The bright red square in the upper left-hand corner of today's Columbus Dispatch simply reads: "316 days until The Game."
Reminders like “Oh How I Hate Ohio State” and “Beat Michigan” are found throughout the campuses of both Big Ten schools.
Fans associated with the rivalry may claim to be interested in Big Ten or national titles, but let's not kid ourselves: winning "The Game" is all that really matters.
Just ask former Buckeye coach John Cooper who lost his job despite having a 111-43-4 record in 13 seasons. Cooper managed only a 2-10-1 record against the Wolverines. .
Aware of Cooper’s fate, the current coaching staffs are busy criss-crossing the nation, trying to acquire the last few pieces of the 2013 recruiting class.
Most of the players will make their binding commitments on National Signing Day, February 6.
Heading into the final few weeks, both Michigan (ranked No. 1 by Scout.com) and Ohio State (ranked No. 3) will finish with two of the top classes in the nation.
The recruiting success by either school shouldn't be a surprise. Head coach Brady Hoke’s first Michigan class a season ago finished No. 4, while Urban Meyer was reputed to be a great recruiter even before he took the Ohio State job just over a year ago.
He's also one of the nation’s top coaches. A native of Ohio, Meyer boasts a 116-23 lifetime mark, including a pair of national titles at Florida, and the 12-0 mark the Buckeyes recorded last season.
Meyer’s real challenge will come during the next few years, while Ohio State battles the sanctions dealt to them by the NCAA in 2011. Aside from missing out on a berth in the recent national championship game, Ohio State lost nine scholarships spread out over three seasons (2012-14).
Hoke, whose Michigan team is transitioning to the power-I offense, has been busy accumulating offensive linemen. Of the 26 commitments received thus far, 14 are offensive players and seven are offensive linemen. With Michigan’s offensive line being the Achilles heel of the team, this group can’t arrive fast enough. Even better, four of the six are rated among the nation’s top 10.
Michigan also recruited a solid quarterback in Shane Morris and a power back in Warren, Ohio’s Deveon Smith. Michigan’s offense could also receive another lift by acquiring the country’s No.1 running back, Derrick Green of Richmond, Virginia.
A rare combination of speed and power, Green (5’11”, 220 lbs) narrowed his choices down to Michigan, Tennessee, Miami (FL), Auburn and Florida State. Green, who is leaning toward Michigan according to Scout.com, will make his decision February 26.
Despite the loss of 5-star WR Laquon Treadwell to Ole Miss, Michigan has its sights on only a few more prospects. The Wolverines could obtain their seventh offensive lineman if California commit Cameron Hunt comes aboard.
Hoke is also interested in Belton, TX tight end Durham Smythe, even though a pair of tight ends, Jake Butt and Khaled Hill, have already committed.
Ohio State is not without some fine recruits of its own. Probably its best commitment is 5-star middle linebacker Mike Mitchell of Plano, Texas. Mitchell, who had 186 tackles as a senior and can run the 40 in 4.39, could follow in the footsteps of outstanding Buckeye middle linebackers Chris Spielman Tom Cousineau and A.J. Hawk.
The Buckeyes have other potential stars scattered on both sides of the ball. Joey Bosa is a 5-star defensive end and Jalin Marshall is a 5-star wide receiver who played quarterback at high school in Middletown, Ohio.
Ohio State’s most intriguing recruit is outstanding cornerback Gareon Conley, a Michigan commit before jumping ship in December.
With 22 total commitments, Ohio State still has room to add a few more before signing day.
Not only is Coach Meyer interested in 5-star safety Vonn Bell from Rossville (Ga.), he’s also in line to “flip” the twins who were originally committed to Oregon, Tyrell and Tyree Robinson.
Meyer also has his eyes on Oregon running back commit Dontre Wilson, who may also leave due to the departure of Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles.
While both sides may argue otherwise, it looks like this year’s recruiting battle may end up in a dead heat. Since the last few classes have been very similar, the next few games are sure to be competitive.
Note: All player rankings are via Scout.com.