Travis: Meyer, Franklin building ‘SEC North’ in the Big Ten

Urban Meyer and James Franklin will have some epic recruiting battles in the Big Ten.

Urban Meyer moved to Ohio State for a simple reason — because he decided it was easier to win at Ohio State than it was at Florida.

At first glance, this makes no sense. After all, Florida’s a better job with better recruits than Ohio State. Plus, Florida’s in a much better conference. 

Why would it be easier to win at Ohio State? Because Meyer’s building a good SEC program in the Big Ten. And a good SEC program will dominate the Big Ten in a way a good SEC program could never dominate the SEC.  

Why?

Because the players are much worse in the Big Ten. A good SEC team runs through the Big Ten like a hot knife runs through butter. 

Put simply, it’s easier to win games in the Big Ten than it is in the SEC. This begins and ends with recruiting.  

It’s not rocket science — the better the players, the better the team. The SEC consistently racks up the best players. Big Ten recruiting? It’s a joke. 

In the current Rivals recruiting rankings, nine of the top 14 classes in America are SEC schools.

1. Alabama

3. Tennessee

5. Texas A&M

6. LSU

9. Auburn

10. Florida

11. Georgia

12. Kentucky

14. Ole Miss

Right now if you had the No. 15 recruiting class in the country, you’d finish with the 10th best class in the SEC. (247 Sports has similar data in its rankings and Scout ranks seven SEC teams in its top 13). 

I’ll write more on this as signing day moves closer, but the SEC schools are poised to put together the most dominant recruiting haul in the history of college football. Never before will so much talent be entering SEC schools. 

That’s scary when you consider the level of domination the conference already has. Look out — the players are about to get even better. 

So what about Big Ten recruiting? It’s the exact opposite. 

Urban Meyer has put on the full-court SEC recruiting press in Columbus and right now Ohio State has the No. 2 overall class in America. How has Meyer done it? By dominating the North, a region most SEC schools don’t go after that aggressively.

Fifteen of Meyer’s 21 commitments are from above the Mason-Dixon line. Other than Kentucky, which has 10 commits from Ohio, the rest of the SEC just snags a player here and there from above the geographic mark. Why? Because there’s so much talent in the South it isn’t necessary to go outside the region to get great players. 

That leaves the competition for top players in the northern states much weaker. The result is that Meyer has been able to rack up great recruiting classes without much competition from other Big Ten schools. 

Which brings us to James Franklin and his move to the Big Ten. 

Before it hired Franklin, Penn State had the second-best class in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions’ national class rank? No. 24. 

That would have been good enough for 11th in the SEC. (Vandy’s class under James Franklin was ranked higher.)

Since Franklin’s hire — and subsequent flipping of three commits — Penn State has surged to 16th overall in the country while Vandy has nosedived to 52.

Penn State is the second-best class in the Big Ten, but it would be the 10th best class in the SEC (after Vandy’s fall). 

Franklin’s decision to leave Vandy for Penn State was strategic — in the SEC, he had to compete against the top programs in the country for the best recruits. At Penn State, he’ll have to beat just Meyer. The entire Northeast — from northern Virginia to New England — will be his region. Toss in his home state of Pennsylvania, which he plans to dominate, and battle Meyer in Ohio, and you’re talking about Franklin and Meyer going head-to-head above the Mason-Dixon line for all of the top players.

Figure that both men can supplement their northern classes with five or six Southern players a year, and you’re talking about consistent top 10 classes for as long as these men are at Ohio State and Penn State.  

Basically, Meyer and Franklin have brought SEC recruiting north, to a region of the country where the recruits aren’t as good but where the competition for those players is less intense. 

After Penn State at 16th, this is where the Big Ten’s classes rank in the current Rivals recruiting rankings. 

25. Michigan 

29. Wisconsin

33. Nebraska

34. Michigan State

42. Rutgers

47. Indiana

50. Northwestern

53. Iowa

58. Purdue

60. Maryland

61. Illinois

68. Minnesota

You want to know why the Big Ten sucks? The recruiting, stupid. 

These classes are dreadful. In fact, most of these class ranks would get a coach fired in the SEC.

At Vanderbilt, Franklin looked at the other coaches he was recruiting against and believed there was a ceiling on what he could accomplish in recruiting. Even as one of the top recruiting coaches in the country, cracking the top 15 was going to be very hard, and the top 10 was almost impossible.

The other SEC schools just had better fan support and facilities to sell.

But at Penn State? All Franklin has to do is out-recruit Meyer, and he’ll have the best players in the entire conference.

And if you have the best players in the conference you’re in pretty good shape to win the Big Ten, which means you’d have a great shot at advancing to the four-team playoff.  

Write this in stone: James Franklin will finish with a top five class at Penn State in 2015. I will personally guarantee it.

You know why?

Because he’s following Meyer’s model. Franklin’s going to build a good SEC team in a bad conference. The result?

Lots and lots of wins.

Will it lead to national titles? That remains to be seen.

But the Big Ten’s finally got two coaches who get it — recruiting wins championships.