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Could Alabama Hang With the Worst Team in the NFL?

No.

Oh, you wanted more than that. I tried to ignore Spurrier’s comments because, well, even in this week of storms, I didn’t think it was worth talking about. When Spurrier said that Alabama could compete and beat the bottom of the NFL, well, it was goofy.

Then, we got a point spread on such a matchup: 24 point underdog for Alabama against the worst team in the NFL (Jacksonville, according to Vegas).

Well, that’s something we can look at. Just how big of an underdog Alabama could be.

Once upon a time, College All-Stars used to play the NFL champion in a preseason exhibition game, something that happened for over forty years. At a time when the professionals were not really true professionals, and plenty of stars did not go on to play in the NFL, they were competitive. The College All-Stars went 3-5-2 in the first ten contests. The last time they won was in 1963, with a draft class that included 16 future first team all pros and four hall of famers.

The final decade of the contest—as professionalism and expansion to the AFL opened more jobs, and the historic black colleges contributed more players, and the game increased in popularity—featured an averaged result of 25.2 to 8.5 for the defending NFL champs.

The average “SRS” rating of those defending champs the season after was +9.7 points above league average. Taking our margin of victory, that would mean the college all-star teams in the late 60’s and 70’s (Many of which had plenty of future Hall of Famers on those All-Star Rosters), were about 7 points below league average.

That would have equated to a 28% winning percentage in the NFL if the College All-Star teams would have competed week in and week out. That’s 4.6 wins in a 16 game schedule. Does that sound about right? It might be a bit high, as professionalism and the average age of all-pros, and percentage of young pro bowlers has gone down over time. It would probably depend on the quarterback situation, but I would put a typical College All-Star Team built of the top draft prospects at 3.5 to 4 wins on average their rookie year.

It would be higher this year with Luck or Griffin at quarterback, lower when the choice was JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn. Such a fictional team would feature a handful of pro bowl caliber players, 10-15 other legitimate starters of at least average quality, and a lot of holes that would be exploited, occupied by replacement level starters.

Of course, that comparison was NFL champ to College All-Star Team, not NFL doormat to one single college team. Spurrier’s statement only holds water if Alabama is the equivalent of a college all-star team in most years. Then, yes, they could compete.

I don’t think it’s obvious that this is even one of the best Alabama teams, or one of the best college teams of the last two decades, even though Alabama has been my choice at #1 all year.

Let’s look at the 2009-2012 draft classes from just Alabama. Which would be the equivalent of doing the same exercise four years ago with one school that would win two national titles.

The quarterback would be Greg McElroy. Woof. A.J. McCarron is McElroy lite, so I don’t see that helping having at best a third string option as the clear starter.

Julio Jones and Trent Richardson would provide some star power. After that, there is literally nothing to take the pressure off Jones in the passing game. Take the worst NFL receiving group and they would be way better than anyone else on a fictional Alabama group after Jones.

The line would have some NFL caliber starters (Andre Smith, James Carpenter, and Antoine Caldwell) but would have a hole at a tackle position and center. We’ve seen lines with a few weak points get exploited big time. The offense would have no options behind Jones, and Richardson would be doing it behind the worst line in the league, and with a third string quarterback.

Defense would have some good pieces as well, but depth would be an issue. Dre Kirkpatrick hasn’t been on the field for Cincinnati yet, and a fictional Alabama wouldn’t be able to overcome any losses to a starter. The defense would have five to six pretty good starters, then issues that would be exploited regularly by NFL teams.

The difference between a College All-Star team and Alabama is probably greater than the difference between the New York Giants and a College All-Star team. 24 points? I think that’s probably close, though I would take the Jacksonville Jaguars or Kansas City Chiefs. If we had a stand alone game with everyone healthy, maybe it’s that, because at least it’s not college style mismatches with 45+ point lines, since a few players on Alabama may be better than their counterparts. Any injuries, though, and it just becomes even greater and starts to climb that way.

[photo via US Presswire]

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