We hear it all the time: The Big Ten needs to start recruiting like the SEC if it wants to get back to winning national titles. Well, it's signing day eve. How is the Big Ten faring in that regard?
The good news is that the league is second among all conferences in securing commitments from ESPN 150 and ESPN 300 prospects. The not-so-good news is that the Big Ten still lags far behind the SEC in that regard, and that only two conference schools are responsible for most of those blue-chippers.
Let's check the numbers, according to ESPN.com's recruiting commitment scorecard:
ESPN 150 commitments by conference
1. SEC: 48
2. Big Ten: 24
3. Pac-12: 18
4. ACC: 16
5. Independents: 9
6. Big 12: 9
7. Big East: 2
ESPN 300 commitments by conference
1. SEC: 94
2. Big Ten: 44
3. Pac-12: 40
4. ACC: 30
5. Big 12: 26
6. Independents: 12
7. Big East: 7
As you can see, the Big Ten is outpacing all leagues not named the SEC, but our southern friends are still dominating, with twice as many ESPN 150 recruits as the Big Ten and more than twice as many ESPN 300 prospects. Of course, the SEC has two more teams (for now) than the Big Ten. But even on a per-school basis, the SEC is winning, with 3.4 ESPN 150 players per school compared to 2 per school for the Big Ten.
We also must note that of the Big Ten's 24 ESPN 150 commitments, all but three of them belong to Ohio State and Michigan. The Buckeyes have 11, while the Wolverines claim 10. Indiana, Penn State (2) and Wisconsin are the only other league schools that have an ESPN 150 prospect committed. Ohio State and Michigan have an additional 10 ESPN 300 commitments between them, suggesting the wealth of power is heavily concentrated in the Big Ten.
By contrast, the SEC has five teams with at least five ESPN 150 prospects (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M) and four more schools with at least two ESPN 150 guys.
It's true that more blue-chip prospects live in SEC country than in the Midwest, and often those players are ranked higher by the scouting services than players who reside north of the Mason-Dixon line. But if these numbers are close to a reflection of reality, the data indicates that the Big Ten still has a ways to go to close the gap on the depth and scope of talent being accumulated in the SEC.