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Ohio State & Michigan: 2015-2019 Recruiting Comparison

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite college football games every year has been "The Game" between Ohio State & Michigan. I'm not a graduate of either school and have no rooting interest in who wins, I just enjoy the pageantry and excitement that surrounds such a heated rivalry. Something about that crisp Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, maybe a few snowflakes in the air and a matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football gets my blood pumping.



While Michigan leads the series with a record 58–51–6 overall, Ohio State has dominated this matchup in recent years. Ohio State is currently riding an 8 game win streak with Michigan's last victory coming in 2011. While we have seen some classics over the past eight years including the 42-41 thriller in 2013 & the controversial 4th&1 game in 2016, it's hard to argue that with 8 straight victories including the last two by a combined score of 118 - 66 the separation between the two programs appears to be widening. Often times when a rivalry becomes lopsided such as this one, the fan base on the losing end gets frustrated and wants answers. Is it bad luck, bad coaching, lack of skill? Perhaps a mixture of all three but the simplest answer as you will soon see has been the difference in recruiting.


Things to consider when evaluating Recruiting


Using data from cfbscrapR I was able to analyze recruiting data over the past five years and create a cumulative average for each of the categories in the table below.


**A few things to keep in mind before we get into the analysis. These rankings are somewhat subjective as they come from those in the industry who rate high school recruits. There is always some bias involved and there are some mistakes in that highly rated players don't always pan out at the next level. In addition, just because a team is rated high in recruiting doesn't always mean they are guaranteed victory (see Texas & USC). For one reason or another you will always see teams who win in spite of having lower ranked recruits just like you have teams that lose who consistently rank high, but overall its a pretty good indicator of how teams will fare. Ask any college coach and they will tell you that recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful program


Five Year Cumulative Analysis


When looking specifically at Ohio State & Michigan, I'm certainly not going to tell you that Michigan has recruited poorly over the past few years. As you can see by overall rankings Michigan is in the top 13 programs nationally in terms of the 5 year Average Star Rank. The problem for Michigan is that their biggest rival & divisional opponent is ranked #2 during that same period, which has created a gap between the two programs. When you consider Michigan's goals of beating Ohio State, winning the Big Ten & making a run at the playoffs, they have not recruited to the elite level needed to accomplish those goals.


All Postion Rank


As discussed, the table below shows the five year cumulative recruiting ranks for the top 13 teams nationally over the last five years. The two columns to focus on is the averageRating & averageStars column as they tell which teams have recruited the highest rated players over that time period. **The totalRating column is misleading because it factors in the number of total players that were recruited, so for example if you looked at all teams you would see Army & Navy with very high totalRating scores because they bring in such a high volume of players each year. As you can see from the table below, Ohio State is #2 nationally with a five year averageRating score of 0.92 and averageStars rating of 3.82. while Michigan comes in at #13 nationally with an averageRating of 0.90 and an averageStar rating of 3.54.

Ohio State #2 & Michigan #13 for Cumulative All Position Rank

Positional Breakdown


In addition to the overall ranking, I created a breakdown by position where you will see that Ohio State has an edge over Michigan in every position group over the past five years. The two tables below show the five years of cumulative recruiting from 2015 - 2019 broken down by Offensive & Defensive position groups.


As you examine the offensive & defensive position groups ratings, you will see that in the two most important columns (averageRating & averageStars) Ohio State holds an edge in every single category. Think about that, according to this data, there is not one position where Michigan has an average Star Rating or higher than Ohio Sate for a five year total.


Offense


On the offensive side of the ball you can see that Ohio State holds the edge across the board with at least a +3 advantage in the averageRating category for every group. The biggest surprise here is that OSU holds +3 advantage on the offensive line & +4 advantage at running-back which are two areas that Jim Harbaugh has always built his offense around.



Defense


One thing for sure is that Michigan has prided itself on being one of the best defensive teams in the country over the past few years. The Don Brown led defense has caused problems for many teams as they have been at or near top of the FBS in many defensive statistical categories. Michigan has made a splash in recent years on the defensive side of the ball with highly coveted recruits such as Jabrill Peppers, Devin Bush Jr. & perhaps their highest rated recruit ever in Rashan Gary but overall you see that Ohio State still holds the edge in terms of average star rating in every position group over the past five years.



I hope you enjoyed this look into the recruiting rankings for both Ohio State and Michigan over the past five years. It certainly tells the story that while both programs are recruiting at a high level, Ohio State has consistently out recruited Michigan in terms of average star ranking during this time frame. While it's not the only reason why Ohio State has won 8 straight games , it's certainly a big part of it and the scary part is that Ohio State doesn't seem to be slowing down at all.


As always feel free to reach out me directly by email info@acefootballanalytics.com with any questions or connect with me on twitter @js_ace_football

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