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How soon does Ohio State football need to win another championship?

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Their recruiting has been on fire. But how long does the 2014 championship glow last?

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

College football championships have a three to four year afterglow effect on recruiting and brand perception. Assuming a team remains at least in contention for further championships during that post-championship window, the earlier national championship helps fuel more elite recruiting. The memory of the championship is implanted in younger high school players’ heads so that by the time they’re ready to commit, the national champions from two to four years ago are usually in their top group. The impact of national championships on recruiting generally isn’t immediate — there’s a short delay. Based on Ohio State’s recent recruiting efforts, I think Ohio State is still enjoying that afterglow.

But the afterglow doesn’t last forever. Eventually, the shine from the championship dims and the top-3 “elite” program fades into the larger group of 4-10 “very good” programs. Remember, recruits are really young, and have really short memories.

Three teams have won a College Football Playoff — Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson — and Florida State won the final BCS national championship. These are also the top-4 teams in Brian Fremeau’s weighted 5-year Program FEI ratings (FEI is half of the F/+ rating along with Bill C’s S&P+). We would expect to see at least Ohio State, Alabama, and (maybe to a lesser degree) Florida State at the top of the most recent recruiting rankings. And that’s exactly what we see:

National recruiting champions

Year Alabama Ohio State Florida State Clemson
Year Alabama Ohio State Florida State Clemson
2017 1st (93.61) 2nd (94.47) 6th (91.01) 16th (92.09)
2016 1st (92.85) 4th (91.56) 2nd (91.71) 11th (90.3)
2015 1st (93.64) 7th (90.19) 3rd (92.41) 9th (89.19)
2014 1st (93.59) 3rd (86.6) 4th (90.07) 17th (87.78)

And it’s continuing in the 2018 class, with Ohio State recruiting at even better pace than the 2017 class. Ohio State’s second-ranked class has an average 247 Composite rating of .9523, even with a recent three-star commitment, which is astounding. All but one of the current 13 commits are blue chip and 9 are in the top-90 players. The lone three-star commit, Master Teague, is expected to get a considerable ratings jump, and should be in the blue chip territory soon enough.

Ohio State’s recruiting has raised its floor to the point where the Buckeyes should at least contend for a national championship every year. Alabama’s talent accumulation has gotten to the point where a recruit can reasonably expect to win a championship or two during their time in Tuscaloosa.

So, as maybe the most first-world of all college football problems, when does Ohio State need to win another national championship before the afterglow of the 2014 championship wears off? Is there a chance that Ohio State drops back to the tier-2 of “very good” programs while Urban Meyer is in Columbus?

My point is not that there are any negative signs of that right now — it’s actually the opposite. Ohio State recruiting could hardly be better than it is right now. But with a 31-0 showing against Clemson in the playoff semi-finals following a disappointing non-playoff 2015 season, that national championship afterglow is a teensy bit more faint.

Given Ohio State’s strong record of sending players to the NFL, and their ability to remain in championship contention, any weakening of an “afterglow” could be pretty slow. But nothing lasts forever, after all.

The Buckeyes are currently the second-most likely team to win the championship in 2017 according to Vegas. It’s JT’s final season, and he’s got a new offensive coordinator. The freshman class may be the best Ohio State’s ever had. It’s all setting up for a championship run in 2017 or 2018.

And that’s good timing, because given the Buckeyes’ recent recruiting success and coaching stability, that should almost be expected. If not in the eyes of fans, than perhaps in the eyes of those impressionable football-playing teenagers.