INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Urban Meyer walked over to Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen on Friday and gave him a big hug.
It was a welcome respite in one of the most trying weeks of Meyer's coaching career.
Last Saturday, the Ohio State coach watched his record-setting quarterback J.T. Barrett being carted off the field with a season-ending broken ankle. Last Sunday, he consoled the Buckeyes after learning of the tragic death of walk-on nose tackle Kosta Karageorge. On Wednesday, he took the team by bus to Karageorge's funeral. In between, Meyer scrambled to get his team - and new starting quarterback Cardale Jones - ready for Saturday's Big Ten championship game against the 11th-ranked Badgers.
So seeing an old friend like Anderson, and his wife, Stacey, made one thing clear. It's time to get back to football.
''That's page two, page three or page four, that's certainly not page one,'' Meyer said when asked about needing to beat his former assistant to claim his first Big Ten title. ''Gary and I are good friends. We'll always be great friends, have great respect for each other. Great family people, our families get along and that will never change. But for 60 minutes tomorrow we're going to be competitors.''
Especially when the stakes are this high.
No. 6 Ohio State (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) has won 10 straight since stumbling against Virginia Tech and desperately needs a win, maybe even a blowout win, to earn one of the four precious spots in the inaugural playoff. That won't be easy against Andersen's Badgers (10-2, 7-1), who have the nation's top runner, Melvin Gordon, and are playing in their third conference championship game in four years.
Andersen wasn't around for the first two. Before coming to Wisconsin in 2013, he spent four years as Utah State's head coach. Before that he was an assistant at Utah, where he spent one season as Meyer's defensive line coach. Not surprisingly, Andersen has stolen a page or two from the playbook of the two-time national championship coach.
''The way he (Meyer) had a set plan of organization throughout the year was impressive to me. I definitely adopted that,'' Andersen said. ''When I say that my goal now as a head coach is to make sure the players and assistants are six months ahead, I think he always had that plan. When I looked at the calendar, I knew what was going to happen in April. There were no surprises.''
Until the reality of last weekend forced Meyer and the Buckeyes to adjust on the fly.
Now, the Buckeyes are eager to get back to business and finally get their hands on the elusive Big Ten trophy.
''Very emotional for a lot of guys involved that knew him,'' Meyer said, referring to Karageorge's funeral. ''Ever since that moment, though, there's been high energy. Obviously when the bus is rolling to this fantastic facility, a lot of energy.''
Here are some other things to watch Saturday night.
53: The Buckeyes will put a decal on the back of their gray helmets with Karageorge's number on it.
THE BIG STAGE: Wisconsin opened its regular season in an NFL stadium that hosted a Super Bowl and will end the non-bowl portion of its regular season also playing in an NFL stadium that hosted a Super Bowl. In the opener, the Badgers blew a 24-7 third-quarter lead in Houston and wound up losing 28-24 to LSU. They're hoping for a different result this weekend.
SECOND CHANCE: No Big Ten team has been better than Ohio State from August through November over the last three seasons. The Buckeyes have gone 8-0 in conference play all three times under Meyer. But since taking over at Ohio State, Meyer is 0-2 in December and January. The Buckeyes lost their first game under Meyer in last year's conference championship game and followed that with a loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
CHASHING HISTORY: Gordon has one more chance to impress Heisman voters and two chances to catch Barry Sanders' record. Gordon, whose 2,260 yards rank No. 4 on the single season list, needs 168 yards to pass Marcus Allen (2,427) for third and 308 to pass Kevin Smith for No. 2. Sanders ran for 2,628 yards in 1988 and another 222 yards in that season's bowl game. But bowl stats didn't count in players' official totals until 2002.
RUNNING WILD: Meyer called this the deepest league of NFL-ready running backs he can remember. The list includes two 2,000-yard runners, Gordon and Indiana's Tevin Coleman; and two 1,500-yard runners, Minnesota's David Cobb and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. To win Saturday, the Buckeyes must to stop the most productive running tandem in FBS history. Gordon and Corey Clement have combined for 3,090 yards this season.