Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Dangers of a Debate

In the past couple of weeks, there has been a debate in the sports world that has been, and always will be, asinine. The question, "Could the best team in college football beat the worst team in the NFL?" has been bandied about as much as the name "Johnny Football" in the past couple of weeks, but since Mr. Football Manzieled the best team in college football at that time, the debate grounded to a halt. Maybe now, everyone in the sports world will see the dangers of that useless debate.

As most informed sports fans know, the college and pro games are incredibly different, and comparing them is almost entirely pointless. This is why most sane NFL minds loathe seeing bits and pieces of the spread option offense when implemented in the NFL, and also why most college coaches don't exactly translate well to the NFL. But, in the not-so-distant past, examples of all the aforementioned things have broken the mold, especially with the successes of QB's like Griffin, Newton, and others, and coaches like Carroll (although he was in the NFL first), and Schiano. This does not mean that a very good college team could beat a really bad NFL team, however, despite what Steve Spurrier, and callers in to the Paul Finebaum show, might lead someone to believe.

Pete Carroll himself disagrees with the notion. He said, when asked the question again, "I was confronted with that at times (at USC) and the falsehood is to think that it could ever take place. It ain't even close. It's not even close." Of course, this comes straight from the coach of maybe the best college football team of the last decade. Even the oddsmakers in Vegas agree. They put out a hypothetical line on a Jacksonville Jaguars- Alabama Crimson Tide contest, and the Jaguars were favored by 24 points (which is astounding to me, not the size of the line, that the Jaguars were favored in anything by Vegas). Now that Alabama has lost, the line on a Kansas State- Kansas City game would be closer to 30 than 0, not including the 3 point swing for a home team.

But wait, I hear some of you as you rush to your keyboards to slave away, "Didn't college all-stars use to beat the NFL champion in a game before?" Yes, and no. The two sides did play exhibitions, and the college all-stars did beat the NFL champ 3 times out of 10, and drew 2 other times. But, these games took place back in the 1960's and 1970's, when many football historians would argue the college game was better than the pro game, and this was before the introduction of the AFL and all-black college stars. If this was tried again today, I doubt the best college players would even sign up to do a game like this, and the NFL champ would even care enough.

While the really bad NFL teams are truly pathetic (as a fan of one of them, I know), the best college team changes every week. Last week, it was Alabama. Post Texas A&M, it's Oregon, or Kansas State, or maybe Notre Dame... who knows? The styles, and the substance (the best college teams sometimes have 10-15 NFL players, the worst NFL team has 53, no matter how bad), are just too different to accurately compare. Even when advanced metrics are put into the equation, they flesh out exactly the same thought. The impartiality of numbers gave the college team one or two wins, but that is the magic of standard deviation, and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two games out of 10 swing the way of the BCS national champ, or college all-star team. But that's not a high hit rate.

Now that the consensus best team in the land, Alabama, has been felled, and with their being no distinct best team in their place, the debate should be put to bed for now. Oh, but Lord knows when one Mr. Klein leads his Kansas State Wildcats to Miami and an undefeated season, or when Johnny Football runs the SEC table at some point, the debate will be resurrected. Just remember to look at the numbers, at listen to the advice of the men that coached on campus and in the pros.

"It ain't even close." Thanks Pete.

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