Mark Story thinks Charlie Strong is "overhyped"

I disagree.

Let's dive in.

Quick hitters from the ... BBVA Compass Bowl?

Poking fun at the name of an obscure, third-tier bowl: comedy gold in 1996, comedy gold in 2010.

21. Joker Phillips. Finished 6-6 in his first season as Kentucky coach and is on the fan-base griddle.

Not exactly surprising considering that he came into the season still carrying some criticism for questionable play-calling last year and that he replaced a widely-respected head coach who won more than six games in each of his last four seasons in Lexington.

20. Charlie Strong. Finished 6-6 in his first season as Louisville coach and is King of the River City.

Bit of an overstatement, but yeah, we like him.

19. Joker Phillips. Took over a program that had played in four straight bowl games, and his challenge was/is "getting to the next level."

And instead he regressed. Even the most level-headed Big Blue Nation football fan isn't going to be satisfied with a 2-6 league mark.

18. Charlie Strong. Inherited a four-win team from an unpopular, failed head coach.

100% true.

17. Moral: Like playing the market, the perception of college coaches is totally dependent on the level at which the coach "bought" the "stock."

It's why Brooks got so much leeway when he inherited a program reeling from probation. Totally dependent.

16. Kentucky's six wins: Louisville (6-6); Western Kentucky (2-10); Akron (1-11); SEC East champion South Carolina (9-3); Charleston Southern (3-8); Vanderbilt (2-10).

Combined Record: 23-48

15. Louisville's six wins: Eastern Kentucky (6-5); Arkansas State (4-8); Memphis (1-11); Connecticut (7-4); Syracuse (7-5); Rutgers (4-7).

Combined Record: 29-40

Louisville's strength of schedule, according to the RPI, is 22 spots ahead of Kentucky's.

I noticed you didn't put "potential Big East champion" in front of either Connecticut or West Virginia.

14. Kentucky: Had seven seniors (five on offense) listed as first string for its season finale against Tennessee.

Senior quarterback, senior tailback, senior fullback, senior wide receiver and then Randal Cobb who's been UK's best player for three years. Six of Kentucky's seven leading tacklers are juniors who have seen action every year of their college careers. The defense ought to be tough next year.

13. Louisville: Had 13 seniors (eight on offense) listed as first string for its season finale against Rutgers.

It's actually 12, unless you're counting long-snapper Daniel Weedman, which I assume you are.

Here's the real story...

Sixteen Louisville players (4 on offense, 12 on defense) have made their first collegiate start this season. Additionally, Strong has had 23 true or redshirt freshmen see significant snaps. Only three programs in the country have been forced to play more first-years. In all, 33 true or redshirt freshmen/sophomores have seen significant time on the field in Strong's first year, including 10 true freshmen.

12. Moral: Charlie Strong did a rock-solid job this year and may prove to be a tremendous coach at Louisville (or somewhere else), but I think his first season is being overpraised. Playing in a genuinely awful league with a veteran team, he won two more games than Steve Kragthorpe did the prior year.

He also won as many league games as Kragthorpe did in his last two seasons at U of L combined, and his team was far more competitive in its losses than any of Krag's, even the one in 2007 that boasted 13 returning starters from an Orange Bowl champion. Louisville lost one game by more than a score in 2010, a 17-point loss at Pitt where Bilal Powell went down in the first half.

Louisville's average margin of defeat over the past four seasons:

2007: 11.2
2008: 20.2
2009: 16.1
2010: 8.7

In one season he and Vance Bedford have taken Louisville's defense from a generic punchline to - statistically - the 11th best in the country. And as evidenced earlier, characterizing this team as "veteran" is extremely misleading.

To summarize: If you think Joker is receiving an unnecessary amount of heat, that's fine, I don't completely disagree, but don't make your attempt to defend him at the expense of Strong. Even with the Big East as miserable as it is, this team had no business winning six games, but it ended up being a couple of plays away from being 8-4.

Expectations for Strong are undoubtedly about to rise to the point where .500 or near .500 seasons won't be celebrated, but at the moment the head coach deserves every ounce of praise he's receiving.

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