Shifting the national perception of the Big Ten

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State once again landed a top three recruiting class, but the Buckeyes need some help from around the conference to restore some perceived legitimacy to the Big Ten.

If you were hoping that 2014 would be the year that Ohio State football finally shakes the conference related slights seasonally lobbed their way, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It won't be.

Ohio State, unsurprisingly, turned in a top-three recruiting class by the close of business on National Signing Day. The rest of the Big Ten, to put it in the most general terms, did not. Ohio State landed eight of Rivals.com's top 100 prep players for this recruiting class. The rest of the Big Ten combined landed six of those top 100 players.

Urban Meyer has called for the Big Ten to step up their recruiting to raise the profile of the conference, and that cry seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The next-best Big Ten recruiting class is Michigan State, and their recruits place them 21st on the list. Penn State is just behind them at 24th.

The worst news for the Buckeyes comes from That Team Up North. That team usually features the strongest recruiting classes in the conference, other than the Buckeyes, and they have fallen off this year with a 31st-ranked recruiting class. Last year's recruiting class for That Team Up North ranked fifth in the nation.

There's such a huge gap between the Buckeyes' recruiting and the next Big Ten teams on the list, and it is a huge factor in the national perception of Ohio State's legitimacy. Ohio State has to play a slate of conference games, and those conference games hurt their overall strength of schedule.

There is one encouraging trend in Big Ten recruiting that would suggest that coaches around the conference are heeding Meyer's call. Teams are landing more recruits from the southeast, generally considered to be the home to a concentration of the better high school players in the country. Landing recruits from SEC teams' backyards isn't a bad thing.

Does the ranking of a recruiting class have a real-world impact on a team's performance? Matt Hinton at Football Study Hall illustrates effectively that it does. And while the elevation of recruiting around the Big Ten will make Ohio State's regular season road a more challenging one, it would also go a long way toward mitigating the negative national perception of the Buckeyes.

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