If Joel Klatt had the choice, he’d be in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend calling perhaps the best rivalry in college football.
With the Michigan vs. Ohio State showdown canceled because of COVID-19 issues at Michigan, however, Klatt is coming home – and he’s excited for the opportunity.
No. 21 Colorado (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12) will host Utah (1-2, 1-2) on Saturday at 10 a.m. and the game will take the “Big Noon Kickoff” slot on Fox Sports, with the network’s No. 1 broadcast team – Klatt, Gus Johnson and Jenny Taft – on hand.
“Ohio State-Michigan is like the prize of the year,” Klatt told BuffZone this week. “At the same time, I’m so happy for (the Buffs) that they’re having success and this is fun. This will be a good showcase for them and for the conference.”
Klatt is a Colorado native who was a multi-sport star at Pomona High School. After giving minor league baseball a try, he walked on at CU and became the program’s all-time leading passer, throwing for 7,375 yards from 2002-05 (he now ranks fourth). His brother, Jason, is the head football coach at Mead High School.
The last quarterback to lead CU to two bowl games, Klatt is thrilled to see the Buffs in position to play for the Pac-12 title and to be a part of Saturday’s broadcast.
“Listen, if Gus and I are calling your game in (December), something’s on the line,” Klatt said. “That is a good thing for Colorado. So when I caught wind of this, I was super pumped.”
As one of the top analysts in college football, though, Klatt has a national perspective and he’s disappointed to see the Buffs aren’t playing the 16th-ranked Southern California Trojans (4-0, 4-0) this week.
While Klatt has great respect for Utah, the Buffs and Trojans are the only undefeated teams in the Pac-12, and they missed their chance to square off when COVID-19 issues at USC caused a cancellation of their Nov. 28 matchup in Los Angeles. USC will play rival UCLA (3-2, 3-2) on Saturday.
Klatt is among many who believe the Pac-12 did a disservice to both teams by not changing this week’s schedule to pit the Buffs and Trojans, while having Utah and UCLA play in a makeup of their canceled game from Nov. 13.
“It’s the easiest fix of all time and they didn’t do it,” Klatt said.
“Number one, you can’t just say, ‘Well, divisions are divisions,’ when everybody in the divisions haven’t played. That’s not a division; that’s a makeshift schedule. You can’t hide behind scheduling protocol when they’ve broken scheduling protocol upwards of four or five times already. All of those things are frustrating from the outside looking in.”
Ultimately, it could be Colorado left out of the Pac-12 title game, but Klatt said his argument is not necessarily about the Buffs.
“This, more than anything, is a USC argument,” he said. “USC should be banging down the door to play Colorado because Colorado is ranked, Colorado is undefeated. Now, it remains to be seen whether they will be after Saturday and this might be a moot point, because I think Utah is a really good team, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I will say that the conference has failed its membership right now in the current model.”
Although USC is a long shot to reach the College Football Playoff, Klatt said enough chaos could occur to at least get the Trojans into the discussion – if they had a win over an undefeated, ranked Colorado team on its resume.
“Why wouldn’t you give them every opportunity possible?” Klatt said. “(As the Pac-12), I would be trying to get my champion in front of the playoff committee. That’s everybody’s goal. I just don’t understand this at all. It’s like they don’t care.”
Klatt does, however, have great interest in seeing the Buffs get tested by a Utah team he believes is much better than its record.
“I can’t wait for this matchup,” he said. “I think Utah, while young, and they are one of the youngest teams in the country, they’re still really stout up front and that’s their MO. This is going to be a real test and I can’t wait to see that play out, what is, at least in my estimation, the strength against strength.”
Klatt covered seven CU games years ago, but this is just the second time he’s seen the Buffs since working with Johnson atop Fox’s lineup. They were in Boulder for the Nov. 19, 2016, matchup with Washington State. CU won that game en route to a South title. The Buffs are in South contention again, and Klatt is impressed with the program’s direction under head coach Karl Dorrell.
“That team in 2016 was such a lightning in a bottle team with players like Phillip Lindsay,” Klatt said. “This one feels a little bit different, to be honest with you, and I think that there’s probably a better foundation for this team because of the line play on both sides then maybe even the 2016 team.”