With National Signing Day set for the middle of next week, two B1G East teams will likely finish with top-five recruiting classes. One of them is actually in position to close with the No. 1 class, which would mark the first time that a non-Alabama team claimed such a feat since 2010.

That team, of course, is Ohio State. The other B1G East team that’ll finish with a top-five class is Penn State. Besides being B1G East teams with top-five classes, they have something else in common. Both of them won New Year’s Six bowls, and both of them won a B1G title in the last 14 months.

Then there’s Michigan.

The Wolverines didn’t sniff a B1G title in 2017, and they won’t sniff a top-5 recruiting class on Wednesday. It’ll mark Michigan’s first finish outside of the top 10 in Jim Harbaugh’s three full recruiting cycles.

There wasn’t stories of sleepovers or go-kart racing. We didn’t see Harbaugh jump into swimming pools or climb trees. Compared to the last couple seasons, he kept a low profile throughout the heavy recruiting period.

The question some probably have is why the Wolverines took a step back. Why, when Harbaugh is supposed to be hitting his stride in his third full recruiting cycle, is he looking up at Urban Meyer and James Franklin when he’s supposed to be on their level in the recruiting world?

Some would argue that the shine of Michigan’s new Harbaugh-based identity is gone.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan fans would be the first to tell you that the 2018 class was destined to slip a bit in the national rankings. Why? It was going to be a smaller class because Harbaugh completely flipped the roster over by signing 58 recruits in the last two classes. Even Alabama, which was always going to have a smaller 2018 class, was impacted by that in the recruiting rankings.

Still, barring something crazy, Michigan will finish without a 5-star recruit for the first time that Harbaugh had a full recruiting cycle to work with. On top of that, Michigan averaged six top-100 recruits in the last two classes. Harbaugh only has one in the 2018 class, and it’s verbally committed 4-star linebacker Otis Reese, who the 247sports crystal ball projects will flip to Georgia.

So there’s a decent chance that Michigan winds up without a top-100 commit for the first time since — are you ready for this? — Brady Hoke’s first recruiting class in 2011. Yikes.

But Harbaugh had plenty of time to assemble his class, unlike Hoke that first year. Speaking of first-year coaches, do you notice a pattern in the teams surrounding Michigan in the 247sports recruiting class rankings?

That’s five teams with new coaches that Michigan is surrounded by. And with the exception of Oregon, Michigan has more commitments than all of them, which tells you that the average recruit with those new coaches is rated higher than the Wolverines’ recruits.

In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean a ton. It is interesting though.

It wasn’t long ago that we were talking about Harbaugh taking the recruiting world by storm. What changed, you asked?

The best and probably simplest explanation that I can come up with is that Michigan’s slip is directly related to its on-field product. Let’s call it what it is. With all of that talent in 2016, Michigan squandered a golden opportunity to elevate its brand. The chance to finally get to Indianapolis and play for not only a B1G Championship, but to have a Playoff berth on the line, would’ve been huge. That year will always been “what could’ve been” for Michigan fans.

I know what you’re thinking, though. In terms of recruiting, Harbaugh still crushed it in the 2017 class. Michigan finished that cycle ranked No. 5 nationally. That’s what happens when your team is in the conference title and national title discussion for an entire regular season.

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Compare that to 2017, when Michigan was dropped from both of those conversations by the midway point of the season. Call me crazy, but losing 42-13 to a division and recruiting rival like Penn State matters in the recruiting world. Dropping home games to your other two division rivals hurts, too.

Michigan had a hollow season. There was neither a signature win, nor was there a legitimate chance at winning a conference title. With the margin for error in the B1G East, that’s hard to overcome. Add to the fact that Michigan is still trying to get that “no conference titles since 2004” monkey off its back, and no wonder the Harbaugh train lost a bit of steam in 2018.

That’s not to say that Michigan is done producing top-five classes. The Wolverines could get back on that track in 2019 (they’re ranked No. 8 a year from signing day).

The challenge is sustaining that. If you aren’t winning or at least reaching conference championships on a yearly basis, it’s all but impossible to consistently produce top-five classes. Tradition can only take you so far. Winning is obviously the only way to establish that kind of foundation.

RELATED: Cris Carter torches Jim Harbaugh, calls him “most overrated coach in football”

You can bet Harbaugh knows that. Maybe that’s why he had his quietest season yet. That doesn’t mean he’s on the hot seat or that he’s suddenly running on fumes. It just means that you can’t always be selling. Sooner or later, you need that breakout season.

Look what it did for Penn State. Now, the Lions are in shape to recruit on a top-five level annually. Even look at what it did for Georgia. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Bulldogs started cranking out top-three classes on a yearly basis.

That kind of breakout year would do more in the recruiting world than any viral video of Harbaugh. It would finally show everyone that Michigan is great, and not just good. It would confirm that Harbaugh’s vision is working, and that the Wolverines are no longer the program selling 20th century success.

It’ll be extremely interesting to see how we’re discussing Harbaugh’s recruiting reputation 12 months from now. Maybe Shea Patterson leads the Wolverines to that elusive B1G Championship and we’re debating if they’ll earn their first No. 1 recruiting class. Or perhaps it’s another third-place finish in the B1G East and the “Harbaugh is overrated” crowd is shouting from the mountaintops for every blue chip recruit to hear.

Either way, we know one thing is for sure. The Harbaugh buzz simmered down in 2017-18, and the only way it’s going to boil over again is if Michigan catches fire.