Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
One more head-to-head battle to look at going into this weekend’s Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.
The matchup on the sidelines between Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen and Ohio State signal caller, Urban Meyer, is a very intriguing one.
Both high-level coaches have had success on every rung of the coaching ladder.
Both have reached what they say is the pinnacle of their careers, so far.
Both very solid on the recruiting trail. Both very good motivators. Both with very deep football roots.
Some of those, even crossed one another while on board in Utah.
When Meyer was the head coach in Utah in 2004, Andersen was his defensive line coach. And also part of a staff which Meyer said was as close to perfect harmony as he’s ever had.
Andersen alluded to that stage of his career when looking ahead to their battle last year, in Columbus.
“It wouldn’t matter if we were coaching 8 year olds in little league or we’re coaching at the highest level, which we are now, a lot of our core beliefs would not change,” Andersen said, of him and Meyer. “I will say this. I think we both have an extreme passion, which is probably one of the one of our nemesises that we both have is we’re maybe a little too passionate at times for what we do. I think we both learned that through the years.”
But who has the edge this weekend?
Ohio State definitely has more on the line this weekend – being the only Big Ten team still in the running for the final four inside the College Football Playoff format.
Wisconsin is hoping to be part of the BCS party – getting a bowl berth in one of the biggest events of the year – The Rose Bowl.
All this aside, the coaching battle is a fun one.
The two have locked horns just once since both made their debuts at their current respective colleges.
Urban got the best of Wisconsin last season, beating UW 31-24 as Ohio State stood strong at No. 4 in the country.
That game saw two Badgers post career days.
Senior WR Jared Abbrederis had a career-high 207 receiving yards, his eighth career 100-yard receiving game and his second at Ohio Stadium (113 yards in 2011), making him the first UW player with two 100-yard receiving games vs. OSU. It’s the first 200-yard receiving performance by a UW player since Lee Evans had a school-record 258 yards vs. Michigan State on Nov. 15, 2003.
Then sophomore QB Joel Stave completed 20 of 34 passes for a career-high 295 passing yards, the most by a Badgers QB since Russell Wilson threw for 296 yards in the 2012 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford.
Meyer has always been about scoring points.
Andersen, about defense and stability.
With the best offensive player gone from the mix on Ohio State’s side, and Melvin Gordon staring his defense right in the face, is it safe to say Ohio State must take a defensive approach if they want to be Wisconsin?
Andersen touched on a couple of those topics, last year.
“I spent one whole year with him coaching wise, and I was on the defensive side, and we never lost. So he probably came in the defensive room five times. So it makes it easy,” he said. “When it came to recruiting and everything else, he was always on the offensive side of the ball.”
“I think we both care about kids. I think we both — because we do care about kids, and it drives — I know it drives him, and it’s the number one thing that drives me.”
And the similarities of each continues to shine through it all, making them both hard to root against.
“I would also say this, that as we move through the years of coaching, that I like to think I’m a family man, and I do my best to take care of my kids. I know that Urban is no different there,” Andersen said. “He prides himself on his family and making sure that they’re well taken care of and giving them the best opportunities to succeed.”
“So we’re similar in that way. I’m sure there’s other ways we’re very different. That would be some.”
We’ll talk. We won’t talk this week, I can guarantee you that much. It’s about the kids, and it always will be. I’m sure he would say the exact same thing. Much of our belief is always about the kids first, and he believes in putting them first. I do too.”