The Big 10 takes a lot of body punches, sometimes very unfairly and a little below the belt, from critics who love to point out how the conference's football teams have been dominated by the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac-10.
And subpar recruiting year such as this will only rev up their engines. Imagine, on signing day, the Big 10 won't land a single player who ranks among the top 25 in the nation. That is embarrassing.
But let's be fair. The Big 10 doesn't play on the same level as the other conferences. They have different rules. And, with the exceptions of Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford, they have different academic standards, too.
On signing day, for example, notice how many schools in the other conferences "oversign" recruits. The NCAA limit is 25 per year. But some schools sign 30 to 40, select the ones they feel might make instant impacts, then set the others up at junior colleges or prep schools and monitor their development.
The Big 10 has a rule prohibiting oversigning. The SEC is the biggest offender. This year, North Carolina has 29, South Carolina 26. Look for the lists of several schools to be extended on signing day.
While other conferences tend to run players out of their programs in order to maintain the NCAA's four-year limit of 85 scholarships, the Big 10 keeps more players and has fewer transfers. In addition, note how many players (like Morgan Park's Craig Drummond) end up in the SEC or elsewhere because they couldn't qualify academically for a Big 10 scholarship.