How Cincinnati's Potential Big XII Move May Have a Widespread Impact on Ohio State

By Andrew Lind on August 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Devin Smith hauls in a touchdown pass against Cincinnati in 2014.

Devin Smith hauls in a touchdown pass against Cincinnati in 2014.

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“When was the last time Ohio State lost a game to an in-state opponent?”

We should all know by now it was a 7-6 loss to Oberlin in 1921 due to Aflac's Trivia Question, which seemingly asks the same thing every time the Buckeyes play Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Kent State, Miami, Ohio University or Toledo.

Such in-state dominance is oftentimes attributed to the staff's ability to recruit prospects those programs can't, as Ohio State is the lone Power 5 school in one of the most talent-rich states in the country.

And, sure, the Buckeyes have to fend off — and occasionally lose out to — schools like Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State when recruiting the state's top talent, but the perfect mix of conference and program prestige also creates an insurmountable gap between the Scarlet and Gray and their in-state counterparts.

Quite frankly, only a handful of other programs across the country can claim such an advantage in their respective states.

Now that Cincinnati is one of the front-runners to land an invite from the Big XII, which is considering two- or four-team expansion, some think that aforementioned gap may close.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, a former walk-on defensive back at Cincinnati, was asked at media day on Sunday about his alma mater possibly joining a Power 5 conference.

“I think they should be in the Big XII,” he said. “I'm saying that without making all the research necessary to really make that comment. My sister is a provost there, and so I know that school very well and I couldn't be happier for that city and for that school if they do get in the Big XII.”

Ohio State may have an in-state rival from a large conference for the first time in modern history, and Meyer doesn't seem too worried. But, he did acknowledge that it would affect the Buckeyes' recruiting.

“Oh, sure. I bet it would,” he said. “That Big XII is big business.”

Ohio State is 14-2 all-time against Cincinnati, with those losses taking place more than a century ago. But it should be noted that the programs have rarely gone head-to-head in any recruiting battles. Since Meyer took over as head coach in 2011, the Buckeyes have placed importance on the region, most recently earning a commitment from four-star corner Amir Riep of Colerain.

It helps, too, that defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs is a legend in the area, having won a state championship and seven league titles with the Cardinals. And, for what it's worth, the Bearcats were never in the picture for Riep, though it's hard to say if things would have been different if they were in a position to win the Big XII.

With the boost in revenue and prestige, Cincinnati will surely cause headaches for Ohio State's staff as it looks down Interstate 71 for its next batch of recruits. Three-star prospects that the Buckeyes may not have room for may begin to stay in state instead of going north to play at Michigan, Michigan State or Wisconsin, too.

But, further-reaching consequences of such a move may be that other Big XII programs like Iowa State, Kansas State, West Virginia and even Texas, who would play every other year in Nippert Stadium, would stop in and check on top recruits.

In either case, Ohio State would be forced to change its recruiting strategy in the southwestern portion of the state. And that should cause some frustration for Meyer, even though Ohio State is recruiting nationally at an unprecedented pace.

Should the Big XII look past Cincinnati and pick from a handful of other worthy candidates, any impact that conference expansion would have on Ohio State would be rendered moot — though Houston's inclusion may put a wrench in any plans to make Tom Herman the Buckeyes' next head coach. But, that's a conversation for another time.

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