Michigan Ohio State Michigan and Ohio State players got into a shoving match in the 2022 game.

In case you haven’t heard, a new wave of conference expansion is coming. Southern Cal, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington will join the Big Ten Conference next season, while several other programs will head to the Big XII. And, you know, Texas and Oklahoma are heading to the SEC. College sports is undergoing yet another makeover in the face of conference realignment, corporate media, and other factors. One of the things that might become collateral damage from all this moving and shaking may be more college rivalries. So what does Fox’s Joel Klatt think of all of it?

Klatt received a question from a fan during an episode of ‘The Joel Klatt Show’ this week.

After the big wave of expansion in the early 2010s, several of the sport’s cornerstone rivalries all but concluded from being an annual fixture. Nebraska and Oklahoma, for example, had a long, storied rivalry. They’ve only met twice since 2010. Texas and Texas A&M used to meet annually. During Thanksgiving week, no less. The programs haven’t played each other in football since 2011 (which makes the Longhorns’ move to the SEC kind of awkward!). This wave of conference expansion appeared to put rivalries like Oregon-Oregon State and Washington-Washington State in peril. It also might dilute the games themselves as we’re heading towards not just conference expansion, but an expanded College Football Playoff too.

The Fox college football commentator did admit that he thinks the sport may take a hit, but still is a firm believer that things will still ‘matter.’

“Unfortunately, yes. There will be a little bit of that because there would be a chance in the new format in the Big Ten, Ryan, that Ohio State and Michigan would just have to turn around and just play each other again in the Conference Championship Game. Because we’re going to do away with divisions in the Big Ten. So, does it dilute this game? Yeah, it does in some sense a little bit. A little bit.

“I would say that… it makes this game even bigger. So, in some ways, I’m more excited about this year. This is truly kind of an ‘end of an era’ game. Because I don’t know if everything will be on the line in the future like it is this year. Now, you can incentivize that game in later years like I just talked about. Home playoff games, byes, those types of things. That’s how you incentivize the game and make it matter. But playing back to back weeks? That’s an interesting one. I don’t know how to feel about that one. … When you don’t have divisions, then you at least allow for a team to play themselves back into a point where they can go win a championship.”

Klatt later framed the angle around the fact that in years prior, a situation that’s developed out West could be a scenario they’re looking to now avoid. Oregon’s only loss is to Washington, a three-point defeat at the buzzer in Seattle. They are poised to potentially go 11-1 this season if they finish the job this week against Oregon State. When the Pac-12 had the North and South Divisions, Oregon’s conference title game hopes would have vanished. They wouldn’t have the head-to-head against Washington, and Arizona, who would have been the “leader” in the South Division, would have the gateway instead.

College sports are changing and evolving constantly. The best way to continue is for things to be consequential. People like stakes—people like when things are on the line. Games don’t receive much attention when they have little to no consequence. Rivalry games will always have a lot of added juice. When elite teams play them, then you produce the best possible results you can get.

That’s why some of the moving and shaking in the world of conference realignment and pursuing CFP expansion misses some of the point. Even for Klatt’s employer, who reportedly had much to do with that aforementioned moving and shaking. But a traditionalist, maybe like Klatt, who admitted he’d get fired up for Michigan-Ohio State if it were played in a parking lot, may get up for it all anyway. After all, football is still football.

[Joel Klatt Show]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022