Big Ten Notebook: Championship Game Participants Locked in on Task at Hand

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Big Ten Notebook: Championship Game Participants Locked in on Task at Hand
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If there was one phrase that was common amongst just about everyone from both Michigan State and Ohio State, it was, "We're focused on the task at hand." 

No one was better at turning that phrase than Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio, who had to have uttered those words or a version of them over a dozen times during his half-hour gabfest with us in the media on Sunday. 

Additionally, Dantonio brought out the classic, "I don't worry about things I can't control," line. 

He also wasn't in a mood to think about anything BCS-related in his conversation with the media. 

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer also chose his words wisely when asked about the implications of this game on the BCS National Championship. 

"We play a game," said Meyer during his weekly press conference. "And for someone to ask about something after this game, I mean, that's cheating my football team, and there will be no conversation about what happens after this game until after the game."

He removed all other games on the schedule in the locker room, just like last week for the game against "That Team Up North," as Michigan is referred to around the Ohio State program. 

 

Connor Cook Is One Relaxed Quarterback Given What's on the Line

Quarterbacks usually are the cool customers and the "big man on campus," but Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook appears to be taking "cool customer" to a whole new level. 

Either that or he's just simply having fun with the whole experience that this week provides.

How so? Well, he opened up his part of the players teleconference with a one-word "Yello."

Cook followed that up with an opening statement to the media of, "Hello, my name is Connor Cook."

Then he had a bit of fun with his friends down in Northern Ohio. 

Don't worry, he did get somewhat serious when asked about watching Ohio State's defense from last week.

It's refreshing to hear a player having fun with a game that has so much riding on it for those involved.

Cook could be a breakout media star when this weekend is all said and done.

 

Ohio State Using Nobody-Believes-in-Us Mentality Once Again

If you tuned in to ESPN over the last 24 hours, you've likely seen its love affair with all things Auburn Tigers going on. 

Add in the performance of the Ohio State defense against the rival Michigan Wolverines this past weekend and there have been a multitude of outlets questioning the Buckeyes' place as the No. 2 team in the nation. 

For linebacker Ryan Shazier and the defense, it's nothing new; it's something they've dealt with all season long. 

However, those of us who have seen the Ohio State defense all season long know that wasn't what was seen most of the year.

Shazier's defensive teammate Michael Bennett pointed out that OSU has been doubted all year, no matter how it has won games.

This week's game could also be looked on as redemptive for the Buckeyes, and that's exactly how Shazier is choosing to see things.

 

This Is the Biggest Game in Recent Big Ten History

One thing that neither side of this game is shying away from is just how important and big this game is.

Having ESPN's famed College GameDay on sight says about all anyone in the college football world should need to know about this game's significance.

It is the first meeting of Top 10 teams in the Big Ten this season, after all.  

As for the two teams involved, both sides see this game as being a classic in the making and a classic Big Ten matchup, too. 

If this year's Big Ten Championship Game plays out like the 2011 version between Dantonio's Spartans and the Wisconsin Badgers, the college football world and Big Ten will be in for a major treat.

We could all only hope for that kind of matchup to decide the Big Ten title after last season's 70-31 beatdown by the Badgers.

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens

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