Big Ten fourth in recruiting rankings

Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer have Michigan and Ohio State recruiting at a nationally elite level. Penn State continues to bring in decorated prospects despite the heavy NCAA sanctions and scholarship reductions imposed on the program. Northwestern's 2014 recruiting is off to a splendid start, and Pat Fitzgerald is poised to sign the best class of his tenure. Nebraska's recent recruiting surge puts the program on solid footing entering the middle of the summer.

These developments surely will boost the Big Ten in the national recruiting realm, right? Well ...

RecruitingNation's Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert aren't too bullish on the Big Ten. The league comes in at No. 4 in their conference recruiting rankings, trailing the SEC, ACC and Pac-12.

Luginbill and Haubert note that the Big Ten's lack of national titles and poor bowl performances, along with the recent scandals at Penn State and Ohio State and the undeniable geographic challenges the league faces in recruiting, hurt the overall ranking. They acknowledge the success Hoke is enjoying at Michigan -- RecruitingNation ranks the Wolverines' class No. 1 nationally -- and Meyer is having at Ohio State, and an expanded recruiting footprint ushered in by expansion.

But the overall picture, compared to other power conferences, is so-so.

Few would doubt the SEC's historic run of success is tied to strong recruiting. The ACC's ranking, while understandable, is a bit misleading as no league wastes talent like the ACC, where the biggest date on the calendar is often national signing day. The Pac-12 benefits from having one of the nation's perennial recruiting hotbeds, California, right in its backyard.

The big recruiting question for the Big Ten going forward is how many programs can recruit at the highest level year in and year out. It's a safe bet Michigan and Ohio State will be there. Can Penn State keep up the pace despite the sanctions? Will Nebraska win more heavyweight fights for top recruits? What's the ceiling for programs like Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, as there's a limited number of FBS-level recruits growing up in those states?

We've seen Big Ten programs rise up in recruiting from time to time, whether it was Illinois in 2007-08, Michigan State in 2010, Iowa in 2005-07, Indiana last year or Northwestern in the upcoming class. But does anyone have staying power in recruiting? That's what separates the Big Ten from leagues like the SEC and ACC, where there are more programs signing nationally elite classes each year.