This was supposed to be the year fans saw the big three in the Big Ten East, with Michigan back and Ohio State rolling, but Michigan State has gotten off to a disappointing 2-5 start to the season. That has left Spartans fans wondering if things are headed downhill and if there is a scenario where all three programs are on top of their game at the same time.
While the Spartans are having a down year, there isn’t any reason why we can’t see success from all three teams at the same time. That doesn’t mean that all three will field national championship caliber teams, but high-level play that has every fan base excited about the prospects for the season.
The coaches at each school have proven they can win, so it comes down to if they can sustain the success through recruiting.
“Michigan and Ohio State have had nothing to do with Michigan State having a bad year,” said a Big Ten coach. “And it’s not like all of the sudden Michigan State can’t recruit, in fact they have recruited well. Look at who all three sign, Ohio is probably the most important to all three and Urban (Meyer) is competing more for nationally top-end kids.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has also gone more national in his recruiting efforts as well, which means there is a larger pool of prospects that all three programs are going after. In the 2017 class, Michigan has landed prospects from 13 different states, Ohio State has commitments from nine states and Michigan State from five.
Within that list, the only overlapping states that all three programs hold commitments from are within Michigan, Ohio and Florida.
To dive deeper into those numbers, the six prospects Michigan State has committed from Ohio, only one had an offer from Michigan or Ohio State. That means despite the fact all three programs have landed players from the Buckeye State, they still aren’t really battling for a lot of them.
In the state of Michigan, some of the biggest battles recently have been for defensive lineman Malik McDowell and running back Mike Weber. Michigan lost both of those battles and seems to be doing more than fine along the defensive line and at running back.
Most of the coaches within the Big Ten agree that all three programs are different enough that there shouldn’t be any problems building talented rosters in the future.
“Michigan State may be down, but I don’t expect that to be for long,” said one coach. “They recruit and evaluate too well and have great coaches. Michigan and Ohio State recruit so well locally and nationally, so I don’t feel sorry for any of them.”
Michigan and Ohio State are both recruiting a ton of ESPN 300 prospects under Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, but even those two programs haven’t battled a ton over elite level prospects.
The Buckeyes currently have the No. 1 2017 recruiting class with 16 ESPN 300 commitments while Michigan is ranked No. 7 and eight ESPN 300 commitments of its own. Both coaching staffs have some big name prospects remaining on their target list within the ESPN 300 and we could see both with top-five classes come signing day.
The recruiting strategies and who each team targets tells us that all three of these teams can be successful at the same time. It’s just up to the coaches to put it all together on the field and make it happen.
“Michigan State is just having a down year. I think they will figure it out and get back to winning,” another Big Ten coach said. “There are plenty of good players out there for all three of them to be elite. Michigan State just has to do it a little differently than the other two, but they built their program on the under rated, tough, program kid.”