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State of Michigan Football, Pt. 1

"State of" in the sense that Michigan is a state, and in the sense of a condition of being. Part 1: How does Ohio State continue to keep all of the best in-state talent for themselves, while Michigan players go to other schools, including USC and Michigan State?

Statewide Pipeline
The primary reason that Ohio State manages to keep all the best Ohio talent for itself is a lack of instate competition. Until Cincinnati moved to the Big East in 2005, OSU was the only BCS school in the state, and until the Big East (and Cincinnati under Brian Kelly) becomes more respected as a big-time conference (and legitimate major school), Ohio State will continue to reign supreme over its home turf. Perhaps coincidentally (or maybe not), the majority of teams in the state also share one important thing with the Buckeyes: the color red. Cincinnati, and Miami among Division I schools, and pro teams including the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers have red as one of their colors. For comparison, Michigan has two main colors, which fans in their own stadium can't even coordinate (and the pro teams share none of, unless you count the Pistons' blue as being close enough to Michigan's).

In Michigan, there are two BCS-level schools, both of whom compete in the Big Ten conference. While Michigan State is seen as more of a rival for non-revenue sports to Michigan fans (they concede basketball to the Spartans in exchange for football dominance), Spartan fans see the football rivalry as very real. Individuals who have been in the state for a long time can easily remember when MSU football was the big game in town (before Canham and Schembechler returned Michigan to Glory - and not in the LOL ND way). Overall, there is a near 50-50 split between Wolverine and Spartan fans in the Great Lakes State.

While having two popular schools in the state may not explain why talent is willing to leave entirely (and go to USC, for example), it certainly helps explain why there is no allegiance to a particular school. With no ties to UofM, Michigan's players don't feel obligated to give Michigan more of a shot. This is not the case in Ohio, where nearly every baby's first outfit is either scarlet or gray.

In Michigan, the allegiance is not to one college team, but to one pro city, Detroit. The state throws itself behind the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, and (for some reason) Lions, then divides its attention between MSU and Michigan, and to a lesser extent the other state schools. I still remember the 2006 MSU game, where the score of the simultaneous Tigers game against the Yankees was announced, and Chad Henne had to take a timeout, because fans were cheering more for the Tigers (while the team that they actually paid money to see was on offense) than I have ever heard them cheer for Michigan. Ohio on the other hand, is a state united by one college team, Ohio State, and divided among several pro cities (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus). This factor also gives the Buckeyes an in-state advantage.

It isn't likely that UCincinnati ever becomes as ingrained into Ohio culture like the Buckeyes are, and Michigan State, while always little brother, isn't going to go away any time soon. In-state, Michigan will always be disadvantaged in the Mitten compared to Ohio in the... uh... heart-shaped thing.

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“State of Michigan Football, Pt. 1”

  1. Blogger kowisja Says:

    I would call it more a view from above of a spreading pile of diarrhea.

    Also, I'm not trying to be an English teacher, but I feel your argument on why Michigan recruits go to other schools (MSU/USC/otherwise) was not fully developed. Are you arguing its because they lack a central allegiance to one school? I could see this as a strong reason to support losing kids to MSU, but I feel its a rather weak argument in regards to USC/out-of-state opposition. Obviously USC is a little bit different than most others due to their MNC's and continual post season success.

    In the case of the 2007 recruiting year (as the 3 players in the top 10 for Michigan weren't really big needs), Michigan only landed one of the top ten recruits from in state. WR Johnson went to USC, DB Allen went to Florida State, DT Barksdale to LSU, QB Nicol to OU (now MSU), OL Sawtelle to Tennessee, LB Colasanti to Penn State, WR Dell to MSU, ATH Everson to Iowa, QB Threet to GT (Now Michigan). That was #1-9 all committing elsewhere. The only two four stars (top 14 recruits) UM landed were Van Bergen (5th DE in your depth chart) and Webb (2nd TE).

    I will concede we did get some very good recruits from out of state that year (Warren, Mallett, Clemons), but with the case of Barksdale, our depth chart should have easily made Michigan attractive. Even LB I would think would be attractive.

  2. Anonymous Wolverine 98284 Says:

    I'd say Tim is correct. OSU is the only game in football crazy Ohio while Michigan is divided. M could dominate the state but has only done so in SE Michigan. MSWho has been dominate in Saginaw/Flint. But the rest of the state....

    Southwest Michigan's population has Chicago team and Notre Dame fans. Further, you cannot discount the in state MAC teams. Many of my relatives in SW Michigan are Western fans before they are M or MSWho fans. My niece attends Central and knows all about the Chips, but little about Wolverines!

    Lastly, you cannot ignore the huge effects rabid fans can have. Ron Johnson stated one of the reasons he chose USC was because of the M and MSWho fans continuously trying to 'help' him with his decision.

  3. Blogger Bob Says:

    I grew up in Ann Arbor and now live in Cincinnati. Tim is 100% correct about the Buckeyes, it's the only game in town when it comes to college sports. OSU is even bigger then UC in Cincinnati. Ohio recruits have one choice where to play football and that's at OSU. Regarding Michigan, remember when Sabin left State? one of the reasons be wanted to leave was because LSU was the top state school and he didn't have to compete for in state recruits. BTW: OSU and UC need to sign a home/home agreement for the next 10 years. OSU needs another rival and what better then one in state!

  4. Blogger Max Says:

    Kowisja, while I suppose you're right in that Tim didn't spoon-feed us the connection between cause and effect, I'd say it's a pretty fair logical jump to be forced to make:

    Without a state-wide allegiance to one university, the aggregate pull of both universities is diminished. It's not "all Michigan all the time," and it's not "all State all the time," and that leaves gaps that can be filled by other universities around the country.

    Think of it this way: If you (U-M) want to split a cracker (the body of Michigan HS football recruits) in half with your friend (MSU), there are bound to be some pieces of the cracker that fall to the floor (other schools that grab Michigan recruits, USC for example) when you break it. Had there been no other friend worthy of a piece of your cracker, you'd have the whole thing - and nothing would have fallen to the floor. To their advantage, Ohio State has no friends.

    Excellent post, Tim.

    Also, I put a video together yesterday that I think is sort of cool. It's a Michigan Football spin-off of those "Where Amazing Happens" NBA ads:

  5. Anonymous wjm Says:

    I wouldn't think you'd need it spelled out, but kids, given the choice, will 95% of the time go to the school they've been fans of their whole life.
    In OH-IO, you can't drive through a trailer park in the middle of corn country without seeing a huge OSU mural painted on the side of a 'home' (truth, photo evidence to prove it).
    It's hard to find 2 cars in a row on the highway in Ohio lacking some form of Brutis or Buckeye sticker, and I'm not talking about in Columbus, I'm talking about in Cinci, Toledo, or Cleveland.
    However, in Michigan, the only stickers/whatever with that kind of prevalence: Red Wings stuff, MAYBE Tigers stuff.
    Almost everyone in Michigan (except SW Michigan's split between the Cubs and the Tigs) loves the D's pro teams, but I'd be willing to be the plurality of college fans is only about 35% for both State and Michigan, and the rest, the directional Us.

    So,using my made up numbers, Ohio gets, say... 90% of the players they want from Ohio automatically. We get probably closer to 30% (automatically).

    Anyone have any data for Early Decision guys from Ohio going to OSU vs. Early Decision guys from Michigan going to UofM?

  6. Blogger RJHOVE Says:

    Montez Robinson DE tore up the Cinci combine we're after him but haven't offered yet...ran 4.43 forty wind aided...4.56 against the wind...extremely athletic DE...same link Sam Webb morning show

  7. Blogger kowisja Says:

    I think another part of the reason though is Michigan's recruiting philosophy over the last few years. We have definitely pushed harder to get the recruits from out of state. I don't quite have the desire to research this, but I'm interested to see how many instate recruits of high ranking and in positions Michigan needs have bolted to schools outside of UM/MSU. That 2007 year, the DT is a perfect example. We had only one major DT prospect the year before IIRC. Nick Perry last year would be another example. I just wonder how this compares to other programs in states that might be similar to Michigan. That is of course if there are states similar enough. The closest I can think of would be Iowa or Washington, but neither of those are as high profile as Michigan. Florida maybe? Georgia?

  8. Blogger kowisja Says:

    Oh and sorry for ripping into the delivery, I think I just believe the only one school they have been a fan of dictates that they won't go out of state. My delivery of argument was a bit flawed too.

  9. Anonymous Dave Says:

    You make some good points, and this seems like it's a multi-post issue which you may address later, but there are some key elements that you are missing.

    1. Recent Coaches/Success. Sure we're losing a lot of the top tier guys to out of state schools, but who were they before this year? USC has won 2 National Titles and has been to a BCS bowl basically every year. OSU has won 1 title and been to the NC game twice more. LSU has won the national title twice now Florida won once. Oklahoma got creamed in the NC game, but still made it there.

    Compare that to how UM has been doing these past few seasons:

    2007: Epic Fails vs AppSt, Oregon, Wisconsin, OSU, not selected to BCS, but won game nobody expected them to win against Florida in Florida.

    2006: Strongest year in recent history for UM, lose nail biter against OSU to get edged out of the NC game, then failed against USC.

    2005: Alamo bowl loss to Nebraska, end season out of top 25.

    2004: Random loss to ND, loss to OSU, lose on last second fg to Texas

    2003: Pretty good season, beat OSU to clinch Rose Bowl where we promptly lose 28-14.

    2002: Outback Bowl, beat Florida 38-30 pre Urban Meyer.

    2001: Creamed by Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl

    There are two themes here. One theme is we do well during the season, then fail in the national spotlight (2006, 2004, 2003, 2001). The other theme is we fail early on, then recover late but are pretty much written off (2002, 2007). Then there's one year where we fail completely, 2005.

    In the recent success department, we fall short.

    2. It's warmer in other places. Hi USC, Florida, LSU.

    3. Visibility/Draftability. Simply put, the more you win, the more you're on tv. The more you're on tv, the bigger the hype (he's a boxer, he's a safety! Tom Zbikowski!) (he's a pitcher, he's a football player, Jeff Smardija!). looking at schools with players drafted, UM hasn't been at the level as OSU or USC this decade. We had a good crop last season, and a fair amount of 1st round picks, but it pales compared to USC.

    4. I hesitate to mention this, but based on various reports: Shadiness. OJ Mayo, Reggie Bush, Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith.

    5. Some people just... nobody knows. Only 1 person falls here: Jerimy Finch.