Big Ten teams fo­cus­ing only on their ti­tle game

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Michael Marot

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.

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