As national signing day approaches, all of the experts are busy ranking the recruiting classes that have already been put together. While the individual rankings vary a bit, what is obvious is that Ohio State and TTUN have put together classes that are among the best in the nation and are ranked much higher than everyone else in the Big Ten; Rivals has Ohio State ranked 3rd, Michigan ranked 8th and Nebraska as the next best conference team at 30th. This, along with Michigan’s success in Brady Hoke’s first season and Ohio State’s hiring of Urban Meyer, have lead numerous people in the media to ask whether we are about to see the Big Ten return to being the ‘Big 2 – Little 10′ like it was back when Woody and Bo roamed the sidelines; though to be correct back then it was the ‘Big 2 – Little 8.’
This seems like a preposterous question to ask at this point for several reasons, the biggest being that things have changed drastically since the days of Woody. The introduction of the 85 person scholarship limit and the revenue sharing and increased revenue from BTN and ESPN contracts have fundamentally changed and leveled the playing field. The scholarship limits prevent teams at the top from stockpiling talent like they used to while the increased money from tv contracts have allowed the rest of the conference to do a great job of improving their facilities so that the teams at the top no longer enjoy such a big advantage in those areas. The end result of this is that the gap we see in the recruiting rankings now is still a much smaller talent disparity than what existed back in the late 60s and the 70s.
The other factor that makes this seem like a ridiculous question is that it is based more on one recruiting class than on any on the field performance. While I understand that recruiting class rankings are important and they can be an indication of future success, recruits do not always pan out according to their rankings. There have been plenty of 5 star prospects that never live up to the hype and even more 2 and 3 star prospects that turned out to be All-Americans. While it is important to bring in highly ranked recruits, how those players develop over time are far more important. OSU and Michigan will likely do a fine job of developing their players but there are plenty of other Big Ten teams that have successful and player development. Wisconsin has a history of doing more with lower ranked recruiting classes, though they still end up choking in big games. Mark Dantonio at Michigan State has done a phenomenal job of identifying underrated talent and developing it.
If you look at one the field performance in recent years it is hard to see the conference being completely dominated by Ohio State and Michigan. Michigan State is an up and coming program that seems to have shaken off it’s reputation of finding spectacular ways to blow big games. Wisconsin continues to be a contender despite Brett Bielema and while Penn State will be down for a few years due to the scandal, they have too much tradition to stay down for long. And of course we can’t forget Nebraska who will likely be an annual contender, especially once they adjust their recruiting to focus on a Big Ten style of play rather than a Big 12 style. If we are to end up with a ‘Big 2 – Little 10′ conference my money is on it involving Ohio State and a team from that state up north, but my guess is it would be Michigan State and not Michigan.
Men’s Tennis Receives Honor
Sophomore tennis player Ille Van Engelen was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week, the first such honor of his career. Van Engelen won the honor after helping the #3 Ohio State tennis team defeat #29 Indiana 4-0 in the championship match of the 2012 ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The Buckeyes now will advance to the 2012 ITA National Team Indoor Championship which will take place in Charlottesville, VA on February 17-20.
Mixed Results on Ice
The men’s hockey team continues to struggle, loosing 1-0 to Lake Superior State last Friday before earning a tie on Saturday night, unfortunately the Buckeyes lost the shootout. After rising to #2 in the country, OSU has now gone winless in their last8 games.
The women’s hockey team had a better weekend, splitting the two game series against fifth ranked North Dakota. The Buckeyes won 6-2 on Friday before losing 5-2 on Saturday.