If your hypothesis is that Ohio State football has distanced itself from Michigan football, all you’d really need to prove it is the scoreboard since 2001. Even more recently, the Buckeyes have won eight in a row over the Wolverines, with the last two getting very out of hand.
The concerning thing for the Michigan football program, however, is that if you look at the compositions of both teams right now, the recruiting rankings tell us that things won’t be reversing course any time soon.
(This is the part where some will say that recruiting rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all, and I respond with “Well, sure, but recruiting pretty much is.” Over the last five years, here are the top two recruiting classes for each cycle: 2016 Alabama, LSU; 2017 Alabama, Ohio State; 2018 Georgia, Ohio State; 2019 Alabama, Georgia; 2020 Georgia, Alabama.)
If recruiting wasn’t so important, schools wouldn’t spend so much time and money on it.
So over the next few days, I’m going to spend some time examining just how much Ohio State has been distancing itself from Michigan in that regard. Here’s a spoiler — it’s much more than the recommended six feet.
We’ll compare the two schools position by position, but we’ll do it how it will actually matter on the field.
We’ll go offensive line vs. defensive line, passing game vs. secondary, running backs vs. linebackers.
And just for fun, every now and again, we’ll throw Penn State in there because not only has Michigan fallen behind Ohio State, but they’re also in danger of falling behind the Nittany Lions.
Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh is currently 3-2 against James Franklin and Penn State, but just 1-2 in the last three contests. The game this year will take place in Ann Arbor, which helps, but there are reasons for concern here.
Well, I took each team’s current scholarship roster and plugged in the composite recruiting rankings for each player, including their overall national rank and position rank.
If you went into this exercise believing that Ohio State has been more successful on the recruiting trail over the last four or five years, give yourself a slight pat on the back.
But when it comes to all of the difference between the Buckeyes vs. the Wolverines, the results are shocking.
First, a tiny caveat, each roster is still over their allotted limit of 85 scholarships, but only by a couple, so these numbers will dip by one or two depending on who comes and who goes before the season begins.
Plus, we all know the difficulty in getting an accurate roster from Michigan. It normally takes an act of Congress, but they’re pretty busy right now, so I didn’t feel like bothering them.
And also, there may be one or two other data entry errors here and there simply because it was me doing it, but the picture being painted is still quite clear.
First, let’s talk about the number of Top 100 players on each team. Sure, stopping at 100 might seem arbitrary, but that’s a societal thing, not a me thing.
Ohio State currently has 33 Top 100 players on its roster.
Michigan has five.
The good news is that three of those five were freshmen last year. The bad news is that none of them are from the incoming 2020 class.
Some worse news — Ohio State currently has nine Top 100 commits in the 2021 class. Michigan has two, though that’s their entire class at the moment.
The Wolverines have as many scholarship position players who ranked outside the top 1,000 as they do who finished in the Top 100.
Now, one of them is receiver Ronnie Bell, who caught 48 passes for 758 yards and a touchdown last season, so recruiting rankings aren’t infallible (which has never been argued). That was a great job of evaluation, but a rare one.
Oh, and I almost forgot — remember me mentioning Penn State possibly overtaking Michigan?
James Franklin currently has 15 Top 100 players on his roster. Three times more than Jim Harbaugh.
However, Michigan has 23 players in the top 200 and Penn State has 22, so maybe all hope isn’t lost just quite yet.
Ohio State has more than the both of them combined, with 47 top 200 players on the roster.
By the way, remember when I mentioned that Ohio State has 33 players who were ranked in the Top 100? The rest of the Big Ten — including Michigan and Penn State — has 31.
But sometimes you can have some of the top players at their respective positions in a given class but for any number of reasons they aren’t ranked in the Top 100.
The numbers are still skewed there as well, however.
Of the Buckeyes’ current roster of ~86 players, 41 of them ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions.
Of the Wolverines’ current roster of ~86 players, 19 of them ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions.
Of the Nittany Lions’ current roster of ~88 players, 26 of them ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions.
When you look at the number of players who ranked in the top two of their respective positions, things are even more distant.
Ohio State has 21 players who ranked in the top two, and nine were ranked the No. 1 player at their respective positions.
Michigan has two players who ranked in the top two, and one of them is kicker Quinn Nordin. Penn State has three top two players.
Just 15 players on OSU’s roster ranked outside the top 500. That number grows to 26 for Michigan and 28 for Penn State.
So that’s the big picture for where things stand for the current rosters of Ohio State and Michigan. It undoubtedly confirms what many already knew, but it’s still a stark example of the distancing that has taken place between the two rivals.
We will continue this series over the coming days with a look at the positional matchups this season, and there will no doubt be some contrasts there as well.