September is over and October has begun, bringing better football, cooler game days, and higher stakes. Starting off a month of promising Big Ten play is the Michigan versus Michigan State game in Ann Arbor coming up on Saturday, October 7.
Since 2007, the Wolverines have only pulled off three wins against the Spartans, also deemed “Little Brother” by Michigan fans. Last season was Michigan’s first win against Michigan State under head coach Jim Harbaugh, redemption after his second loss in the series back in 2015.
Harbaugh has not only beat Michigan State on the field, but off the field as well. Since Harbaugh took on the head coaching job at Michigan, top high school prospects in the state of Michigan have been flocking to Ann Arbor rather than East Lansing.
After just two years, Harbaugh had seven of Michigan’s top ten prospects as a part of his class of 2017, including five-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and the five next best ranked players in Michigan. The Spartans, however, only had two of the state’s top ten prospects as a part of their 2017 class.
Under former head coach Brady Hoke, Michigan had started to gain momentum in the recruiting department, especially with in-state prospects. Hoke’s class of 2013 consisted of five top players in the state of Michigan- including the highly anticipated quarterback prospect Shane Morris, ranked number one in Michigan in 2015. Morris eventually transferred to Central Michigan University for the 2017 season. Keeping the ball rolling, Harbaugh has effectively built upon Hoke’s already impressive recruiting.
In previous years, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has had no problem fielding a competitive team with the talent he recruited. Just in 2015, the Spartans entered the College Football Playoffs (CFP) seeded at No. 3, ultimately losing to Alabama, 38-0. Following the deflating shutout, Michigan State went 3-9 during the 2016 season and is currently 3-1 with a loss to Notre Dame.
The loss of top in-state talent, among other internal problems, could be a major problem for the Spartans. Since 2013, Michigan State’s recruiting classes have consisted of at least 50 percent Midwest recruits and as much as 90 percent. The Wolverines, however, just last year took seven of the top ten players in Michigan and still had only 43 percent of their 2017 class included Midwest talent.
With Michigan on the rise in national rankings and in the media, the Spartans will have to step up their game to draw attention of in-state and Midwest prospects, especially with Ohio State prominent in the region too.
Currently for the 2018 recruiting class, the Wolverines have eight four-star commits, five of which are from the Midwest and three specifically from Michigan. The Spartans have four four-star commits- including three from the Midwest and just one from the state of Michigan. Michigan State’s lone in-state four-star commit is Theo Day, a pro-style quarterback ranked as the seventh best player in Michigan.
Both teams are off to a relatively hot start to begin 2017, and while the two battle for the Big Ten East crown, the battle off the field remains a good one to keep your eye on.
*All unspecified rankings came from 247sports.com