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The '14 Football Recruiting Class: Comparing the Rest of the Big Ten

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If the student section is to start filling up again, Beckman and staff will need to begin bringing top talent to Illinois that can compete in the Big Ten.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The ink has dried, the dust has settled, and the conference rankings have been reported. We've probably all had some time to digest where the Illini placed versus the rest of the conference. If you haven't, you can see the conference rankings from Scout here, Rivals here, and 247Sports here. Didn't click? I'll recap - 14th, 13th, and 13th respectively out of fourteen teams (Maryland and Rutgers are now included).

When I began writing this post, my intent was to compare the latest Illinois football recruiting class to the rest of the Big Ten. Seems simple, right? Putting together class comparisons and player analysis isn't all that arduous. The difficult and tiring part comes when you realize just how emotionally attached you are to the well being of your school's big budget sports programs.

I hate seeing Illinois at the bottom of every ranking of the Big Ten's recruiting classes. It hurts. It stings. We're behind Indiana. Yes, Indiana, who has only played in one, I repeat, ONE bowl game since the 1994 season. Embarrassing. We're behind Northwestern. Sickening. We're even behind conference newcomers Rutgers and Maryland...

Depressing.

So while sequencing words into this epically defeating piece, I felt like I was living one of those DirecTV commercials. When your favorite team's recruiting class ranks 13th out of fourteen teams, you become depressed. When you're depressed and writing about it, you - yada yada yada - I didn't want to wake up in a roadside ditch with an eye patch.

To avoid a depressive state of mind, I decided to do something different with my comparison. Why don't I add a star to each Illini player's rating in the 2014 class (thanks Andrew)? How does the Illini class stack up with the rest of the conference now?

This should be a fun game. How could a hypothetical situation like this not be? The class ranking will sky rocket! We'll rejoice in our newly found, although fake, level of superiority in the conference! Who's with me?

Here is how this will work: I'll add a star to each recruit from the Illini class per the rankings in the in the links above, and we'll look at the before and after. I'll then re-rank the conference classes placing Illinois where I think they would end up.

Let's begin.

NOTE - All three sites use a formula based on their own player rankings in order to create point totals that build the team rankings. Since I can't predict how many points Illinois would realistically generate on any site under this hypothetical setting, I'll rank the Illini where I think they would be placed.

Scout:

Current ratings -

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 1
3- stars: 9

New ratings -

5-stars: 1
4-stars: 9
3- stars: 7

New class rankings -

1. Ohio State: 1 5-star, 16 4-stars, 6 3-stars
2. Michigan State: 1 5-star, 4 4-stars, 18 3-stars
3. Penn State: 0 5-stars, 4 4-stars, 20 3-stars
4. Illinois: 1 5-star, 9 4-stars, 7 3-stars
5. Michigan: 1 5-star, 7 4-stars, 8 3-stars

No one is topping OSU here. The high number of 3-star recruits keep MSU and PSU in 2nd and 3rd place. Illinois moves ahead of Michigan by having two more 4-stars compared to only one fewer 3-star.

Rivals:

Current ratings -

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 0
3- stars: 12

New ratings -

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 12
3- stars: 5

New class rankings -

1. Ohio State: 1 5-star, 15 4-stars, 7 3-stars
2. Penn State: 0 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 18 3-stars
3. Illinois: 0 5-stars, 12 4-stars, 5 3-stars
4. Michigan State: 0 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 13 3-stars
5. Michigan: 1 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 8 3-stars

With twelve 4-star players, I'm finding it difficult to place Illinois any lower than 3rd , although I'm sure MSU's point total would be close. Again, OSU is the cream of the crop. Eighteen 3-stars to go along with six 4-stars keeps PSU in 2nd.

247Sports:

Current ratings -

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 0
3- stars: 14

New ratings -

5-stars: 0
4-stars: 14
3- stars: 3

New class rankings -

1. Ohio State: 1 5-star, 15 4-stars, 7 3-stars
2. Michigan: 1 5-star, 8 4-stars, 7 3-stars
3. Penn State: 0 5-star, 5 4-stars, 20 3-stars
4. Michigan State: 1 5-star, 3 4-stars, 19 3-stars
5. Illinois: 0 5-star, 14 4-stars, 3 3-stars

Surprise, OSU is at one. Michigan, PSU, and MSU are all relatively close in points, so I'll include Illinois at five with fourteen 4-stars and three 3-stars. I'm not sure the Illini class has the firepower to overcome any of these higher ranked classes.

There we have it. The Illini find themselves in the top five of the conference rankings per each of these recruiting services!

Didn't I say the point of this diversion, this star adding process, was to raise my spirits? Wow. I was wrong. I think doing this has forced me to realize how depressing the state of Illinois football recruiting really was this year.

Because of this, I bring back that expectation of where Illinois should be ranked every year which I've lost in time. There's no reason why they can't. U of I is the state school in the conference's most populated state yet they can't keep players at home.

But what's even worse is that Illinois still doesn't have the top class in the conference after adding a star to every player's rating. Not even top two! That's why they're listed at the bottom of the recruiting rankings. That's why they've become the butt of every insulting Big Ten football joke (sorry, Purdue has to lose 13 more conference games in a row before taking away the Illini's crown). That's why the top in-state players look elsewhere.

There isn't enough top end talent on this roster, and it's not coming from the 2014 class.

I guess the speculative scenario above proves one thing. However I look at this class right now, it will be depressing.

Well, at least I have a basketball win over Nebraska to celebrate. Oh wait.

Waking up in a roadside ditch with an eye patch doesn't sound so bad anymore.

G - O Illini GO!