Urban Meyer should have taken Charlie Strong's offer to play Louisville this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As the fussing about Ohio State or Auburn (or Missouri) escalates into shrieks, fistfights and charges of un-American behavior, remember something that Louisville football coach Charlie Strong told me last August.
Urban Meyer, the Ohio State coach, is one of Strong's closest friends. Before the 2013 college football schedules were finalized, Strong had a proposal for his pal and former boss:
A game this season between the Buckeyes and Cardinals.
Louisville would have benefited because folks have been dumping cold beans on the Cards' schedule for months.
Big deal. Why would The Ohio State University do something to help another program, even if a friend of the Buckeyes' coach directs that program?
This is why: Because questions about the quality of Ohio State's schedule could bump the Buckeyes from the BCS championship game.
It's unlikely because Ohio State is unbeaten and both Auburn and Missouri have one defeat. But one of those schools will win the Southeastern Conference title Saturday in Atlanta. Then there will be a tremendous roar that either Auburn or Missouri is more deserving of a place in the BCS title game against Florida State because the SEC defines college football and the Big Ten hasn't done much since Woody Hayes was in diapers.
And they will have a point.
Especially when you look at the four discards that Ohio State chose to play instead of Louisville, four teams with a combined record of 19-29 (including FCS lightweight Florida A&M).
Wouldn't a victory against a 10-1 Louisville team with a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) who will be a top five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft be nice chip for the Buckeyes to play?
The Cardinals (19th) are ranked higher in the current BCS standings than any team Ohio State has played in its first 12 games.
I asked Strong if he had called Meyer to remind him of his scheduling proposal.
He laughed and shook his head.
The best Strong can do for Meyer now is endorse the Buckeyes for the second spot in the BCS title game – if Ohio State beats Michigan State Saturday in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"Ohio State or Auburn in national title game if both teams win out -- I don't know?" Strong said.
It has to be difficult for Strong to pick. He worked for Meyer. Last summer Meyer endorsed Strong as the best coach in the country. But Strong also has a strong SEC pedigree after coaching at Florida and South Carolina.
Strong usually plays it safe. Not this time. He likes Ohio State.
"You look at what Urban's done," Strong said. "It's hard to say a team that's won 24 games in a row, it's hard to say you don't get a chance to play for the national title. If Florida State wins out and Ohio State wins out, I would go with Ohio State because of what they've done over the last two years."
That is a defensible argument. But there are players in Strong's locker room who will speak against it. Marcus Smith plays defensive end for the Cards. He grew up in Columbus, Ga., less than an hour from the Auburn campus. It is difficult to speak a discouraging word about the SEC when you grow up in a Georgia town that borders Alabama.
"I would say that if I had a vote, it would be Florida State and Auburn," Smith said. "That's just my opinion. I would jump Auburn. I feel like maybe because Auburn, to me, had a tougher schedule.
"Who knows what will happen this week? Ohio State, they might have a tough task against Michigan State with their great defense and Auburn with a tough Missouri team. Auburn might beat Missouri and Ohio State might lose to Michigan State. So they might jump them anyway."
The debate will be everywhere in college football this week – even in the U of L locker room. Jake Smith is a Louisville offensive lineman who grew up in Jacksonville, Ala., cheering for Auburn.
Believe it or not, Smith would reward Ohio State over Auburn. With Louisville's loss to Central Florida this season, Smith refuses to discount any team that wins all of its games. Perfection matters.
"I grew up a huge Auburn fan, but that doesn't really play into it," Smith said. "I feel like when you look at Ohio State's body of work, they're undefeated in a power conference. Auburn, obviously they've had a great season, a lot of ups and downs.
"Florida State is pretty much unanimous. I think right now, Ohio State, playing against a lot of traditional powerhouses, I think they deserve it."
Of course, the Buckeyes would deserve it even more, if Urban Meyer had accepted Charlie Strong's scheduling offer – and then defeated the University of Louisville.