Ohio State continues to raise the bar around the Big Ten when it comes to recruiting. Not only are the Buckeyes signing some of the top recruiting classes in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes develop that talent and produce wins on the field to compete for national championships. What Urban Meyer started, Ryan Day has continued in Columbus. After Ohio State reached the national championship game, the Buckeyes followed that up with the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Don't look now, but Ohio State is already setting the pace for the Class of 2022 as well!
While Ohio State continues to see big results on the field and on the recruiting trail, the rest of the Big Ten has been fun to watch on a yearly basis as well. But which coaches are seeing some of their initial success start to fade? What coaches could be setting themselves up for a pivotal season? And which programs are in need of some juice to revive their program? The Big Ten has a little bit of everything going on.
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for Big Ten schools over the last five (2017-21) classes according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings and each team's record over the last five (2016-20) seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account attrition but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Rosters in 2021
Stop me if you've heard this before...
... but Ohio State continues to easily out-pace its Big Ten cohorts. The Buckeyes just signed a third top-two recruiting class in the five-year window we are paying attention to. With classes like this, it is easy to see why Ohio State firmly remains the team to beat in the Big Ten and why they should be considered a perennial playoff contender capable of challenging for a national title in the years to come.
Another fine effort from Michigan
When it comes to the Wolverines, the struggle has been putting it all together on the field. The recruiting rankings show Jim Harbaugh and Michigan know a thing or two about signing quality players. But can they get over some of the hurdles that have tripped them up once the games come into play? Michigan should be posted to have plenty of talent to win games. Will it be enough to win the most important games?
Wisconsin separating itself in the West?
Few programs in the Big Ten West have been as consistent as Wisconsin. Paul Chryst is starting to pull some big-time recruits in recent years with quarterback Graham Mertz in 2019 and offensive tackle Nolan Rucci in 2021. Wisconsin signed one of its best recruiting classes in years in 2021.
Reason for concern in Happy Valley?
A quick glance at the national recruiting rankings for James Franklin would seem to suggest Penn State is trending in the wrong direction on the trail. Penn State's national recruiting ranking has dipped each of the past three years, with the Class of 2021 being the lowest-ranked class in the timespan covered. However, Penn State's most recent recruiting class ranked lower in part due to being a smaller size (16 commits) to begin with. Quality over quantity? We'll see.
Seriously, can Nebraska put it all together now?
If you are wondering why there is frustration with Nebraska, take a look at the recruiting rankings. Prior to hiring Scott Frost and since he has run the show in Lincoln, Nebraska has signed the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten West four consecutive years before Wisconsin passed the Cornhuskers this year. If you trust the recruiting rankings, then there is reason to believe Nebraska has what it takes to be far more competitive in the Big Ten West than it has been.
Pat Fitzgerald working magic in Evanston
Northwestern is rarely going to out-recruit any program in the Big Ten, which is understandable. That's why the Wildcats going to two Big Ten Championship Games in three years and putting together a record both overall and in conference play that's 11 games above .500 with the 11th-ranked cumulative recruiting average among their peers is incredible.
Trending up, trending down
The Maryland Terrapins continue to be inching their way up the Big Ten talent pool. This was expected with the hiring of Mike Locksley, a strong recruiter. Maryland's slight rise comes at a time Michigan State has taken a few steps back. The last two recruiting classes for the Spartans have dipped into the 40s, with the last top-25 recruiting class coming in 2016. Meanwhile, Maryland's 2021 crop checks in fourth in the conference.
Podcast: Ranking the Rosters, Trends and Signing Day Recap