U of L football coach Charlie Strong respects SEC football but would love to play one of the SEC's top eight teams.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Charlie Strong's specialty is coaching, not generating sound bites. He prefers fixing football teams to positioning himself as the lead story on the 5 o'clock news. Strong will choose bland over brag nearly every time.
That is why it is worth noting what Strong said Monday when I asked him about the University of Louisville's spot in the Top 10 of the latest Bowl Championship Series rankings (which can be questioned) as well as the news that five Southeastern Conference teams are ranked in the BCS top eight (which needs to be questioned).
Strong made his name in SEC football, coaching two national championship defenses at Florida and doing good work at South Carolina, too. He respects the SEC immensely, giving the league the love it has earned. But he also closed with this comment:
"I say to them, 'I'll go play any of them so it doesn't matter to me,' " Strong said. "I'm not saying that to be arrogant or cocky, but I think if you have a good football team, you feel like you can go play with some of these teams."
Good for Charlie for giving a non-Charlie answer. Good for Strong to remind everybody that beating good teams is only one obstacle for Louisville football. Getting good teams to agree to play the Cards is a more meaningful topic. Too many programs, including Georgia and Vanderbilt from the SEC, have not been willing to do that.
There's plenty to question in the BCS numbers. After you're finished asking if Louisville belongs in the Top 10, ask yourself if five SEC teams belong in the top eight.
Even with their 8-0 record, I'm not one who'd put the Cards in the Top 10. I don't see a signature victory. I believe in the value of margin of victory so I have a problem with this statistic:
Florida International, Southern Mississippi and South Florida have a combined record of 3-22 -- and Louisville defeated that trio by a combined 13 points. That's not my idea of how a Top 10 team handles bad teams.
Strong knows his team must play better -- and do it over 60 minutes instead of 35 -- to earn true national respect.
"I'd like to see us put together a 60-minute game and we haven't been able to do that," Strong said. "We play in spurts.
"You watch us offensively and we're able to take the ball in most of the games and go score on the opening drive and then defensively end up giving up a score where you'd like to see us put together a complete game, offense, defense and in the kicking game."
We can all agree that, beginning with Temple Saturday, Louisville needs to thump several of the teams the Cardinals have remaining on their schedule. That's their best chance to certify their credentials beyond the Big East.
But let me say this: Alabama (1), Louisiana State (5), Georgia (6), Florida (7) and South Carolina (8) are the five SEC teams ranked in the BCS top eight.
This is how many non-conference road games those five have played this season:
Zero. Nada. Zip.
Alabama played (and dominated) Michigan on a neutral field. The other 11 games were all played at home.
Only two of the non-league games (Bama-Michigan and LSU-Washington) were played against BCS-conference opponents. Just four were against teams with winning records.
Is the SEC the best league in the country? I believe it is. Is the Cowardly Lion in charge of SEC non-conference scheduling? It's either him or the Tin Man.
Let's remember that Georgia was supposed to be on Louisville's schedule last season and this season. The Bulldogs opted out so they could play their season-opener against Boise State in 2011 -- a game Georgia lost.
This season's U of L-Georgia game was booked for Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Instead, the Cardinals played (and beat) North Carolina.
How did Georgia fill the 2012 gap in its schedule? By playing Buffalo (1-7) or Florida Atlantic (2-6).
Charlie Strong and Louisville would have been thrilled to fill one of those two spots. They just didn't get the opportunity.