The first thing Urban Meyer and Tim Beckman found out they had in common was a roommate.
Beckman's friend Bill Davis, who now coaches with the Browns, was Meyer's college roommate at Cincinnati. Beyond having close ties to the best man at Meyer's wedding, Beckman discovered they shared a common bond with their philosophies in football and life.
"It's one of those things, the uniqueness of college football," said Beckman, who attended Kentucky. "Two friends who compete against each other. ... He's considered a close friend. The relationship built when I was with him for two football seasons."
At Bowling Green, Beckman was defensive coordinator on Meyer's staff that directed a terrific turnaround and went 17-6 in 2001-02. Beckman said he had the opportunity to follow Meyer to Utah, but he stayed at Bowling Green because of a death in the family.
The Ohio natives (Beckman from Berea and Meyer from Ashtabula) speak frequently, but the phone calls have decreased this week.
The two coaches, each in his first season at a Big Ten program, are going in opposite directions as Beckman's Illinois team (2-6, 0-4) and Meyer's Ohio State squad (9-0, 6-0) collide Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
The Buckeyes – ranked No. 6 in the AP poll but ineligible for postseason play – are not fueled by the idea of going unbeaten, Meyer said.
"We're a tired, beat-up team," he said. "It's a one-game season. There's been no discussion in this facility or with me about undefeated. The idea is to get to next week and win this game. If I hear the players say that, I'm going to try to interrupt that."
The Illini won't be appearing in the Big Ten championship game, either, for obvious reasons.
Beckman's first season in Champaign has been a struggle. But he has coached at Ohio Stadium before – as an assistant coach for the Buckeyes in 2005-06 and last season as Toledo's head coach when the Rockets nearly staged an upset – so he said he won't feel intimidated.
"Been there, done that," he said. "It's a great environment, no question about it."
The Illini will have to worry about more than atmosphere.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller leads the Big Ten in rushing with 121.4 yards per game while passing for another 169.7. The Illini defense has given up a conference-worst 317.4 yards per game.
As for Illinois' rough start under Beckman, Meyer said he believes in his friend.
"He's one of the bright young coaches," Meyer said. "He has an excellent background, including being the son of a coach. I have respect for Illinois. It's a matter of the team coming together. They'll get that thing going."
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ohio Stadium
Line: Ohio State by 27 1/2