Any one of the 74 Ohio State players who suited up for the Buckeyes on Saturday could have taken a gaze at a section of Michigan Stadium in the fourth quarter, done a 360-degree panoramic turn, closed their eyes, soaked in the entire atmosphere and felt at home. They may have felt like they had never even left Columbus.
As the Big Ten East champs and nation's No. 1 team put the finishing touches on a 56-27 victory, the chants from the thousands of red hoodie-clad fans pounded down on them beside the light raindrops as news outlets across the country began to fill out their headlines that can be pre-written at this point ... Ohio State beats Michigan for eighth straight year
It was an overwhelming chant throughout the stadium, the crowd noise taking over as an arena that had been vastly filled with maize and blue suddenly felt like it was a de facto home game for the Buckeyes.
All in front of some of the biggest recruits Jim Harbaugh and company are targeting in their 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes.
Yeah, you're probably tired of reading "Ohio State is better than Michigan" stories this week at Eleven Warriors or any other website.
(Just kidding. I know you're not.)
But this is another one.
Ohio State's win over Penn State was the biggest recruiting weekend of the season for the Buckeyes, but they turned the victory over Michigan into a close second place.
It was the most important recruiting weekend of the season for the Wolverines, with prospective players stuffed inside the tight sideline and end zone quarters of The Big House as they watched Ohio State show them who's the boss.
Ohio State and Michigan are duking it out for six players players from Michigan in the 2021 class, with running back Donovan Edwards leading that group as its most elite player. Four offensive linemen and one defensive lineman are on that list, and two of those players (offensive tackles Rocco Spindler and Caleb Tiernan) were confirmed to be at the game.
Had a great time visiting and watching the ichigan game! Appreciate the experience and Im hoping to come back again! pic.twitter.com/BT4EAcHdHm— Kevarr Ellis (@King_kev42230) December 1, 2019
Michigan has almost no presence in Ohio for any of the state's top players in the 2021 class with the exception of running back Corey Kiner, who was on hand for The Game. And even Kiner took notice of the tide turning in the stands during the fourth quarter.
“Being a player on your home field, that’s not a good feeling,” Kiner told 247Sports' Bill Kurelic. “That would be demoralizing. Ohio State was ahead pretty good. That makes you know you have the game won. There was nothing else Michigan could do.”
And Bryce Steele, a three-star athlete from Virginia, also made the trip to Ann Arbor and came floored by the Buckeyes' fan presence.
“The ‘OH - IO’ was eye opening,” Steele told Kurelic. "I didn’t expect that. The Ohio State fans really took over The Big House.”
These are just a group of names, not a full list of players who visited for The Game. It still illustrates the fact that these players got a firsthand experience in witnessing the talent gap, and as Ohio State and Michigan duke it out one-on-one for two of the nation's top-ranked running backs in the 2021 class, perhaps that discrepancy has never been more important in recent memory.
Last week, Pete Werner let everyone covering the Ohio State beat know what the biggest factor, or at least the final factor, was in his decision to commit to the Buckeyes. Watching Curtis Samuel's game-winning touchdown during the epic double-overtime win in 2016 was enough to make Werner say, “‘Whoa, are you kidding me? I gotta come here.’”
One game can have that effect on a recruit, especially if his recruitment is coming down to the finish line and if he is looking for one final thing to make an impression on him; one final thing to make him say “this is the place for me.” We've heard of a handful of players who had that sort of feeling after the Buckeyes' win over Penn State this season, and it's possible there are others who are thinking the same after watching them dismantle the Wolverines.
Of course, there's an outside chance the Ohio State victory actually has a chance at helping Michigan recruiting. Armitage and Malone, for instance, each told 247Sports' Brice Marich that they believe they could help contribute to what Harbaugh is trying to create at Michigan.
But with where the talent gap currently sits between the two in both recruiting and development, it's likely the final seconds of the 2021 regular season will result in those “O-H! ... I-O!” chants raining down on the field once again, making The Big House feel like the Little Shoe.