Joel Klatt believes The Game will continue shaping the overall trajectory of the college football season, even after an offseason of massive change in Ann Arbor.

In his latest episode of “The Joel Klatt Show,” he breaks down 10 games that are likely to shape the regular season and path to the College Football Playoff. 6 of the games on Klatt’s list involve Big Ten teams, including Ohio State making 3 appearances and Michigan making 2.

However, the biggest game on that list is The Game:

“You can’t talk about the games that shape college football without talking about this game… It’s The Game, Michigan vs. Ohio State,” Klatt said.

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Even with everything going on in Ann Arbor with Jim Harbaugh leaving and the change to Sherrone Moore, Klatt sees the Wolverines as the new standard that Ohio State is currently chasing. It’s hard to argue ahead of 2024 with the reigning national champions riding 3 straight wins vs. the Buckeyes.

“This game in so many ways is going to shape college football for the foreseeable future. Like Alabama now trying to measure themselves against Georgia and Kirby Smart, now all of a sudden Ohio State is having to measure up against Michigan,” Klatt explained. “Michigan is the one that has won the national championship and is 15-0. Michigan is the one that is 3-0 in the last 3 years against Ohio State. Michigan is the one that is the 3-time defending Big Ten champion.”

As for Ohio State, Klatt sees a bunch of pressure against Ryan Day and his coaching staff considering the recent turn of events in the rivalry. He went so far as to say the Buckeyes “have to win” against Michigan.

“Their activity this offseason signals that,” said Klatt. “…The roster is incredible. The defense is incredible. There’s an insane amount of pressure on the coaching staff in Columbus right now. There just is.”

Meanwhile, Michigan is reloading and has a number of question marks entering the season. Still, the defense is enough to keep the team competitive, but Klatt sees a scenario where this could be an elimination game for the College Football Playoff.

“Michigan’s got a really tough schedule… Ohio State could be playing to knock Michigan out of the Playoff,” Klatt wondered.

In spite of Michigan’s recent success, Ohio State opened as a -10 favorite at DraftKings with the 2024 matchup coming in Columbus. Fans can use Tradition’s DraftKings Ohio promo code to sign up and get in on the action today.

Analyzing Klatt’s comments

To Klatt’s credit, it is impossible to find a more important game on the B1G schedule than The Game. Going back to 2017, the winner of Ohio State-Michigan has won the B1G Championship 6 times with a 6-0 record in Indianapolis. (Ohio State won the B1G title in 2020 when The Game was canceled.)

The Game has also achieved a particular level of importance when it comes to the Playoff. Since 2019, the winner of the rivalry matchup has made the Playoff all 4 occurrences, and the loser has made the Playoff just once. (That would be Ohio State in 2022.)

The only question for 2024 is whether or not some of the elite early-season matchups will take some of the shine out of the season-ending rivalry. How will things look if Michigan stumbles against Texas in nonconference play? Would a loss by Ohio State to Oregon change the national thoughts around The Game?

Even as the B1G expands, it’s hard to see a way around The Game continuing to play a pivotal role in which teams advance to Indianapolis. But on a national level, it’s importance to simply reaching the Playoff could take a hit.

Still, the importance of seeding come to the forefront and the potential for a bye in the CFP should keep the Playoff importance of The Game alive and well.

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