One of the pleasant effects of the proliferation of college-ready football talent is how many more college football programs can field competitive programs on a year-in, year-out basis. There are always going to be powerhouses and doormats in the sport, of course, but those doormats usually aren't getting stepped on quite as badly, and (in the power conferences, anyway) they don't stay down forever. For example, 11 of the 12 Big Ten teams have been to a bowl in the last two years, and even lowly Indiana was in one as recently as 2007 and could be making a run in 2013.
Just as we predicted on Monday, though, there does appear to be a reforming delineation in the Big Ten—one reminiscent of the top-heavy 1950s, '60s and '70s where two programs effectively ruled the conference with an iron fist. That was, of course, Ohio State and Michigan, and if recent recruiting rankings are any indication, the unofficial nickname of the "Big Two" is back in effect around these parts.
Who had the better recruiting class?
According to 247Sports.com's composite ratings, Michigan and Ohio State combined for 38 4- and 5-star recruits in the 2013 recruiting class. That's 20 for Ohio State and 18 for Michigan—and here's your reminder to check out our in-depth breakdown of both of those classes by position.
That's a gargantuan difference. That's barely a level playing field. That's a Big Two and a Little Twelve going up against each other.
Even Urban Meyer notices the lopsided nature of this recruiting landscape, and on his weekly radio appearance, he said he's planning to do something about it.
Now, Penn State's sanctions hampered what would otherwise be a very good class (one that was still pretty decent, all things considered), and one hesitates to throw too much shade at the likes of Nebraska, who still recruited its way into the top 25 of 247Sports.com's national rankings. But there are 10 more schools in the Big Ten, and none of them are recruiting anywhere near what the average SEC team does, and there's no getting around that fact right now.
Of course, as we mentioned earlier, this is still a different era of football, and the proliferation of decent talent means that we're not going back to an era where Michigan and Ohio State are losing a combined two games a year (and one's in their annual rivalry). Again, this ain't the '60s.
But if the average team in the Big Ten is decidedly worse than the average team in the SEC and somewhere near the average ACC team in the recruiting rankings year after year, that has a long-term effect on the reputation of the league as a whole and the desirability for faraway recruits to leave their home area to come play here—or for local recruits stick around when a big-name, out-of-state school comes calling.
This is all scarcely bad news for Michigan and Ohio State, of course; if the poor recruiting reputations of most of the rest of the Big Ten affect the Big Two, it sure hasn't shown up in what Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer have accomplished so far. It probably won't in the near future either.
But it is bad news for Big Ten fans who happen to like a team outside that rivalry, because while upsets may happen and other teams may even contend for a division title here or there over the coming years, the only teams that are recruiting like they're here to win the Big Ten year after year are Michigan and Ohio State. And if the rest of the Big Ten doesn't step it up, all that'll be left are table scraps.