ANN ARBOR - We in the media have been hearing it before. Every week, in fact, every time we stick digital recorders and video cameras in front of players and coaches from the Michigan football team. The Wolverines say this about each weekend: "Every weekend is a championship game."
It might sound like a mantra at first, but after about 20 times of hearing it, it might sound more like a sign of brainwashing. If you talk to Michigan's players, though, they say they don't hear it enough.
"As much as you guys are hearing it, we hear it even more," center Elliott Mealer said. "And for you guys, it's probably overbearing and redundant. I can see all the smiles when I brought it up. For us, it's why we come to Michigan. There's no doubt we've got to get back on track and get to that, as a program. Since Coach Hoke's been here, since Day 1, that's been the ultimate goal, to win the Big Ten championship."
But when asked who was conveying this belief within the program's ranks, Michigan Coach Brady Hoke remained tight-lipped, but said it was an attitude he's utilized as a coach at every stop he's made in his career.
"I think the guys understand what reality is," Hoke said.
Mealer said the concept transcends words; in meetings, players are greeted by a picture of the Big Ten title trophy - the Stagg Championship trophy. And the football weight room is adorned with roses. Decals of roses. Those last longer - Mealer said they've been affixed to the walls since his first year at Michigan.
"We try to have the mindset that every game we play against a Big Ten opponent, it's just like playing in Indianapolis," Mealer said. "We're playing for the trophy and we control our own destiny."
With Michigan one win away from bowl eligibility - and one win away from taking a two-game lead in the Legends Division - is there added emphasis on this week being a "championship week"?
"Every week is a championship week," defensive tackle Will Campbell said. "There's going to be some 'if and or buts' about who's going to the Big Ten championship in our division. If we win out, then we're going to be the one's going."