We all know that Ohio State has out-recruited its rivals in the recent past and, especially, this year. But I am not sure we fully appreciate that Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin - two of the best paid and best known coaches in America - had a legitimate chance to catch up to Ohio State in talent, whiffed on the chance, and now find themselves hopelessly behind with basically no opportunity to catch up.
For a baseline comparison, in the 2019 247 talent composite (which looks at the ratings of all players on scholarship), Ohio State was #2 in the country with an avg player rating of 92.37. Penn State was #10 at 89.8. And Michigan was #11 at 88.98. Let's call this the Urban Meyer baseline.
With the 2019 class, which was part of the above talent index, Day took the handoff and had to hold the class together. The class was small, but Day didn't lose players. Michigan and PSU both finished ahead of the Buckeyes in the total ranking, but in average player rating, OSU still was ahead of them by about 1 point (91.87 to 90.78 and 91.01).
Heading into the 2020 recruiting season, Harbaugh and Franklin were on the clock. They really had to match or beat Day in his first full year on the trail, and they couldn't get it done. We finished 5th in the rankings, and had an average player of 91.80. Penn State and Michigan finished about 1.5 points per player behind OSU.
So, early stages of the transition, Harbaugh and Franklin could only modestly close the talent gap with Day. Instead of being around 2.5 points per player behind OSU across the board, for the last two years, they are around 1.5 points per player behind. That is modestly better, but a huge missed opportunity as Ryan Day became a first time head coach.
What has that meant heading into 2021? Well, as it became obvious that OSU was not going to decline either in talent or on the field, Day and team have accelerated away from the competition. OSU's current player rating is 95.52 - and it is not going to wind up much lower based on the recruits still in the mix. Michigan is averaging 90.1 - basically around what it has been. Penn State is at a below-average 89.23. This gap is massive. You can assume that as these classes become the centerpieces of their respective teams, OSU will line up a more talented starter at virtually every position on the field.
Ohio State's overall talent advantage, though still measurably big, will be slightly less pronounced on the field next year than the last two years. I expect PSU to be a tough out. But Harbaugh and Franklin had about an 18 month window to change the pecking order in the B1G, and they couldn't get the job done. And now it is too late.