Big Ten teams focusing only on their title game
indianapolis» Paul Chryst and James Franklin left the outside world behind Friday.
As college football pundits debated whether two Big Ten teams should make the four-team playoff, the two coaches vying for a Big Ten championship Saturday night trained their attention on something less nebulous: winning one more game.
For No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 8 Penn State, it’s not the selection committee that matters right now. It’s taking home the Big Ten trophy and winning the title.
“The only thing that exists for us is Wisconsin and the Big Ten championship game,” said Franklin, the Penn State coach. “I’m not going to sit here and make a case for us. Our whole focus will be on Wisconsin and getting ready for this game.”
That may sound good in the confines of a locker room or in a stadium decked out in cardinal and blue. Or at least until Sunday afternoon, when the national playoff choices become final.
But even inside Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, it’s hard to move beyond the résumés of these Big Ten teams.
Wisconsin (10-2, No. 6 College Football Playoff ) earned its fourth division crown in six years with six consecutive victories and by posting a 3-2 record against top-10 teams. The only stumbles were a sevenpoint loss at No. 2 Michigan and an overtime loss to No. 2 Ohio State.
“I think one quality of this team that I’ve appreciated a ton this year is their ability to make the most of the moment,” Chryst said of his Badgers. “They’ve done a good job of that. So I don’t spend any time thinking about what you’re asking about (the national playoffs). It’s not a big deal right now. We’d be doing this game and this team a real disservice if we didn’t put all of our energy into it.”
Penn State (10-2, No. 7) is the surprise newcomer to championship weekend.
Penn State got here by winning eight straight since a 39-point drubbing at the hands of Michigan in late September. And while they played only one ranked team during that stretch, the Nittany Lions did hand the Buckeyes their only loss of 2016.
Franklin declined several times to explain why his team deserved to play for the national championship, though he did imply the Nittany Lions may have won the nation’s toughest division — the Big Ten East. He’d just rather let the conference title make the case for him.
“I’m not sure about résumés, what résumés have to do with the Big Ten championship game,” Franklin said.