In college football terminology, Joel Klatt defines a “climber” as a team that can improve its win total the following season by four or more.
A total of 10 teams from Power 5 conferences accomplished that feat in 2022, highlighted by CFP National Championship runner-up TCU, which improved its win total from five to 13. Other programs on that list include Washington (+7), USC (+7), Duke (+6), Florida State (+5), Kansas (+4), Tennessee (+4), Penn State (+4), LSU (+4) and Arizona (+4).
Klatt expects several teams to follow suit in 2023 in a trend he anticipates will continue to grow as college football evolves in years to come.
“That will be replicated again next season, in particular in this modern era of college football, with the transfer portal combined with NIL,” Klatt said on the latest episode of his podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.” You’re gonna see teams have the ability to change their fortunes in one season and climb drastically.”
Klatt highlighted four teams he believes will be the biggest “climbers” in the 2023 college football season.
Can Colorado climb with Deion Sanders leading the way?
Joel Klatt breaks down what “climbers” are in college football and explains why the Colorado Buffaloes are at the top of the list.
2022 record: 1-11
Klatt on why the Buffaloes will be climbers: “Look what they’ve been able to do in the transfer portal. Deion Sanders is crushing recruiting. He went to a place that doesn’t generally recruit well, and he has made them a destination. They are crushing it in the transfer portal, they are going to totally transform their roster. They will probably have 20-25 new players and most of them, if not all of them, will be better than what left. Colorado is absolutely gonna be a climber next year. They will have a new quarterback, they’ll have a new coach, they will have a totally different identity and attitude.”
2022 record: 4-8
Klatt on why the Huskers will be climbers: “They’ve got a new coach, and we all would say Matt Rhule is a really good coach. He has done a nice job in coaching, and he will change the culture. Every time he’s touched a college program, he was able to succeed. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the country. Can they go from four wins to eight wins? You bet.”
Will Nebraska elevate its ranking?
Joel Klatt discusses Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule being the key to helping the Huskers go from four wins to eight.
3. Texas A&M
2022 record: 5-7
Klatt on why the Aggies will be climbers: “I get it if you want to roll your eyes at Texas A&M, but they won five games last year, and they just need to get to nine. I believe Bobby Petrino is going to improve their offense. If you don’t have to be the head coach, have that pressure, have that stress, be the focal-point person, and you can just focus on what you’re good at, then I think Bobby Petrino makes a lot of sense. I think this is a zero or a 10 proposition. It’s either gonna blow up with too many cooks in the kitchen, which it might with Bobby Petrino and Jimbo [Fisher], or it’s gonna work really well. And I’m gonna bet on the latter. I think that it’s gonna work out really well. I think they’re gonna improve and go from five to nine wins.”
2022 record: 6-7
Klatt on why the Sooners will be climbers: “They were 0-5 in one-score games. All they have to do is start winning close games, which they should do, and they are easily a 10-win team, maybe an 11-win team. If we’re looking for a team that is next year’s TCU — make a run to the playoff and maybe even the national championship game — I’m looking at Oklahoma. In that conference, everybody is meshed together. One of the reasons we got TCU this year is because they were a team with a veteran presence, a very good quarterback, some good talent on the outside, they started winning those close games. That’s exactly what TCU did. That is the avenue I see next year for the Oklahoma Sooners. I think Brent Venables is a heck of a coach. This year was a ridiculously difficult situation to come in and succeed. And in large part, that’s why they lost those close games. They will be better in a conference where just a little improvement takes you from six to 10 wins.”
Is Oklahoma the next TCU?
Joel Klatt breaks down why he believes the Oklahoma Sooners will be an 11-win team heading into next season.
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