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An Even Deeper Look at Recruiting - Are OSU and MI Running Away With the B10?

One of the running storylines when discussing B10 recruiting lately has been whether or not OSU and MI are pulling away from the B10 so much that the days of the Big 2 and Little 8 (now 10) are returning. Some OSU and MI fans bring it up, in part just to tweak MSU fans, but fans of other schools have brought it up as a potentially serious issue, too.

Yes, They Are

SBNation recently had an article about it (LINK) that used an analysis of recruiting data since 2002. The methodology was to compare the number of Rivals' 4-star and 5-star recruits for OSU and MI in a given year to the number for the other 10 B10 teams combined. This was done for 2002-2013, including NE in all years. The key results:

  1. OSU and MI were more dominant in the past 2 years than in any other previous years, with well over half of all the blue chip recruits for the B10.
  2. The ratio used to be much lower, only passing 1:1 in 2004 and 2008.
  3. From 2005-2010, OSU and MI combined to get only 39% of all blue chip players.
  4. From 2012-2013, OSU and MI combined to get 57% of all blue chip players.

No, They Aren't

TOC had a rebuttal fairly quickly (LINK). The focus here was that the original article ignored class sizes. OSU and MI have had large classes the past two years while some other schools have had small classes. Normalizing for class size, the past two years aren't anything special. Three other years had higher ratios favoring OSU and MI. Thus, this disproves that anything new is happening.

Are Both Sides Right?

I think both articles have merit, so I want to look at things a third way. First, some notes:

  1. I don't think the Big 2 is coming back. Rule changes like the 85 scholarship limit make that impossible.
  2. The new divisions will also make it impossible. OSU and MI will be together, meaning they can only play for division titles. If they aren't playing in the CCG, how can it feel like the Big 2? Someone from the west is getting a ahot at the title every year.
  3. I did my analysis using Scout data rather than Rivals because I already had most of it plus I find it easier to cut and paste from their site.

    My Results

    Let's start with the basics. OSU and MI are 2 of 12 teams, so if everyone is recruiting equally then all ratios of players should be 0.2. Where I think both articles erred was in using individual years. Combining years together helps smooth out any quirks in the data. For that reason, I chose to use data from 2002-2011 as one big set with 2012-2013 as the other set. If things haven't changed over time, ratios between the two sets should be 1.0.

    Scout breaks out players into these groups: Top 100, 5-star, 4-star and 3-star. I wanted to look at the ratios for all 3 top categories to see how OSU and MI are doing at each level of talent.

    All ratios below are 1 of 2 things:

    1. (# for OSU + MI) / (# for the rest)
    2. (ratio for 2012-2013) / (ratio for 2002-2011).

    Recent Recruiting

    So how have OSU and MI done in 2012-2013? Remember, 0.2 would be all 12 teams doing equally. 1.0 would be OSU and MI getting half of the players.

    1. Top 100 - 4.0 (28 to 7)
    2. 5-star - 6.5 (13 to 2)
    3. 4-star - 1.326 (57 to 43)

    Prior Recruiting

    So how did OSU and MI do in 2002-2011? Remember, 0.2 would be all 12 teams doing equally. 1.0 would be OSU and MI getting half of the players.

    1. Top 100 - 1.435 (99 to 69)
    2. 5-star - 1.265 (43 to 34)
    3. 4-star - 0.736 (181 to 246)

    Comparison

    That's a pretty large change in my opinion. OSU and MI were already getting most of the top players, but that didn't guarantee them hegemony. However, the past 2 years have been much more dominant. That could be a problem. But what about the class size issue? That's a valid question, so let's normalize the data.

    What I did was scale the combined data for OSU and MI to the size their classes should be to get a ratio of total recruits of 0.2 (OSU + MI) / (the other 10). As it turns out, the cumulative numbers from 2002-2013 are almost perfect (521 to 2604). But the two smaller sets I used both need to be scaled. Now let's look at those numbers again.

    Recent Recruiting

    So how have OSU and MI done in 2012-2013? Remember, 0.2 would be all 12 teams doing equally. 1.0 would be OSU and MI getting half of the players.

    1. Top 100 - 3.335 (23.3 to 7)
    2. 5-star - 5.419 (10.8 to 2)
    3. 4-star - 1.105 (47.5 to 43)

    The numbers have come down, but OSU and MI are still crushing the competition.

    Prior Recruiting

    So how did OSU and MI do in 2002-2011? Remember, 0.2 would be all 12 teams doing equally. 1.0 would be OSU and MI getting half of the players.

    1. Top 100 - 1.491 (102.9 to 69)
    2. 5-star - 1.315 (44.7 to 34)
    3. 4-star - 0.765 (188.2 to 246)

    These numbers got worse since OSU and MI had smaller classes over this period.

    Comparison

    So how much did things change? Remember, 1.0 would be no change.

    1. Top 100 - 2.24
    2. 5-star - 4.12
    3. 4-star - 1.44

    The past two years have still been a lot better for OSU and MI than the previous 10 years were on average. They are getting a lot more elite players than before even after accounting for class size.

    Conclusions

    In the end, I think both sides are right to an extent. OSU and MI have dominated in recruiting the past 2 years more than they did in the previous decade. It may not be true every year, though. By combining years to smooth out anomalies, it becomes more clear as a trend. Even after accounting for class size, OSU and MI have made a leap in recruiting. The other 10 teams need to step things up soon or the talent discrepancy may become a major issue.

    On the other hand, I just don't think today's environment allows for a Big 2 situation. With the 85 player limit and the increased money in the game now, I think fan pressure will force other schools to step up. Coaches will lose their jobs if they can't keep up on the field with OSU and MI, and that didn't really happen in the 70s. Also, the new divisions will prevent OSU and MI from dominating the CCG since they'll have to split appearances while the other division gets a chance to share the spotlight.

    Don't forget that PSU will be a bigger threat once their scholarship limits end. BOB recruits better than JoePa for elite players on offense. NE will either catch up or try a new coach. WI has a new coach with a reputation for recruiting well. I think there will still be solid competition in the B10, but it does look like OSU and MI might dominate their division for a while and be favored in the CCG.

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