Written by Alex Drude, KMTR Sports - Novmeber 6, 2012
There’s been talk recently that a great college football team, like Alabama or Oregon, could be transferred to the NFL in its entirety and compete - that is, do as well as the worst team currently in the NFL.
The answer is no. It could never happen. Anyone who thinks that has not thought about this for longer than two minutes. Joe Leadingham and I spent an hour-and-a-half going over why it would be impossible for a college team to beat a pro team.
LaMichael James is a good example of why a college team could never compete against an NFL team. He’s one of the guys who’s helped fuel the fire in this discussion - he was asked if he thought Oregon’s offense could compete against NFL teams and he thought they could. Note: LMJ may be a little biased and a little envious of the Oregon offense at the same time.
LaMichael James is the best rusher in Oregon history. He’s the only guy in conference history to rush for more than 1500 yards in a season three straight years. If he stayed in college, he’d have been the Heisman trophy favorite. In the NFL? He hasn’t even been on the 49ers active roster for one game this year. To repeat: the best rusher the Ducks have ever seen is not good enough to be a backup to the backup to the backup on an NFL team.
The worst team in the NFL is the Kansas City Chiefs. I don’t think there’s too much of a argument there. I went looking through their roster to look for their worst players. Their third-string tight end is Jake O’Connell. He’s been in the league four years. Third-string running back, Cyrus Gray, is a rookie and was named second-team all Big-12 last year. Their third-string linebacker, Edgar Gray, was first team All-American in college and has been in the league six years.
You see where I’m going here? The third stringer in a college program - even the best team in the country - is a redshirt freshman. A third stringer in the NFL is a four-year league veteran. Imagine a 19-year-old redshirt freshman offensive lineman trying to block a 26-year-old NFL linebacker. Heck, imagine a senior offensive lineman trying to block Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. Now imagine the other side: a college linebacker trying to get through an NFL offensive line. Peyton Manning could do anything he wanted and then throw the football. A college team has no chance against an NFL team.
Then there’s this: the 2007 USC Trojans, who finished second in the country that year had a total of 39 players taken the NFL draft in the succeeding years. Seven of them were taken in the first two rounds of the 2008 NFL draft, a USC record. That’s an astounding number of players, yet that’s still less than half the number of players (85) a college team is allowed to have on scholarship.
Most college teams - even the best in the country - have fifteen to twenty players drafted. The 2005 Texas Longhorns, the national champions, had 24 players eventually end up on an NFL roster, less than 25% of their total roster. There are more than ten thousand Division One players (124 teams x 85 scholarship spots = 10,540 players). There are fewer than 1700 NFL players (32 teams x 53 man active roster = 1696 players). It takes an incredible amount of talent to make an NFL roster.
A college team would get mashed by a pro team in any sport. A college hockey goalie would get destroyed by any NHL forward. A college hockey team would be lucky to get the puck past their own blue line against a team of NHL players. A college basketball team would get smoked by even the Sacramento Kings. Remember,= Jimmer Fredette scored nearly 29 points a game his senior year at BYU and 7.6 his first year in the NBA. A baseball team seems like it would be a decent matchup as far as position players go . . . but then you think about major league players teeing off on college pitchers who only throw fastballs and slightly slower fastballs and major league pitchers destroying the best college hitters and it wouldn’t be even close.
It is worth noting that the NFL once had a yearly College All-Star vs NFL players game in the pre-season. At some point the college kids started playing the NFL champions. The game was played from 1934 through 1976, with the exception of 1974. The college guys won nine times, with two ties; the NFL guys won 31 of them. The college kids didn’t win after 1963 - around the time off-season training and conditioning really began to take hold among the top teams in the NFL.
The final game in 1976 was called in the third quarter because of bad weather and the Super Bowl X Champion Pittsburgh Steelers leading a group of college all-stars 24-0. They were going to continue the game after the weather delay, but a bunch of fans tore down the goalposts, forcing the cancellation. Let that be the last time a bunch of college kids try to play the pros.