The Ohio state football program continues to be on a different level than other Big Ten conference programs.

Last week I wrote an article about how the Buckeyes fared in the post-spring polls published by various websites. To no surprise, they did quite well. The same cannot be said of the rest of the Big Ten.

The highest rank for a conference team after the state of Ohio was eleventh. Indiana was rated that high in exactly one of the three polls I looked at. There is no question that there is a gap between the state of Ohio and the rest of the conference. It’s big and it’s getting bigger.

Before you say it, yes, I know the Big Ten have had multiple teams in the top ten in the final AP rankings for four of the last five years. But the fact remains that the horse chestnuts are retreating. While I keep enjoying seeing my favorite college football team rivals stamping out conferences, I’m not sure if it is a good thing to have such big differences in quality. The question is why is there such a loophole.

I really think it starts with recruiting. For the past five years, Ohio state football has consistently been in the top five. Michigan finished fifth and eighth, and Penn State, with a sixth, are the only other Big Ten teams to make the top ten recruitment rankings. Only three Big Ten teams in the top ten in five years.

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Do you want a comparison? Of the fourteen SEC schools, nine have made the top ten at one time or another in those five years. To make matters worse, only three other Big Ten programs even got a top 20 result. Nebraska made it three times, Maryland twice, and Wisconsin only once.

It gets worse. The highest score of the three I just mentioned was a 16th from Wisconsin in that final recruitment cycle. There wasn’t even a top 15 result from anyone other than Ohio State, Michigan, or Penn State.

After true freshman Chris Olave caught two touchdown passes and blocked a punt that was returned for another score against Michigan in 2018, a member of the media covering the Wolverines made a telling observation. He said the reason the Buckeyes pulled out of Michigan is because they much better identified the type of skills that best fit what they want to do and developed those skills once they got a player .

That goes for the entire Big Ten, not just the Wolverines. The Ohio State coaching team have been very good at finding these three-star and low-rated four-star players and developing them into strong contributors. Recruitment is part of the equation for answering why the Buckeyes pulled out of the conference package, but player development is also an important factor.

Nebraska is a good example of not developing players. They have recruited in the top 20 three times in the past five years, but they haven’t had a successful season since 2016. The Cornhuskers should be far better than what they are.

Ohio State’s soccer schedule is way ahead of other teams in the Big Ten East

While Michigan’s levy was better known, Penn State’s was a bit more subtle. In 2017 and 2018, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions played some one-point classics. In the next two seasons, the state of Ohio begins to withdraw.

The Buckeyes took an eleven-point win two years ago before being thirteen-point ahead last year in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the end result. Penn State won the Cotton Bowl and finished ninth in recent polls in 2019, but the gap with the Buckeyes was evident.

Their 2020 season was a disaster as they lost their first five games, giving up an average of 36 points. They bounced back to win their last four, but those wins came against teams that weren’t very good. If you look at 2019 and 2020, the majority of Penn State wins are bad for mediocre teams. The Nittany Lions are not the same program as they were a few years ago.

The Big Ten’s record against other Power 5 conferences since 2017 is another clear sign of their decline. It increased from 14-6 in 2017 to 12-9 in 2018 to 7-10 in 2019. For me these are breathtaking numbers. The 7-10 in 2019 includes five losses against the Pac-12. The Big Ten teams lost against Colorado with five wins and against Stanford with four wins. If you start losing games to teams that are in the middle or at the end of weaker conferences, there is a problem.

The Big Ten just have to change what they do and get better. The Ohio state soccer program is currently on an island of its own. Tough competition will only strengthen the program and better prepare the Buckeyes for the postseason.

The conference’s final year of recruitment was an improvement with seven teams in the top 25. The challenge for these teams is to recruit well again next year and develop players at a higher level. When that happens, it will only help the horse chestnuts.