Charlie Strong said he has been telling his University of Louisville football players they're the best team in the nation.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The writers and coaches say Alabama in the best college football team in the nation.
One computer ranking used by the Bowl Championship Series agrees. Three other BCS formulas dissent. Stanford gets the call in two, Oregon in another.
Charlie Strong, football coach at the University of Louisville, has one more ranking he wants to insert into the discussion: The Charlie Strong Rankings.
In news guaranteed to go directly to the Rutgers' football locker room bulletin board, Strong said Monday that the University of Louisville is the best college football team in the nation.
"I tell my team that every day," Strong said. "We're the best team in college football. I want them to understand that. You have to."
This is a noteworthy and necessary shift by Strong on the public stage. Usually Strong prefers to read that his team couldn't beat Rick's College of Internet Hackers. The more disparaging the talk, the better. Sharpens the competitive edge. The No-Respect card has no expiration date.
But that approach isn't working in the court of public opinion. Louisville has won five consecutive games. Nobody has played the Cardinals closer than two touchdowns. The NCAA ranks teams in 17 categories. Louisville ranks in the top six nationally in seven categories and in the top 20 in seven more.
The Cards have been everything they were supposed to be. The competition has not been. Four of the six computer formulas used by the BCS have started releasing their numbers. This is where Louisville's strength of schedule ranks in those four formulas:
120, 141, 106, 140. That's an average of nearly 127. There are not 127 FBS schools.
This Louisville football team has two chances to convince the nation to give them more love – Thursday night when Rutgers visits and Friday Oct. 18 when Central Florida comes to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Both games will be televised nationally by ESPN, which started installing overhead cameras that will capture the game from cables strung across the field on Monday. The Rutgers game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. No other college football will be played until 9, when the San Diego State-Air Force game begins on the CBS Sports Network.
Enough of the FIUs and Temples. Louisville needs to pop Rutgers by three touchdowns – or more – to stop the back-tracking the Cardinals, ranked 8th nationally, have suffered in the polls the last two weeks. Strong knows that. He also knows the time has come to sell his team. So he started Monday.
"You know how it is," he said. "With the players, I just want them to realize that whatever people say about our schedule, whatever people say about you're not really playing anybody, there's enough negative being said about them so let's give them a positive shot."
A positive shot is what Louisville needs Thursday. Crisp, clean throws by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. A receiving corps primed to show it will be business as usual even if DeVante Parker misses the game with his injured shoulder. More power running from the three-back rotation.
Rutgers is averaging 40 points per game. The Scarlet Knights have scored at least 28 in all five games. Hold this team to two touchdowns or less, and Strong will have something to talk about. The coach is ready.
"I look at what we have," Strong said. "I look at us on offense – you have an outstanding quarterback, a really good set of wide receivers, an outstanding offensive line. On defense, you have a defense that's playing very well right now. It's all about convincing them. … I want them to realize they are a good football team.
"I've been saying that to them since the pre-season. You've got to come with something positive with all the negative that's being said about them."
Louisville needs to say it again – loudly – this Thursday night as well as the following Friday.