Clemson, Gamecocks joining elite

Clemson's recent recruiting success has the Tigers ready to move up in the college football hierarchy. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

No crystal footballs are awarded on national signing day, but that doesn't mean it isn't a significant date in the annual race for the BCS national championship -- or in the race for in-state rivalry supremacy, for that matter. The past two national champions, the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide, clashed head-to-head on Wednesday for several of the country's top prospects, relighting the Iron Bowl fuse in the dead of winter. But that wasn't the only in-state recruiting rivalry taking place that may have an impact on future championship battles.

Further east and flying a bit under the radar, the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks have potentially laid the groundwork to finally break through to the elite class of college football. This is not to say that we're making any bold predictions for South Carolina and/or Clemson earning BCS bowl berths in 2011, but consistent recruiting success has long been won exclusively by an elite cohort of programs -- and the Gamecocks' and Tigers' recent achievements on the trail have them on the doorstep of joining this exclusive club. There are also some early indications that four other on-the-rise programs could worm their way into college football's in-crowd based on their recruiting hauls of the past several years.