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Ohio State's recruiting far outpaces their rivals

There's not a perfect correlation between recruiting and winning, but it's nevertheless a strong predictor

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we've entered bowl-prep season, we can take a step back and look at the state of the Ohio State football program. Chris Ash has left for Rutgers (with other rumored staff movements ahead), the Buckeyes are getting ready for the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, and Urban Meyer and Mark Pantoni have a huge recruiting weekend ahead of them for the 2016 and 2017 classes.

Recruiting rankings don't perfectly correlate with success on the field, but they are some of the best predictors (along with last year's on-field performance). Look at Alabama and Ohio State's recent runs -- with steady and elite recruiting, the two teams have always been in contention for the Playoff, with Alabama making both and Ohio State missing out by a field goal to Michigan State and subsequent Big Ten Championship.

When you heard the media complaining about why Ohio State was ranked so highly despite not looking too impressive on the field, it had to do with those two variables -- last year's success and recruiting. It's not necessarily bias or a logical fallacy to use either of those two things to judge a team, as long as those opinions are also qualified by on-field performance.

Of course, the Buckeyes lost to a Spartan squad that vastly under-recruits relative to the Buckeyes. That's a testament first and foremost to the Spartans coaching staff and Mark Dantonio, both in their ability to identify overlooked talent and develop it, but also in their in-game management and strategizing. Second, it speaks to shortcomings in Ohio State's offensive gameplans and in-game coaching this season -- but that's another story.

In any case, it's important for the Buckeyes to continue their run of elite recruiting classes, and the coaching staff only has a few days left until a recruiting dead period. So how does Ohio State compare with its two primary rivals, Michigan and Michigan State, in the Big Ten in terms of overall talent levels and recruiting?

The top of the Big Ten in recruiting

School Year Blue Chip Blue Chip %
Ohio State 2016 14 78%
Ohio State 2015 14 56%
Ohio State 2014 16 70%
Ohio State 2013 20 87%
Michigan 2016 11 55%
Michigan 2015 6 43%
Michigan 2014 9 56%
Michigan 2013 18 67%
Michigan State 2016 7 39%
Michigan State 2015 5 25%
Michigan State 2014 4 19%
Michigan State 2013 4 24%

Ohio State had the single best recruiting class among the three with the 2013 class. It's gone a little down hill since then, but the Buckeyes have nevertheless maintained an elite edge over their rivals in each of the last four years.

Four-year trends in recruiting

4-Year Total Blue Chip 4-Year Blue Chip %
Ohio State 64 74%
Michigan 44 55%
Michigan State 20 27%

Michigan State's on-field success relative to the recruiting rankings is truly incredible. They're not successful because of recruiting (like Alabama) or flashy offense (like Baylor), but they're out-performing Michigan and are on-par lately with Ohio State on the field, despite signing significantly fewer blue chip recruits. Per class, Michigan State averages over 10 fewer blue chippers than Ohio State and five fewer than Michigan.

How things stand in 2016

School Year Blue Chip Blue Chip %
Ohio State 2016 14 78%
Michigan 2016 11 55%
Michigan State 2016 7 39%

Things are starting to change in 2016 as elite recruits are beginning to realize that the Spartans can challenge for the Playoff and Big Ten Championships. Ohio State still has the top overall class currently for 2016, but Michigan State has about a 12% increase in their percentage of blue chip recruits. Michigan, interestingly, has nearly the exact same percentage of blue chippers that it averaged over the last four years, including Brady Hoke's recruiting classes.

As a side note, it's kind of absurd to think about the storyline that Brady Hoke left the cupboard bare at Michigan -- they have more blue chip recruits on the team than not and more over the last four years (as a percentage of the whole class) than everyone in the SEC except Alabama, LSU, and Auburn.

Ohio State versus Alabama

4-Year Total Blue Chip 4-Year Blue Chip %
Ohio State 64 73.60%
Alabama 78 77%

Ohio State's southern "rival" has outperformed the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail by 14 total blue chippers, or around 3% of their recruiting classes. Compared to the distance between Ohio State and Michigan's recruiting (the Buckeyes have a better four-year average by about 23%), the gap between the Tide and the Buckeyes is tiny. It's also much smaller than the difference between the Tide and the second-best SEC recruiting school, LSU (61%, or a 16% difference).

So all-in-all, it really is Ohio State and Alabama in a near league of their own in recruiting, but that doesn't necessarily translate to on-field performance. Nevertheless, look for the Buckeyes to close strong with the 2016 recruiting class.