If you ask anybody, from coaches to national media members to random folks on Twitter, you'll get a consensus that Ohio State is one of the best college football jobs in the country. It isn't just the tradition, the resources, the facilities and the passionate, national fanbase either, Ohio State's recruiting position is the envy of many other power programs.
Ohio State is the dominant program in a particularly talent rich state, one they don't have to share with any other power program. Sure, other schools occasionally will try to grab an Ohio kid, and maybe Ohio State's dominance statewide isn't quite as overwhelming as it may be reported, especially in Cincinnati, but generally, the Buckeyes have a great shot to get who they want in the Buckeye state.
Over the past few years, who has been their biggest threat? Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com makes a strong argument that it's Notre Dame. The Irish have recently grabbed eight prospects from Ohio with Buckeye offers, including two of the top five prospects in Ohio for the 2016 class, offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg.
The fact that Notre Dame has been successful isn't so shocking. After all, as Wasserman points out, all eight of the prospects came from parochial schools. If you're a kid that wants a Catholic faith-focused educational experience and also high level competition, Notre Dame would fit perfectly. It's also possible that even though Ohio State offered all eight, they were late on some prospects, or didn't show they wanted them as badly as Notre Dame did. That happens.
But there are real misses in that group, including Kraemer and Eichenberg, who would have been welcome additions given Ohio State's coming departures along the offensive line.
The Buckeyes are still set up well for the near future. They'll likely sign four of the top eight prospects in Ohio this cycle, and grabbed six of the top ten in 2015, including Justin Hilliard, a five star LB from St. Xavier. Some of those misses weren't positional fits or players that Ohio State made a priority either, so their batting average near their home turf is still pretty good.
So the Fiesta Bowl presents a quality opportunity for Ohio State to help cement their reputation among Ohio's preps, even kids in Cincinnati and Cleveland who are in Catholic high schools. It isn't a playoff bid or anything, but there's still plenty for this program to play for, certainly more than if they were playing against say, an ACC program they don't really recruit against.
The interesting thing might be how this trend continues for the future. Michigan has historically been very successful with Ohio prospects, but they didn't make the state a priority in the 2016 class. The Wolverines only signed one top 20 Ohio player in 2015, and only one in 2014, (Michael Ferns, who eventually transferred to West Virginia). It's not like Michigan didn't recruit well, generally, during that time ... they just chose to spend their resources differently.
With the Buckeyes coming off a national title, and given Michigan's recent struggles, perhaps trying to establish an immediate beachhead in Ohio would have been a tall order in 2016. Harbaugh does have a lot of coaching experience in the West, and Michigan's staff has allowed them to look elsewhere, and with great success. Just because Michigan has had success in a certain area historically doesn't mean they need to forever. It doesn't matter too much *where* you get the players, as long as you get them.
The 2017 class should be another solid one for Ohio preps, and the Buckeyes aren't wasting any time. Ohio State already have five commitments among the top ten in the class, and no other school has even one. Ohio State is heavily favored among other top preps in that group, like WRs Jaylen Harris and JaVonte Richardson, but a lot can happen between now and next year's national signing day.
Of the top five Ohio prospects that remain uncommitted, Michigan has offered two, Harris and Tyrell Ajian, and they aren't trending in the 247Sports Crystal Ball for any of them. Michigan State has been more aggressive in the state over the last few years, and in 2017, offering players earlier. If anything, they may have been the biggest threat to Ohio State in the Ohio over the last few years compared to any other Big Ten school.
Ohio produces a ton of players, so basically every Big Ten school, among others, needs to visit and pick up a few players, but beating Ohio State for kids they actually want is a tall order. Notre Dame has some structural advantages, and even if the Buckeyes win in the Fiesta Bowl, they're still likely to beat OSU for a few kids Urban Meyer and company really want. But Ohio State can't take everybody, or recruit everybody as hard as others can.
Can Michigan re-establish a presence in the state? Can Michigan State beat the Buckeyes for another top player or two? Will another challenger, perhaps Pitt, perhaps another Big Ten program, try to muscle in and spring some upsets?
The answers to those questions will go a long way towards determining who will be successful over the next few years.