maybe even Top 10 class. This year's group is already on pace to be one of the top classes in school history.