In recent seasons the Big Ten East has been arguably the toughest division in all of college football. Boasting a trio of blue blood programs in Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State it is easy to see why. Especially when you factor in all three programs being led by coaches that are among the 10 best in college football.
However, the Big Ten East is undergoing a big change. Of these three program the most successful has been Ohio State. Despite Penn State’s Big Ten Championship in 2016, the Buckeyes remain the gold standard in the Big Ten and a big reason for this was head coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer, however, is set to step aside following the Rose Bowl on January 1st. While the Buckeyes should face a rather seamless transition with offensive coordinator Ryan Day taking over for Meyer, this is still a move that will change the landscape of the Big Ten.
With Meyer no longer in charge in Columbus the Nittany Lions are going to have an opportunity to benefit. No matter how well Day may do as coach of the Buckeyes, it will be near impossible for him to be as successful as Meyer was. After all, Meyer is arguably the greatest coach in the history of college football.
Prior to coming to Ohio State Meyer had already won a pair of national championships at Florida. With the Buckeyes, he won a third and owned an 81-9 record. Let me repeat that, an 81-9 record. That is incredible bordering on unbelievable.
The only thing Meyer was better at than winning football games was recruiting. Under Meyer’s guidance Ohio State has recruited at a level that no program other than Alabama can match. Like Meyer’s on field results, his recruiting results will be near impossible for Day to match.
Day may prove to be a great coach for the Buckeyes. Hell, the job he did filling in for a suspended Meyer earlier this season and hit work as the team’s offensive coordinator both indicate that he will be pretty darn good. But, he will not be as good as Meyer.
The same goes on the recruiting trial. Ohio State is still Ohio State. Due to this, they will always land plenty of blue chip recruits and play makers. But will they recruit at the most elite of levels without Meyer? Probably not.
While Ohio State will always be great it is still impossible for the program to not take a step backward with Meyer gone, and the step backward does not have to be a big one for Penn State to benefit. In recent years Penn State has closed the talent gap with Ohio State. This is something I wrote about back in the spring. This has continued in the 2019 recruiting cycle as Penn State’s recruiting class currently has an average rating of 91.67 while Ohio State’s is 92.24.
Under the guidance of James Franklin the Nittany Lions have once again risen to being a top-10 program. Now that Meyer is gone, the smart money would be on the Buckeyes sliding from a top two or three program to the same tier as the Nittany Lions. This will present an opportunity for the CJF and the Nittany Lions, an opportunity to become top dog in the Big Ten East.
Even if the departure of Meyer does not lead to the Nittany Lions overtaking the Buckeyes, again they’re still Ohio State and will still get plenty of blue chip talent, it at least presents the opportunity for the talent level between the two schools to continue to even out.
Penn State is a great program. During the Urban Meyer Era, Ohio State has been among the two or three most elite programs in college football. With Meyer out of the picture, the Buckeyes will likely slide to the great category. While this is not a big drop off, it is enough to present opportunity for the Nittany Lions to make a charge at taking over the Big Ten East’s top spot.