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In Big Ten, there's Ohio State and Michigan, and then there's everybody else

Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer have their programs at the top of the Big Ten in terms of recruiting. Getty Images

National signing day approaches with Ohio State and Michigan leading the Big Ten charge. The two rivals are both on track to finish in the top five of ESPN’s recruiting rankings, something no Big Ten tandem has done in the same year since the rankings began in 2006.

In fact, entering the 2016 season, the Buckeyes were the only Big Ten program to ever finish with a top-five class, and both instances came under Urban Meyer (2013 and 2016). Meyer’s 2013 class -- which included the likes of running back Ezekiel Elliott (now with the Dallas Cowboys) and defensive end Joey Bosa (San Diego Chargers) -- finished third in ESPN’s rankings, the best to date by any Big Ten school.

Meyer signed top 10 classes in each of his first five recruiting cycles in Columbus (2012 through 2016) and, including his time at Florida, his 10 total top-10 classes are the most signed by a head coach in the ESPN 300 era.

Jim Harbaugh, Meyer’s counterpart at rival Michigan, is on track to sign his second straight top-10 class after he finished with the nation’s 40th-ranked class in 2015. That first class was signed during an abbreviated recruiting period after Harbaugh was hired by the Wolverines in December 2014.

In Harbaugh’s first two full cycles (2016 and 2017), Michigan has received commitments from 31 players in the ESPN 300, the most in the Big Ten and tied for the second-most in the FBS over that span (as of Thursday). The success has come at a perfect time for the Wolverines, who need to replace an FBS-high 17 primary starters from last season.

Together, Michigan and Ohio State have received more ESPN 300 commitments (76) than all other Big Ten schools combined (63) since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor. Those two are the only schools from the conference to sign a top-10 class during that span.

The last Big Ten program other than the Wolverines or Buckeyes to sign a top-10 class in ESPN’s rankings was Penn State in 2006. The reigning Big Ten champions finished with the nation’s No. 9 class that season and are on track to finish 2017 with their third consecutive top-20 class under James Franklin.