It’s not just a rivalry on the football field. Perhaps the greatest rivalry in college football, the disgust and animosity these two states feel for one another permeates all aspects of life. If an Ohio State fan beats a Michigan fan in a coin toss, said Buckeye will feel the almost the same level of pride and joy that is felt on those cold November afternoons when the scarlet and gray came out victorious. Almost.
But where the battle between these two great Universities is quickly heating up the fastest is on the recruiting trail. And it’s a battle that could potentially have implications for The Game.
Not much known about Brady Hoke when he accepted the Michigan, but Hoke has wisely leaned on his Ohio roots to build connections with Ohio high school coaches. In his own way, Hoke is developing a tenacious reputation as a recruiter himself. He is showing no fear of Urban Meyer and seems to be content to go toe to toe with the new man in charge in Columbus.
This past weekend Michigan hosted their annual Junior Day, always a big day for Wolverine recruiting. Nobody could have imagined what would happen, but Brady Hoke landed an astounding seven four star recruits, all ranked in Rivals’ top 200 for the Class of 2013. This insane recruiting haul in one weekend has the Wolverines setup to compete with Ohio State’s recruiting class right down to the wire this year.
Rivals’ Steve Megargee writes:
They’re putting together the types of classes that eventually could make the Big Ten race an annual Michigan vs. Ohio State tug-of-war once again. Michigan and Ohio State have combined to win 77 Big Ten titles – Minnesota ranks a distant third with 18 league championships – yet the Wolverines haven’t won even a share of the league crown since 2004.
While Ohio State placed third and Michigan seventh in the 2012 team recruiting rankings, Nebraska was next in the Big Ten at No. 25. No other Big Ten team finished in the top 30.
Although it is very early in the 2013 recruiting cycle, Michigan already has 10 four-star commitments and Ohio State has pledges from one five-star recruit and three four-star prospects. The other 10 Big Ten schools have a combined total of four verbal commitments for 2013.
Ohio State is off to a fine start themselves, with commitments from 5-star Jalin Marshall and 4-star prospects Cam Burrows, Billy Price, and Eli Woodard. With so much time left in the season, expect to see both schools aggressively pursuing some of the same players, leading to an off the field battle with on field implications in the future.
There certainly isn’t a 1-to-1 correlation between off field recruiting wins and gridiron wins on the field. That’s where the 2nd level of college coaching comes into play. Brady Hoke showed a certain calm and coolness on the sidelines last season in guiding Michigan out from the depths of a coaching change and into the spotlight of a BCS Bowl. He further added to his mantle of first season accomplishments a win over the Buckeyes, thus officially ending the
7 game 6 game losing streak.
You can feel the tide slowing shifting and the fortunes of the Wolverines slowly changing. No longer downtrodden, beaten down by their southern neighbors, and succumbing to the gloom of a misunderstood coach trying to change the culture and playing style of one of the most traditional programs in the land, Michigan is confident again and the arrogance is growing by the week.
Now it’s Ohio State’s turn to answer. Now it’s Urban Meyer who is tweaking the culture and playing style of a traditional school. Coming off a season of scandal, loss, melancholy, and confusion, it was Urban Meyer who reintroduced hope and life into the program. But when the shine of the new toy begins to fade and the luster of the rock star coach begins to wane, all that will be left behind will be the successes on the field.
This recruiting battle is just the subtext, a prelude to something bigger in the future, The Game. Neither coach will be defined or remembered by their recruiting successes or failures against one another. No, it will simply be when the two sides line up and the silver helmets collide with the maize and blue helmets into a colorful collage of history, nostalgia, and pride that the outcome will be revealed.
But if this recruiting battle is any indication, we could be in for another 10 Year War between the two Universities that love to hate each other more than anything. Nothing was more fun than Jim Tressel’s reign of terror in which he took 9 of 10 battles with Michigan. But nothing would mean more than a decade of furious battles for Big Ten crowns, for BCS Bowls, for National Championship berths, and most importantly, the pride and satisfaction of beating a truly worthy opponent.