College football recruiting: Four battles to monitor on 2019 National Signing Day
The battle for No. 1 is likely locked up but here are four more to watch on National Signing Day.
Just one week out from the final National Signing Day for the class of 2019, there are some interesting battles emerging. While the battle for No. 1 is effectively over as Alabama will finish with the top recruiting class for the eighth year out of the last nine and Georgia is seemingly locked in at No. 2, it's at No. 3 where the drama begins.
As Signing Day approaches, here are four battles worth monitoring now that the race for No. 1 and No. 2 are out of reach.
Battle for the Big Ten: There is an opportunity to see a changing of the guard in the Big Ten for the 2019 cycle. Urban Meyer's decision to hand the head coach chair over to Ryan Day combined with a relatively small Buckeye class has ceded the race for the Big Ten to Michigan and Penn State. Currently, Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines on top and No. 7 in the country; however, there's not much room to work with down the homestretch, so Michigan is essentially in the clubhouse eyeing the Penn State finish.
The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 10 with plenty of room to grow. It's working to flip four-star safety Nick Cross from Florida State, four-star offensive guard Doug Nester from Ohio State and land late-rising uncommitted prospects like Joseph Appiah Darkwa out of Germany or tight end Brett Seither out of Florida. With a successful Signing Day, James Franklin will take the crown in the Big Ten but it's going to take a heck of a close to do it. To erase the 11-point difference between the two programs in the 247Sports team rankings, Penn State likely needs to win not one but both of the battles for Cross and Nester barring other unforeseen upsets.
Battle for the state of Texas: Texas and Texas A&M are engaged in a classic recruiting grudge match. In the greater landscape of college football, this doesn't ultimately matter. Texas is ranked No. 3 in the country and Texas A&M is ranked No. 4. Both programs have put together outstanding classes, separated by just over two points in our rankings formula that are playoff caliber. They're not in the same conference and they don't even play each other on the field, but the bragging rights are real.
In order for Texas to hold on to that coveted top spot in the state, it needs to beat Texas A&M on offensive lineman Javonne Shepherd and hope that the Aggies don't pull out any surprises. That's it. But the margins are razor thin and the bragging rights are enormous.
Annual battle for the state of Louisiana: We get it every year: a battle in the state of Louisiana between Alabama and LSU for a top prospect. Ed Orgeron wants to lock down the state. Alabama wants the best players in the country, and yes, perhaps Nick Saban gets a little extra joy out of cutting another hole in the fence Orgeron is constantly trying to patch up.
This year, the battle is for Ishmael Sopsher. He's a 335-pound defensive tackle who is extremely talented, but as Signing Day approaches, this feels like it's a commitment that's as important for PR reasons as it is for on-field reasons. LSU has offered Sopsher's junior college brother while Alabama hasn't. Alabama has been perceived to have taken the momentum this fall while LSU appears to have taken some back in January. An undercard to follow for this Alabama-LSU matchup is out of Mississippi where Alabama commit Byron Young is considering the Tigers. He's an even more talented prospect than Sopsher but hails from a more neutral state.
Battle for the Signing Day splash: Coaches typically prefer to have a drama-free National Signing Day. It means they've secured their class well in advance and no surprises means no bad news. But there is a pay-off to procrastination in recruiting. When signing day hits, there are going to be plenty of programs that have ground to make up. If they hit on their top targets, those programs become the talk of National Signing Day and get a jolt of free publicity. There are several candidates for splashy days on the first Wednesday in February.
Auburn is working the deep south with battles in Mississippi, Florida and its own home state of Alabama, indicating a potential run at the top 10. Florida State has a host of players that it's battling for including a few offensive linemen, quarterback and offensive skill. If Florida can hold beat Alabama on Khris Bogle, SEC East rival Georgia on Kaiir Elam and Auburn and MIami on Mark-Antony Richards that would send statements all over the region from Dan Mullen. A Penn State Big Ten recruiting title would certainly send a message to the Midwest. Then there's Mack Brown at North Carolina who is proving that he can still recruit by generating a lot of momentum down the homestretch.
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