With all due respect to Michigan State, which has won the Big Ten in two of the last three years, and Iowa, which last season started 12-0 and came within a goal-line stand of reaching the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten looks like a two-team race in 2016.
There’s No. 6 Ohio State, and there’s No. 7 Michigan. Everyone else, it seems, is playing for second.
Ultimately, though, which team is better? Is it Ohio State, which is 50-4 under Urban Meyer? Or is it Michigan, which went 10-3 in Jim Harbaugh’s first season in Ann Arbor?
“I’m going to say Ohio State,” AP college football writer Ralph Russo said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “As good as Michigan will be – and I think the defense has a chance to be outstanding – I still believe that Urban Meyer has simply been there longer and there is more talent in that pipeline sort of streaming through Ohio State.”
Meyer has routinely brought in top-five recruiting classes, at worst, during his tenure in Columbus. There’s a reason why Ohio State won the national title in 2014 and is 25-1 over its last 26 games.
Still, the Buckeyes return just six starters this year and have a tough schedule ahead: They play night games at No. 3 Oklahoma, at Wisconsin and at Penn State. They also play at No. 12 Michigan State on Nov. 19 before a showdown with Michigan the following weekend.
The Buckeyes’ new starters will be all grown up by then.
Ohio State also returns redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who, if he stays healthy, could be a Heisman finalist. Michigan, meanwhile, returns a ton of talent but remains uncertain under center. Wilton Speight, John O’Korn and Shane Morris are all competing for the starting job.
“Even though Ohio State has a lot of change, they still have J.T. Barrett,” Russo said. “They still have a bunch of 4- and 5-star (recruits). So I will go with Urban and his 4- and 5-stars and give Jim Harbaugh another season or two worth of recruiting. No doubt Michigan is closing that gap fast. We’ll see how much they closed it.”
Meyer is 4-0 against Michigan and has won the last two games by a combined 43 points. Ohio State beat Michigan, 42-13, in Ann Arbor last November.
“Remember, the last time we saw those team teams on the field, Ohio State boat-raced Michigan,” Russo said. “So I want to see them close that gap on the field maybe before I buy into Michigan passing Ohio State.”