When the Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland the conference decided to go East-West with its divisions. Some believed the balance of football power would be in the hands of a loaded East division, and it certainly appears like that prophecy is going to continue well in to the future, thanks to a big time imbalance of recruiting results to date.
Having name brands like Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, the East was sure to overshadow anything the West division powers like Iowa, Nebraska or Wisconsin could produce — and that’s always been the case on the Big Ten recruiting trail.
However, this season has proven to be an even greater example of the imbalance of power in the conference. A full 52 of the 60 four-star or better Big Ten commitments named by the 247Sports composite rankings are committed to East division teams.
Ohio State leads everyone in the conference with one five-star and 15 four-star players committed, but nipping on OSU’s heels are arch-rivals Michigan — with 14 four-star commits.
Michigan State is next with 10 four-star players and Penn State adds another nine before we even get to the top team in the Big Ten West division.
Those four East division teams are all inside the 247Sports Top 15 of the national team rankings as well. Ohio State has recently moved to the top of the recruiting rankings, while Michigan follows at No. 3 nationally.
The West division leaders are Nebraska and Wisconsin, both tied with the lowest Big Ten East team at three four-star commitments each.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking to also see the East division dominate things on the football field as well. Since the new divisional split, both conference championships have gone to the East division (Ohio State and Michigan State). Given the results and Michigan State’s continued rise to the top of conference play on the field and on the recruiting trail, it is hard to see this trend not continuing. With the recruiting footprint of the East being more fertile grounds and the advantages of having three of the best coaches in the country in stable positions opposed to Wisconsin and Nebraska breaking in new coaches, the imbalance may continue, which will certainly impact the College Football Playoff race each year, especially if one team from the West gets a spot in the conference title game while perhaps more deserving, and certainly more talented, teams from the East sit at home.
Perhaps perception will change though as names like Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin will start showing up as cross-divisional games for Ohio State. Michigan will also see Wisconsin and reigning West division champion Iowa, giving the West a chance close the gap on the East’s recent dominance with some on-field victories.
Without a chance at wins in head-to-head matchups, the wins on the recruiting trail are likely to be few and far between for the foreseeable future too.