Conventional wisdom says that the Big Ten Conference added the Maryland Terrapins and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights so it could sell Big Ten Network subscriptions to the people of Maryland and New Jersey, respectively. While there is some truth behind that rumor, there’s also more to it. The Big Ten was also in search of “blue chip” football recruits - players rated with either four or five stars.
One team which has notably benefitted from playing annual Big Ten football games in this region is the Penn State Nittany Lions, who have positioned themselves as the second-best team in the Big Ten East, behind only the Ohio State Buckeyes. The ACC’s answer to Penn State was the addition of the Boston College Eagles, Syracuse Orange, and of course, the Pittsburgh Panthers.
This year there were 33 players identified as either four-star or five-star recruits, or “blue chips”, as shown here by state and by the conference of the team which signed them:
Maryland: 15 blue chips (B1G: 4, ACC: 2, SEC: 5, XII: 2, Pac: 2)
New Jersey: 7 blue chips (B1G: 2, ACC: 0, ND: 1, SEC: 1, XII: 0, Pac: 1, TBD: 2)
Pennsylvania: 11 blue chips (B1G: 4, ACC: 3, SEC: 3, XII: 0, Pac: 0, TBD: 1)
The Big Ten signed ten of those 33 players - less than one third - while the ACC signed five (not counting the one from New Jersey who signed with Notre Dame). The real interloper was the SEC, who swept through and signed nine players despite not having a school in or even bordering any of those states!
Of the five Mid-Atlantic blue chip players who signed with ACC teams, two went to Pitt, two chose the Clemson Tigers, and one signed with Boston College. The only “Northern” ACC school who didn’t pull any star players from the region was Syracuse, which didn’t sign any blue chip players at all (although their highest-rated player so far is a three-star from New Jersey).
Recruiting is a zero-sum game. In order for your team to win, someone else has to lose. That fact alone means it will always remain important for ACC teams to recruit well in the Mid-Atlantic region, because they can’t afford to concede the area to the Big Ten (or any other conference).