Ohio State's Urban Meyer doesn't need to win the national championship game vs. Oregon to prove to me that he's a great coach. I already believe he's one of the best.
Is he the best, though?
Before last week's playoff semifinal, it seemed the conventional wisdom was that Nick Saban stood alone at the top when it comes college football's best coaches. Saban is deserving of such high regard, but should Meyer be considered the top head coach in the college ranks if he leads the Buckeyes over the Ducks on Monday night?
Let's consider some of his competition. He already knocked off Saban and Alabama, but, of course, that loss doesn't diminish Saban's incredible track record. Jimbo Fisher has certainly earned his way into the conversation after leading Florida State to a national title last season and the final four this season. Meyer's coaching opponent in the title game, Mark Helfrich, doesn't get his due, but he's done a brilliant job over the past two seasons in replacing Chip Kelly. There are coaches that didn't lead their team to the playoff but still strike me as some of the brightest minds in the game, including Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, and there's good reason for the excitement about Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. The list goes on -- there are a lot of outstanding coaches in college football.
As for the job Meyer has done this season, he's led the lowest seed in the first-ever college football playoff to the brink of a national championship. Ohio State, widely perceived to be from the weakest of the power conferences, won the Big Ten title game and the national semifinal vs. Alabama with its third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, at the helm. And with a win Monday night, Meyer would join Saban as the only head coaches to win a national title at two different schools.
So, if Meyer leads Ohio State to a win over Oregon, he will deserve to be acknowledged as the best college head coach in the game. His time atop the mountain might be fleeting -- he would be just the latest "best coach," as the title can change hands quickly, depending on who's "up" and who's "down" in any given season.
Regardless of the outcome Monday, the coaching job Meyer has done this season is one of the best I've seen in my time covering college football. I would dare it's the best coaching job he's ever done, and he already has two national titles under his belt.
What makes Meyer so great? To me, the unique thing about him is that he marries new school and old school so well. He's not afraid of the so-called "newfangled" stuff that old-school coaches don't buy into, whether it's bringing in leadership experts to talk to his team or embracing the latest in nutrition and strength training.
At the end of the day, though, how does Ohio State win games? They might spread things out on offense, but the Buckeyes stuffed an old-school power running game down Alabama's throat to advance to the title game.
If Oregon wins on Monday, Helfrich will be on his way to building the kind of resume that could someday put him in rarefied coaching air. If Ohio State wins, Meyer should go to the top of the coaching heap. Staying put in that spot is a heck of a challenge, but the fact that Meyer's not one to back down from those is the reason he's here in the first place.