It's not some hidden secret that the Michigan Wolverines have always recruited the state of Ohio well, plucking some of the most talented athletes from the Buckeye State and having them star in Ann Arbor.
There is a long history between the Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, but now "The Team Up North" has the chance to stoke another fire with a program from its southern neighbor—the Cincinnati Bearcats, who recently agreed to play a home-and-home series with Michigan starting in 2017 (one football game is scheduled at this point; home-and-home for basketball).
The obvious winner in this meeting is Cincinnati, which will reportedly receive $1.2 million for making the trip to The Big House in 2017. However, both programs will reap the benefits from another version of the Michigan versus Ohio saga.
Of course, the Bearcats-Wolverines duel won't trump the Buckeyes-Wolverines series, but it will add to Michigan's healthy and competitive dislike for the Birthplace of Aviation (or the Mother of Presidents or Heart of it All—depends on how you want to refer to Ohio).
How it Will Impact Recruiting
For Ohioans passed up by the Buckeyes, joining the Bearcats may be the next best thing. Cincinnati doesn't pack the power of Ohio State, but the Big East program has had recent success on the football field.
Let's say that an athlete debates on where to go, and let's say that the athlete grew up watching Michigan-Ohio State—of course he'd want a piece of the action, a chance to play Michigan whether he's wearing scarlet and gray or the Bearcats' black and red.
Cincinnati's meetings with the Wolverines will provide some sort of taste of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry for those players, even if it's not as heated. The Bearcats will benefit; their program will undoubtedly see an increase in interest from in-state talent, too.
The Wolverines may not benefit greatly when it comes to football recruiting, but they could attract two-sport athletes from Ohio who want to see the Bearcats on the court. The previously mentioned agreement between Michigan and Cincinnati applies to basketball as well.
Being looked past by an in-state program usually fuels athletes' desire to perform. Imagine this scenario: A two-sport prep stud from Ohio would be granted the opportunity to not only play for Michigan, one of the nation's most prestigious institutions, but he'd have a shot at playing former foes and teammates in football and basketball.
That's a win-win for each school, no matter how it's sliced.
Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock explains (via CBS Sports) how his program will grow because of its set-up with Michigan. But it's also important to look at this from a Michigan perspective: Having fans make the trip to Ann Arbor could essentially turn Ohioans who root for the Bearcats or Buckeyes into Michigan fans.The Big House has an aura of history—so who wouldn't want to play there?
It is ideally our preference to sign home and home nonconference games. However, the chance for our fans to have a relatively short drive to see us play a great opponent, plus the men's basketball scheduling component above and beyond the single football game in Ann Arbor, made it a good one-off decision for us. I want to thank Deputy Director of Athletics Bob Arkeilpane for his creativity in getting this deal done from our side and to thank Michigan's Dave Brandon and his administrative team for their collaboration. We will continue to look at the best scheduling opportunities for UC moving forward and for the chance to promote the Bearcats on a national stage.
Could Michigan-Cincinnati Series Serve as a Preview of Future Big Ten Games?
Expansion is inevitable.
Superconferences are forming, and the Big Ten is certainly headed in that direction with the recent addition of Maryland and Rutgers.
Could Cincinnati be a candidate for the Big Ten? Is the home-and-series with Michigan a test, a way to gauge fans' interest in joining one of the NCAA's most well-rounded leagues? That thought has been entertained in recent years, but the Buckeyes reportedly weren't took keen on having the Bearcats join the Big Ten, according to an article published in 2010 by The Columbus Dispatch.
The Bearcats have games with Illinois and Purdue this fall, so it's possible that talks of Cincinnati joining the Big Ten will be a hot topic sooner than later.
Michigan Will Benefit by Playing Talented Nonconference Opponent
There won't be any more FCS teams on the docket. The quality of Michigan's nonconference resume will only improve now that it will face Cincinnati—at least for two years, that is. The Bearcats have contended for BCS bowl bids, and prior to leaving for Tennessee, coach Butch Jones established a program built on family—just like Michigan coach Brady Hoke has done in Ann Arbor..
Cincinnati has finished in the AP Top 25 in four of the past five seasons and has an offense that's among the most thrilling in all of college football. The Bearcats routinely have a high-tempo scoring attack and led the Big East in scoring in 2012 with a 34-point-per-game clip. They also led the league in rushing, averaging about 223 yards each outing.
There is cornucopia of reasons Michigan followers should be at least intrigued by the upcoming home-and-home sessions in football (and basketball) with the Bearcats. Cincinnati adds quality to Michigan's pre-Big Ten schedule, as mentioned above, and those in The Big House should be treated to a shootout in 2017.
And, obviously, it won't hurt Wolverines fans' feelings to have another school from Ohio to root against.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81