Michigan and Ohio State are both expect to sign Top 5 recruiting classes this year, and some are expecting the two schools to dominate the conference for the foreseeable future as a result. Should we be scared?
Did you hear? Michigan and Ohio State are amassing obscene levels of high school talent, and are about to embark on a run of dominance harkening back to the 1970s when those two schools were competing for conference titles on the regular and the rest of us weren't. The "Second 10-Year War" they're calling it.
Stewart Mandel and Eleven Warriors said something similiar, too. The argument goes that recruiting under Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer has been so far above anyone else in the conference this year and last, and will continue to be assuming those coaches aren't going anywhere, that anyone other than the Wolverines or the Buckeyes will have little chance of going to Pasadena (or the playoffs, whatever).
Of course, those two schools have been outpacing the rest of the conference in terms of recruiting rankings for a while, and Wisconsin has been pretty good at winning games lately, regardless. What makes now any different? Michael Bird has a chart:
To answer the question, we should take a look at the ratios of Michigan/Ohio State blue chip recruits (defined as recruits who got four- or five-star ratings; for ease of reference, we'll use Phil Steele's term: VHT [short for "Very Highly Touted]) to those of the rest of the conference over time. Rivals' database goes back to 2002, so we can use that as our measuring stick. We will include Nebraska for the entire time period even though they are a recent addition to the league, because that provides the best snapshot as to the state of the conference going forward. Here are the ratios:
Year Michigan VHTs Ohio State VHTs Rest of B1G VHTs Ratio 2013 17 14 23 1.34 2012 12 16 22 1.27 2011 6 10 27 0.59 2010 6 8 33 0.29 2009 14 17 41 0.75 2008 17 13 25 1.20 2007 7 12 39 0.48 2006 11 10 40 0.53 2005 11 10 36 0.58 2004 13 10 20 1.15 2003 13 7 24 0.83 2002 12 17 31 0.93
The argument is compelling. Michigan and Ohio State have picked up a more disproportionate ratio of highly-touted prospects in each of the last two years than in any of the previous 10 years. The only and obvious response to the notion that no one else in the conference will be able to compete is "we'll see."
We shouldn't be quivering any more than before. Wisconsin is maintaining it's usual level of success on the recruiting trail. While that's not particularly good on paper, regular on-field success for 20 years (minus a few hiccups) suggests that the Badgers aren't going to go away as long as they have Midwestern offensive linemen and a highly-touted running back or two. With coaching continuity, recruiting may pick up -- 2014 is already off to a good start -- and it doesn't hurt that Wisconsin has actual depth and talent at quarterback for the foreseeable future. The Badgers, at least, appear to be fine.
Divisional realignment may also loosen the potential Michigan/Ohio State headlock on the conference. If the two are placed in the same division, it will guarantee someone else a one-game shot at the conference title every year. Those two teams have historically been the most successful teams in the conference. It'd be wrong to say that it wouldn't be nice to be placed on the opposite side of the ledger. Among seven teams, there is bound to be a respectable challenger more often than not, however.
The Big Ten is about to become a very interesting place, with more teams, new divisions and two programs seemingly running away with all of the good players. And yet, Wisconsin looks like it always has, and that has been just fine. It may be fun to portend the end of a competitive Big Ten, but bear in mind that the 10-year War ended in 1978. Why should we expect Michigan and Ohio State to lord over the conference when they haven't done so in 30 years?
Oh come on Penn State AD:
"When the Leaders and Legends were first announced, people were like, 'What the heck does that mean?'" said Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. "I think people are starting to learn it, though. ... I don't hear much from fans writing in and saying, 'You've got to change the names now,' or anything like that."
PEOPLE COMPLAINING LESS DOES NOT MEAN THE THING IS GOOD. CHANGE THE DING DANG NAME CRIPES.
Hoegher looks at the medium-ish good teams of the Big Ten by Hoegher, including Wisconsin. It kind of sucks when your starting quarterback breaks his collarbone.
Wrapping up: Dear goodness Illinois, what have you done?