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State Secrets: Ohio State needs to beat TTUN off the field too

The Buckeyes look to fend of their biggest rival in 2021 for top tier running backs

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We are nearly there, as Saturday brings us “The Game” — arguably the greatest rivalry in sport — as Ohio State travels north to take on bitter foe, Michigan. Each week Ohio State has seemingly raised the stakes to their season and regardless of what the betting lines are saying about this contest, this match-up will be the biggest one yet for the 2019 campaign. With so much on the line, head coach Ryan Day and his staff have done nothing but focus on TTUN and hope it will pay off tomorrow with a huge win.

Forget the fact that Ohio State can lose this contest and still win the Big Ten, as last week’s victory over Penn State decided their fate as the East representative in the conference championship next weekend. You can also forget the idea that the Buckeyes can still make the playoff with a loss tomorrow. All of that may be true, but the sole focus is beating Michigan for the eighth-straight year and keeping all of the momentum on the Ohio State side even with a first-year head coach in the rivalry game.

As Day said earlier this week in his press conference, Ohio State tracks everything relating to its rival. They know how to combat them, and even go as far as to know who they recruit and keep tally of who Michigan is going after on its board. This has shown to be successful for the Buckeyes, and while they have certainly have had the advantage on the field head to head lately, Ohio State is looking to do the same off the field in 2021 at the all-too-discussed running back position. Winning in every aspect over Michigan looks to be priority No. 1, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Ohio State vs. TTUN for 2021 running backs

It was mentioned earlier, but one of the key reasons for Ohio State’s success over Michigan has been recruiting success, especially in head-to-head recruiting battles. Under both Urban Meyer and now Ryan Day, OSU isn’t afraid to recruit against anyone and has done so exceedingly well against the Wolverines. They haven’t won every battle, but when you look at the list it’s a clear ratio in favor of the Buckeyes, showcasing the talent gap between the two programs and who’s winning the head-to-head battles for their top targets.

Looking toward the 2021 class, the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be competing against each other for not one, but two running backs that would be huge additions to either class. The interesting fact here though is that the two running backs are natives of the rival states, Donovan Edwards being a Michigan native and Corey Kiner being the Ohio native. Both of these elite-level backs are already being recruited heavily by both programs. The task, however, is for Ohio State to keep these guys away from its enemy early knowing the situation in the current 2020 class that has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride when you mention running back recruiting.

Edwards, a 5-foot-11, 190 pound bruiser of a back plays for West Bloomfield High School in metro Detroit, a program which yearly puts out top Division I type prospects. In fact, Edwards is part of a program whose schedule year in and year out is incredibly tough, elevating the level of its players as they face great competition weekly. Last visiting Ohio State unofficially this past July, Edwards has been no stranger to the Buckeye program, but his distance to Ann Arbor makes Michigan an obvious player in his recruitment. In fact, Michigan holds nearly all of the early 247sports crystal ball forecasts with 83 percent of the vote. The remaining 17 belong to Ohio State, which is hoping to make up the difference before all is said and done.

Right now, Edwards checks in as a high four-star prospect — the No. 4 running back in the country according to 247sports, and the No. 62 best player overall in the country in addition to the third-best player in Michigan in the 2021 class. With a stellar list of accolades, Edwards also holds over 30 offers from the best schools around the country and while many believe this to be a two-horse race between Ohio State and Michigan, other top programs cannot yet be ruled out. For the Buckeyes to keep this one interesting, they’ll need to continue their dominance on the field and also get Edwards back to campus to prove why they’re the best fit.

Heading back over the border and on down to Cincinnati, the topic of discussion is in-state RB Corey Kiner. No stranger to the Buckeye recruiting scene, Ohio State has been doing its best to get Kiner to campus as of late. In fact, last weekend versus Penn State he was hopeful to visit, but unfortunately was unable to make the trip. The state’s No. 7 prospect and the No. 10 running back in the country is a clear priority for the Buckeyes, and getting him back on campus is mission No. 1 to get him more comfortable with what Ohio State has to offer both on and off the field.

Currently, Michigan is the leader on the 247sports crystal ball predictions, just like the aforementioned Edwards, and while that’s not everything, it certainly has Ohio State working over time on both prospects. There’s a ton of aspects to dive into between these two elite backs, but the first domino to fall may be the most important. Whoever commits first will likely choose one of these two schools, which could result in the other choosing the rival program.

Ohio State obviously wants to be chosen first. Currently, they need to make up some ground. Saturday’s game could show both of these two that Columbus is the better choice, with a more successful rushing attack as it has owned the last several years over Michigan. If the Buckeyes can continue that trend with a win on the field, a recruiting win could also follow suit.

Nevertheless, expect to hear both of these names for the long haul as the Buckeyes try to get their 2021 running back recruiting locked up sooner rather than later.