College Football
Joel Klatt: Michigan 'might be the best team in the country,' true contenders
College Football

Joel Klatt: Michigan 'might be the best team in the country,' true contenders

Updated Nov. 30, 2022 8:54 p.m. ET

There were so many memorable moments to come out of Michigan’s 45-23 win over Ohio State this past weekend, it would be a near-impossible exercise to choose one that stood out above the rest.

There was Cornelius Johnson’s 69-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, which set the stage for the Wolverines’ offense and provided a spark of confidence they could run with this Buckeye defense.

There was Donovan Edwards’ back-to-back touchdown runs – 75 and 85 yards, respectively – that sealed the victory for the Wolverines.

But of all the unforgettable moments, there was one in particular that spoke volumes to where this Michigan team is at compared to where it was at this time last season.


As the third quarter came to a close and the Wolverines held on to a narrow 24-20 lead, senior defensive back Mike Sainristil delivered a short, yet powerful speech to his fellow teammates.

"Y'all want to win the Natty?" Sainristil shouted on the sideline. "It starts right here."

That quote struck FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt as extremely telling about the mindset of this year’s Michigan team and where they view themselves in the larger college football landscape.

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"Last year was so clearly about this game and the overwhelming emotions of this game, to try and get over the hump of Ohio State," Klatt said on a recent episode of his podcast, "The Joel Klatt Show." "Now, all of a sudden, Michigan players are thinking, ‘We want more. We tasted that playoff and saw what Georgia looked like, and we want more.’"

In a year when there hasn’t been one truly dominant force like the 2019 LSU Tigers or the 2018 Clemson Tigers, the ceiling for this Michigan football team could very well be a national championship.

"For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, the first time since the early 2000s or the late '90s, I left the stadium Saturday thinking, ‘Could Michigan win the national championship?’" Klatt said. "And for the first time since that time, I think, ‘Yeah, they might be able to.’"

Harbaugh’s team has gotten to this point by dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Heading into conference championship weekend, the Wolverines rank in the top five in the nation in rushing yards per game (244.5), points allowed per game (12.7) and total yards allowed per game (262.2).

However, while both the Wolverines’ run game and defense shined bright on the biggest stage Saturday, it was the play of sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy that have many believing this is a national championship-caliber team.

The former five-star QB led an explosive passing attack in the victory over the Buckeyes, throwing three touchdowns of 45-or-more yards. Those three TD throws matched a career high and showed a new, added element to McCarthy’s game. His performance recalibrated expectations for what this Michigan offense can be when clicking on all cylinders.

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A win over Purdue in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game (8 p.m. ET Saturday on FOX and the FOX Sports app) would lock in a spot for the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff. While last year’s trip to the CFP was a welcomed first for this Michigan program, the result of the team’s semifinal matchup against Georgia was far from memorable.

Now one year later, this is a much more confident group that is playing its best football and the right time of year.

"If J.J. McCarthy can keep his team afloat through periods where maybe they don’t dominate the line of scrimmage, then maybe this is a team that can win a national championship," Klatt said. "This year, Michigan might be the best team in the country, certainly after what we saw Saturday in the 'Shoe."

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Each week, FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt dives into his Top 10 teams, answers questions and discusses the biggest storylines in college football on his podcast. Download "The Joel Klatt Show" here.


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