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Can a College Football Team Beat an NFL Team?

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This morning on the Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio, Mike Greenberg decided it was the time of year to ask the question that seems to get asked at least once per season as we weave toward the end of the college football year.

“What if (fill in the blank dominant college football team) lined up against (fill in the blank struggling NFL team)?”

A few years back when the Miami Hurricanes looked unbeatable, people wanted to know if they could beat the woeful Cincinnati Bengals. Now that the Bengals are good that question is silly. So this year’s incarnation of the question was the USC Trojans vs. the injured and struggling New York Jets.

So Greenberg is asking the question and sensing that it is coming, co-host Mike Golic interrupts and says “No.” before Greenberg can even finish asking the question. USC would get killed by the banged up Jets team. There is no way that the college team could ever stack up against an NFL team.

I agree with him, and I wish that this question/argument would just go away forever. It isn’t even close. The NFL team will have 11 NFL capable players on their side of the ball and the college team will not. Let’s take this year’s question. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are both going to the NFL next season and they will be drafted in the first round, assuming no career-threatening injuries are sustained in their bowl game. The argument goes that they are NFL-quality players. While I will agree that they are going to be high draft picks and certainly capable of performing in the NFL, they are far from being NFL-quality players.

Think of it this way. How many NFL rookies come into the league and make an immediate impact? Not very many. Carson Palmer sat for an entire year before he started to play well. Despite the fact that he was a great college player, there was an NFL learning curve. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t have to try and weather that learning curve with 10 other rookies. He had an offensive line, a couple wide receivers and a running back who were all past the rookie curve. The USC Trojans have zero players who are anywhere on the NFL learning curve. Every player on every NFL team has the experience bonus over every single USC player.

So now think of the USC Trojans with 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players who have far less experience and far less talent in many cases than their counterparts across the way. The NFL players on the practice squad are at least as good as many of the players on the Trojans.

The other portion of the argument is that you can’t play this out on paper. The proponents of this College vs. Pro argument say that stacking a team against another team is different than going position by position and declaring a winner. I can agree with that to an extent. There is something to be said for the chemistry that a team builds over the course of a season or a 4-year college career. But, the same thing can be said for the NFL team. In my mind that is a wash. Same with coaching.

Don’t fall victim to this argument this year or any subsequent year. A college football team doesn’t stand a chance. It doesn’t matter which college team dominates the world next year and it doesn’t matter which NFL team falls apart next year.

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About Craig Lyndall

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    The college game can run the option, which is a useless play in the pros because the linebackers move laterally way too fast.

    Jets 38, Trojans 14

  • Craig Lyndall

    heh… do you think they would score 14?

    I think Lineart would be on his back the whole game.

  • Mark Sahm

    The Jets’ 2005 woes makes Doug Brien’s missed kick against the Steelers in last season’s playoffs even worse. It shows us how a team which should have been in the AFC final can fall to the basement in less than a year.

    The injury bug is deadly. Sad that sportscasters have to rag on them potentially getting beat by a college team.

  • Craig Lyndall

    Sad, but totally silly… by the way, I think Greenberg was saying more about the Trojans than he was saying about the Jets… everyone knows that they are horribly injured this year…

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Yep. Two scores.

    Reggie Bush steals a long TD, or LenDale White grabs a short one; and Leinart connects with either Bush, LenDale or Steve Smith.

    What might be a more interesting question is: could a team of co-ed All-Stars beat an NFL team? Leinart, Bush and Samardzija on one side, Dumervil and A.J. Hawk on the other?

  • Lono

    Not sure, but I would absolutely love to see it. I think that would be great TV.

  • MCH

    “Can a college football team beat an NFL team.”

    Yes, if it was the Detroit Lions.

  • FilteringCraig

    Even the woeful Lions team would kick butt and take names against any college team.

  • RJ

    Don’t MLB teams often play exhibition games against their AAA or AA farm clubs? And don’t those farm clubs sometimes win?

    I’m not saying a AAA baseball team is equivalent to a college football team. I generally agree that no college football team could beat any NFL team.

    But, how about, the best Arena football team against the worst NFL team, by Arena football rules? 😉

  • Eric Olsen

    it was really funny, last summer my daughter’s tee-ball team beat the Royals! We all had a good chuckle

  • TMo

    That’s not fair. The Royals don’t have as big of a payroll as the top tier college programs, but they still should beat your daughter’s tee ball team. I say we test your daughter’s team for performance enhancing drugs.

  • Rib

    Before the Super Bowl when there was just the National Championship Game……I think I remember when I was just a little kid that every year the top pro team and top college team met to play. The college team always lost except I remember one time when the won. PLease, if anyone can help me on this….it would be appreciated. Thanks

  • Dr Dreadful

    Even with my limited football knowledge, I agree that the best college team wouldn’t stand a chance in a one-off game even against the worst NFL team. The gulf in quality is obvious even to the untrained eye.

    However, if such challenge games were played on a fairly regular basis you’d inevitably get an occasional college team that would win.

    In association football (soccer to you heathens) these matchups happen all the time. It’s part of the romance of the game, particularly in England’s FA Cup, the sport’s oldest competition, which every affiliated club from the humblest village team to the mighty Manchester United enters.

    Every year a few amateur or semi-pro teams win through to the later rounds when the big Premier League and Championship clubs enter, and every year there are at least a couple of surprises. A couple of years ago, Liverpool went behind twice at home against Havant & Waterlooville, a team ranked six leagues below them, before they eventually got over the shock and managed to win.

    And it’s not only in England. Just this week, the great Real Madrid were humbled 4-0 by a village team in Spain’s King’s Cup.

  • XtrackterX

    Lol USC lost to Texas that year.

  • Daniel

    Lol, Mark Sanchez and Reggie Bush are both draft busts now.