COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- What's brewing with the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes ...
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Back when Urban Meyer was winning national titles at Florida, much was made of the fast, athletic offensive players. But the backbone of those teams was a heat-seeking missile of a defense that featured quarterback-snuffing linemen, mobile linebackers who could stop big backs or cover small ones and DBs who stuck like glue to receivers.
The architect of that defense was coordinator Greg Mattison.
In case you didn't know it, Mattison is now the defensive genius at ... Michigan.
Meyer and Mattison go way back.
"He was the first phone call I made when I got the job at the University of Florida, to find out if he'd go with me," Meyer said. "For a long time we lived next to each other (when we were coaching) at Notre Dame. I know he's a great recruiter. We recruited together for many, many years. I've just got a lot of respect for him as a coach."
The feeling is mutual.
"Oh yeah, we'll always be friends," Mattison said.
But he added that he didn't think their working relationship will have any effect on this year's game. He declined to go into any more detail on how he and Meyer met or whether they stay in touch.
"When you get old, your mind is one of the first thing that goes," he joked.
THEY SAID IT: Michigan SS Jordan Kovacs, a fifth-year senior and Ohio native, on what it's like in the days leading up to the rivalry game: "All week, I feel like I'm on edge. Even my girlfriend tries to avoid me because I'm a little more antsier than usual."
FRIDAY NOT LIGHTS: An overlooked aspect of The Game is that Michigan's goal of playing in the Big Ten title game can be smothered even before the opening kickoff.
Nebraska plays at Iowa at noon on Friday. If the Cornhuskers (9-2, 6-1) beat the floundering Hawkeyes (4-7, 2-5), they are assured of playing Wisconsin a week from Saturday at 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis by virtue of winning the head-to-head meeting with the Wolverines.
Should Iowa pull off the upset, Michigan (8-3, 6-1) could earn a spot opposite the Badgers by winning in Ohio Stadium.
The winner of the Big Ten title game will likely go to the Rose Bowl, probably the only Bowl Championship Series berth the conference will get. Michigan and the Big Ten championship loser would then likely go to the Capital One and Outback bowls.
STUNNING STAT: Woody Hayes' last three Ohio State teams did not score a touchdown against Michigan.
STUNNING STAT II: Michigan went 50-4-1 from 1970-74, yet got to play in only one Rose Bowl because of its 2-2-1 record against Ohio State.
ETIENNE'S RETURN: After missing four games with a broken bone in his leg, Etienne Sabino returned last week in Ohio State's 21-14 overtime victory at Wisconsin.
He said he was perfectly healthy.
"I was fine in practice. I would not have gone out there and played if I had any lingering doubts," he said. "I knew I was fine."
Doctors surgically placed a metal plate over the bone and bolted it in place to stabilize the leg.
"I can't really feel it, but I know it's there," said Sabino, who will start on Saturday against the Wolverines.
Sabino finds it hard to fathom that his college career will come to an end on Saturday.
"It's hard to believe. It's really kind of hitting me this week," he said. "We had the band come in on Sunday and we have all the stuff going on for the Team Up North. You had the Mirror Lake jump and everything else. It is starting to settle in. It's kind of surreal. It feels like you've been living a dream for the last five years and to know it's coming to an end, it's hard."
SPIELMAN HONORED: Former Ohio State LB Chris Spielman has been named recipient of the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award by the Big Ten.
Spielman said he was honored to receive the award for helping to raise more than $11 million for cancer research. Spielman lost his wife, Stefanie, to breast cancer. The Spielmans, and their four kids, fought valiantly against the disease. Chris, enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009, remains active in fundraising.
"Like every award, it would not be possible without the help of many people," he said. "I promised Stef that I would 'Continue to Fight' and that's what we will continue to do."
Also honored was Michigan's Jon Runyan, presented the Big Ten's Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award. Runyan (R-N.J.) is a U.S. Representative who serves on several subcommittees and the House Armed Services Committee.
NEW ARENA: Ohio State will use a $10 million gift to build a new 4,000-seat arena to replace the deteriorating St. John Arena.
The university said the gift from Buckeye booster Sam Covelli was "one of the most transformational gifts ever" to the school. Covelli is the country's largest owner of Panera restaurants.
Athletic director Gene Smith said the new Covelli Arena will be home to seven varsity sports, including wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics. It also will serve as a training facility for men's and women's volleyball, an occasional venue for women's basketball and site of local tournaments and camps.
OSU hopes to break ground in late 2014 or early 2015.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap