Ace: When do you expect Michigan to get on level footing with Michigan State and Ohio State? Do you expect them to, in the latter case?
Dave Nasternak: Well, those are 2 different levels, especially after the last year.
As far as reaching Michigan State's level, I'm thinking (hoping?) Harbaugh will get them to that level in the next 2-3 years. I actually think that the talent differential is not huge, outside of a couple of obvious positions. The coaching differential, however...has been quite large. One of the interesting things about Michigan State has been their recruiting. They have not had stand-out, elite level recruiting during their stretch of dominance over Michigan (and kinda the Big Ten). But they have developed their roster as well as anyone has...which is coaching. It has also not hurt Michigan State that Michigan and Penn State have not been at program expectations over the past 5+ years. However, with Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, now -and a competitively talented roster to work with- I think that gap has already shrunk a bit...and will presumably do so in the next couple of years.
|You will NOT take away the year of Fickell. [Upchurch]|
Since the end of the 2004 season, Ohio State is 110-21. 104-14 if you take away the Year of Fickell. That's...uh...I don't even know. I definitely think this past 10 or so years has not been the Big Ten's best -definitely some under-performing teams and questionable hiring decisions by a few of the schools- but...yikes, man. There were a few years where its felt like Michigan has lost 14 games...just in that year, alone! I'm not sure anyone is going to THAT level, any time soon. If anyone can give Michigan a chance to do so, it would be Jim Harbaugh, though. Anyway...my next point, haha. One of the things that Ohio State has that has eluded most of the Big Ten teams (at least lately) is a game-changer. And they have had many. Going back to Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor and now Miller/Barrett/Jones and Elliott. These are guys that can score every time they touch the ball...and always seem to make a play to keep a drive alive or score when OSU needs points. They are Heisman trophy winners...or at least candidates. That is level of recruit AND development that Michigan is going to need in order to compete at the OSU level. Can and will Harbaugh take Michigan there? I think he can. I hope he will. When? It will be years before he will be able to make a mark like OSU has been able to over the last decade or so. But I do think that once Harbaugh gets Top 100/300/whatever recruits flowing into his system, Michigan will be able to go toe-to-toe with Ohio State and at least beat them at a competitive rate...instead of the 1(Fickell) and 10 it has been over the past 11 years.
[After the jump: projections on a sophomore roster]