NEW ORLEANS - Although some Ohio State fans probably are still trying to figure out what it will mean to the rivalry with Michigan expected to name Jim Harbaugh as its coach today, two current Buckeyes saw the news as a good sign for The Game and the Big Ten.

NEW ORLEANS - Although some Ohio State fans probably are still trying to figure out what it will mean to the rivalry with Michigan expected to name Jim Harbaugh as its coach today, two current Buckeyes saw the news as a good sign for The Game and the Big Ten.

"It's a real good move," junior linebacker Joshua Perry said yesterday. "I think he is going to be a great coach there, and people who say he's not, I think, are a little bit nuts. He's had a lot of success anywhere he's gone (including at Stanford for three years and with the San Francisco 49ers the past four).

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"We're ready for that. I like the thought of the team up north coming back to the level it's been before, where they are a really strong team and successful year in, year out."

Senior cornerback Doran Grant also thinks Harbaugh's hiring will have a major impact on the league.

"I think it will be a good move for the Big Ten to add a coach like that, and I'm pretty sure he'll get that team ready to play, as our coach is always going to have his team ready to play," Grant said.

The national perception of the Big Ten has fallen in recent years, partly because of drop-offs at marquee programs such as Michigan and Penn State. The Wolverines went 31-20 in four seasons under Brady Hoke, sliding from two losses in his first season to seven in his last.

Harbaugh, a Michigan quarterback under Bo Schembechler in the mid-1980s - and who guaranteed a win over Ohio State in 1986 - should create an instant uptick.

"That helps the Big Ten, obviously, but that's what the rivalry is all about," Perry said. Ohio State has won 12 of the past 14 against Michigan.

"You want to go in there and play … when Ohio State's ranked really high and the team up north is ranked really high, too," Perry said. "It just puts all that on The Game and everybody gets that much more fired up."

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, with three wins over Michigan in his three seasons, wasn't available for comment yesterday as the Buckeyes prepare for a College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on Thursday.

Fickell talked to Pitt

For the second time in four years, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was a candidate for the coaching job at Pittsburgh. This time, though, he didn't receive a formal interview.

At the end of the 2011 season, Fickell was a finalist for the Pitt job that went to Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. When Chryst returned to Wisconsin as coach two weeks ago, Fickell was a candidate again. But before he could complete plans for an interview, Pitt hired Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi on Dec. 17.

"I had talks and I didn't end up having an opportunity to go over there," Fickell said. "They kind of made their decision before I got over there. It's a little bit (disappointing)."

It's likely that Ohio State's preparations for the Alabama game impeded his chance to interview.

"The reality is, we have one thing to be doing right now and that's where the focus is, and sometimes that hurts you (in seeking jobs)," Fickell said.

Fickell is a former Ohio State player who has been on the coaching staff since 2002. He served as coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel's forced resignation and was retained by Meyer to be the defensive coordinator.

Elliott impresses

Although many have focused on Ohio State's situation at quarterback, with Cardale Jones poised to make just his second start, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said the Buckeyes have plenty of weapons to support Jones. For example, running back Ezekiel Elliott.

"He's got great patience," Smart said of the sophomore who has rushed for 1,402 yards this season, including a Big Ten championship game-record 220 in a 59-0 win over Wisconsin. "He can get in and out of cuts. He finds the hole. Very impressive.

"He's probably the most underrated guy. This guy's a great blocker. They run sweeps and perimeter runs - he mows them down. A thankless job but he does a great job. But then when they give him the ball he's patient and has a great burst. I think he's a really, really good back."

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