AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS–Urban Meyer arrived in Indianapolis on Friday with one goal — heading home with another Big Ten championship trophy.
He treated everything else as a sideshow.
Meyer ignored speculation about his coaching future and deflected talk about what No. 6 Ohio State would need to earn a spot in the college football playoff. Instead, Meyer stuck to the same message he’s relayed to his team all week: Just focus on football.
“We wanted to be hard on them, be fresh and be mentally prepared and I think we’re there,” Meyer said. “I like where we’re at.”
Being back in Indy for another shot at the title and yet another possible playoff berth should be a relief in itself.
Seven weeks ago, the Buckeyes’ championship hopes nearly vanished with an embarrassing 49-20 loss at Purdue. But Ohio State rebounded by hanging on against Nebraska, walloping No. 18 Michigan State and outlasting Maryland in overtime before moving back into playoff contention with an impressive 62-39 Big Ten East-clinching victory over No. 4 Michigan
Since then, Meyer has dealt with all sorts of chatter and speculation, ranging from potential playoff scenarios to reports about his future at Ohio State (11-1, 8-1, No. 6 CFP),
“Uh, no comment on that,” Meyer said when asked Friday about a report that next season would be his last in Columbus, Ohio.
Northwestern, meanwhile, continues to embrace playing the underdog.
Few expected the Wildcats (8-4, 8-1, No. 19) to dethrone Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, especially after losses to Duke, Akron and Michigan in successive weeks in September. But their only other stumble came against Notre Dame, another playoff hopeful, and now it appears Northwestern is one win away from reaching its first Rose Bowl since coach Pat Fitzgerald was a Wildcats’ player in 1995.
It’s Northwestern’s first appearance in Indianapolis and one Fitzgerald believes is overdue.
“We’ve been building this program now for 13 years and a lot of thoughts, a lot of emotions when we pulled in here,” Fitzgerald said, recalling what former coaches Gary Barnett and Randy Walker did for the program and his career. “This was the next hurdle for our program to get over. The next goal is to win it.”
Again, the doubters give the Wildcats no chance against the suddenly resurgent Buckeyes.
Ohio State was installed at a two-touchdown favorite Saturday, one week after they hung 62 points on one of America’s stingiest defenses. They’re led by Big Ten offensive player of the year Dwayne Haskins, who set conference single-season records for yards passing (4,081) and touchdown passes (42).
And while Northwestern relies on an old-school style, Fitzgerald knows just how well the Wildcats must play to give themselves a chance against a team that seemingly needs a huge win to impress the selection committee.
“I only deal with it when you ask me, so it’s not uncomfortable,” Meyer said about what the Buckeyes must do. “We don’t deal with it.”
No. 10 Washington beats No. 17 Utah 10-3 for Pac-12 title
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Byron Murphy returned a deflected interception 66 yards for the game’s only touchdown to lead No. 10 Washington to a victory over No. 17 Utah in an offensively challenged Pac-12 championship game.
“The ball came up and I just knew I had to make a play,” Murphy said. “The opportunity was there. I just had to make sure I took it.”
With a Rose Bowl spot at stake in a matchup of the two stingiest defenses in the conference, neither offense could get much of anything going at all. So it was only fitting that a dropped pass by Utah (9-4, No. 17 CFP) led to an interception for Washington (10-3, No. 11 CFP) and the only touchdown.
Both teams had been held to just one field goal when the Huskies broke through late in the third quarter.
Jason Shelley’s pass hit Siaosi Mariner in the hands inside the Washington 35. But Mariner couldn’t hold onto the pass and it ricocheted off his leg and into the hands of Murphy, who raced 66 yards for the score that made it 10-3.
Jordan Miller intercepted another pass from Shelley on the following drive and Murphy got his second interception of the game the next time Utah had the ball. The Huskies sealed the victory with a fourth-down stop in the final minute to earn a trip to Pasadena.
“We do it the hard way sometimes and this was one of those times we did it the hard way again,” coach Chris Petersen said. “But they did it That’s the most important thing.”
Murphy broke up the final pass on a throw to Mariner that the Utes thought should have been called pass interference.
“Everybody’s hurt,” Shelley said. “We were that close. We played that bad and we still lost by only seven points.”
The Huskies had four drives of at least 10 plays but got only one field goal out of those. They were stopped on a fourth-and-6 from the Utah 23 on the opening drive, threw an interception in Utah territory on the third drive and had a field goal blocked in the fourth quarter.
The one score came on Peyton Henry’s 29-yard field goal late in the first half. That was enough to give Washington a 3-0 lead at the break but the Utes tied it with a score on the opening possession of the third quarter when Matt Gay’s 53-yard field goal just cleared the cross bar.
Utah: The Utes made it to the title game despite losing quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss to injuries in a four-day span in early November. Shelley and Armand Shyne stepped in and let the Utes to three straight wins and a spot in this game but they weren’t good enough against the Huskies. Shelley’s three interceptions were his first turnovers as a starter. He threw for just 137 yards. Shyne ran for 37 yards on 11 carries.
Washington: The Huskies came into the season with playoff hopes but a season-opening loss to Auburn and then a pair of losses to Oregon and California in October ended that quest. But Washington still managed to win the conference and will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season.