FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The spread offense was what brought Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Ohio State's Urban Meyer together - but that's not where it ended.
After an assistant stint at his alma mater Alabama, the now longest-tenured Atlantic Division coach knew of Meyer first angling for his old job at Notre Dame in 2001, after he had left to become the head coach at Bowling Green.
Orange Bowl coaches interviewed together
Their paths crossed next when Meyer went Utah, with Swinney a part of Clemson's staff studying what he was doing with the spread-option in the mid-2000s. Meyer, a former receivers coach, and Swinney, one at the time, hit it off.
When Meyer made the jump to Florida in 2005, the recruiting trail became a battleground in what Swinney described as a more "adversarial" relationship.
Citing health problems and family, Meyer left Florida after going 65-15 with a pair of national titles - a move the 12th-year coach opened up about over dinner to Swinney since the Orange Bowl matchup was announced.
"He's very candid," Swinney said. "It's one of the things I try to be mindful of and I'm just as guilty trying to keep a balance. Not have the job consume you as a human being, which happens sometimes. We talked about that. He said, 'I was crazy.' About killed him.
"For him to be at that point and have to step back - for me, we've had similar paths."
Meyer's move to the ESPN TV booth for a season only strengthened their relationship, serving as color analyst in Death Valley in 2011. After transitioning to Ohio State after a year, he's shared how he's better balanced football with family with Swinney, and Tigers' head coach can see the difference.
"He's really changed a lot. He really has," said Swinney. "It's been good for me to see that. It's good to hear him talk about it the other night. Just the perspective and balance. Priorities. Keeping things in the proper perspective.
"He's had some good advice for me as I've been trying to keep my career going and maybe avoid some of the pitfalls."
The competition will be heated tonight, but no matter the result, there should be a good handshake postgame.
"Dabo and I have become very close the last five years," Meyer said. "There's a great relationship...We share very similar approaches to the game and a mutual respect.
"We're going to go as hard as we possibly can to try to beat each other, but this is a game of mutual respect."