In the wake of winning his third national championship, Urban Meyer has sent a statement to the world of college football: Not only is Ohio State the best team in the nation, but he is the best coach.
For years, Nick Saban has owned this de facto title from his stronghold in Alabama. However, with Meyer’s triumphant return to college football glory — with a team on its third-string quarterback, no less — the flow of power is beginning to shift.
Now what makes Meyer a better coach than Saban, excluding his head-to-head victory on New Year’s Day? I believe the best college football coach in the nation would have to excel in three distinct categories: success at multiple schools, winning at a consistent and high level, and recruiting and working around injuries.
The first category is what separates these two historic coaches from the rest of the pack. Meyer and Saban are the only coaches in college football history to win the national championship at two different schools: Florida and OSU for Meyer, and LSU and Alabama for Saban. However, their overall career records differ significantly.
Throughout Meyer’s career, he has been successful from the Mid-American Conference to the Mountain West Conference, Southeastern Conference to the Big Ten. His record was 17-6 at Bowling Green, 22-2 at Utah, 65-15 at Florida and now a stunning 38-3 at OSU: an overall winning percentage of about 85 percent.
Saban, meanwhile, went 9-2 at Toledo, 34-24-1 at Michigan State, 48-16 at LSU, and is currently 91-17 at Alabama, for an overall winning percentage of 75.4 percent. That’s a difference of about 10 percentage points, giving Meyer the definite edge in this category.
Now, the common counter to this is Saban’s four national championships compared with Meyer’s three, along with his immense amount of success since he began coaching in the SEC with LSU. However, Saban led a Michigan State team, which finished in the top five in back-to-back seasons, to multiple seasons of not exactly stellar finishes. Meanwhile, Meyer proved his mobility by going 24-0 in Big Ten play since arriving in Columbus, after dominating in the SEC with Florida as well.
Meyer has three undisputable championships, along with an undefeated season at Utah in 2004, and an undefeated season at OSU in 2012. Meyer has also been a head coach for six fewer years than Saban, and has plenty of time to earn even more success.
Both Saban and Meyer have proven time and again to be top-notch recruiters, but what Meyer did this season with an OSU team beset by key injuries is what cements him as the best coach in college football. Most teams struggle to find even one quarterback, while Meyer used his third-string signal caller to overcome three teams ranked in the top 13.
So time to step off your mantle, Nick Saban: It’s Urban Meyer’s time to shine.