NFL teams vs College teams

Submitted by Inflammable Flame on February 6th, 2019 at 9:01 AM

I think it's fairly common knowledge that any NFL team would beat any college football team. But after thinking about how players and systems have changed over the years, I propose this question:


If you take the best present day college football team (you can choose the year and team) far back would you have to go for that college team to be competetive with/beat an NFL team?


Or to extend this further...what about other sports?



February 6th, 2019 at 9:10 AM ^

It's hard to come up with specifics, but probably any Power 5 team today could beat the NFL teams back in the days where everyone had day jobs and played football for fun. And I'm going solely based off of the time commitment and effort put into today's football simply beating out the days of fewer practices and less focus on the game.


February 6th, 2019 at 9:24 AM ^

I think #1 Pitt or #2 USC could have beaten Tampa Bay in 1976. That was the first expansion year, and even after the Lions and the Browns broke their winless record they're still widely regarded as one of the worst NFL teams of all team.


February 6th, 2019 at 9:34 AM ^

I'd imagine you'd have to go back to the 70s, when players were smaller and training/"nutrition" weren't as advanced.  Offensive lines that averaged under 6'5" and 270 lbs and DLs even smaller would struggle with the size/speed of modern college linemen.


February 6th, 2019 at 9:38 AM ^

I'd say the best football and basketball college teams today could easily beat pro teams of the 1950s.  I wouldn't say the same for baseball and hockey teams.  You might have to go back to the 1800s to find a pro baseball team that would lose to college players today.  Ty Cobb would hit in any era, especially against underdeveloped college pitchers.

The NFL champion of 1965 was the Packers with Bart Starr and Paul Hornung.  But those NFL teams would've gotten dominated in the trenches and didn't really have a second string.  Only 30-odd guys to a team.  300-pounders were unheard of; 6'2", 250 was considered huge.

Fast forward to 1975 and Mean Joe Greene is 275 pounds.  Offensive linemen were still smaller and might've gotten pushed around, but at least the teams had actual depth on them.  It's probably around that time that pro teams would start to beat today's college teams.

The 1960s in the NBA though, they had guys like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.  They're not losing to college players.


February 6th, 2019 at 9:42 AM ^

I think you would just need to go back to the 80s or so. For example, if you want to look at the '76 Tampa Bay team (per Befuggled), the heaviest player on the whole team weighed 274. Average weight for the entire team was 220. I remember in the late 70s the common thought was that it was impossible for a player to perform at a high level if he weighed over 300 lbs. It wasn't until the mid-80s with the Fridge and some other DTs that there became a bigger emphasis on larger, faster bodies. Louie Kelcher was the first player I remember ('75-'83) weighing over 300, and he shocked folks that he could perform.

Most P5 teams today would be too big and strong for those teams is my guess.


February 6th, 2019 at 11:56 AM ^

I think it could be an actual possibility for college basketball to have a squad that could beat the worst pro team for that year.  Look at duke this year.  4 guys are in the nba come June. I bet they could give the Knicks or suns a run for their money. Especially in a 1 game scenario. 


February 6th, 2019 at 3:59 PM ^

This post is long (reply to UM Fan from Sydney)

TL/DR version: No Way. NO WAY.

That awful Browns team would crush any college team, at least in a competitive game with players trying. Reasons?

1. Players get better. College version of a player is almost never as good as the pro version. RB might be the only position where rookies often step in and play close to as well as they ever will. All other positions take time.

Even rookies are a year and a training camp more experienced than college. Elite rooks make rookie mistakes, improve over time. How many rookie All-pros are there?

Pro players are better than their college selves.

2. Positional consistency. NFL teams have (more or less) NFL-caliber players at every position. No college team does. Modern Bama and LSU have never fielded an NFL-level QB. AJ McCarron is the only guy from either school in the NFL, and he's barely NFL-level even now. Tua would be embarrassingly bad playing an NFL defense right now.

3. Depth. Bama's second stringers are good college players, but even a 5* freshman OT couldn't compete against NFL dudes. One injury/rotation, and an 18 year-old kid would get absolutely humiliated by an NFL player.

Bama's best 2-year period produced 22 drafted players. Drafted, including cuts. Doesn't come close to fielding an NFL team.

Just for fun, I looked up players on college teams currently "playing" in the NFL (the list came from ESPN, and I think includes extended rosters - IR, etc.). 

ALL players from all years, so ~15 years of the very best players those schools produced. 

Unless I missed something, only 2 schools have enough guys in the NFL for a full roster - Alabama and LSU. Florida schools, USC, OSU are fairly close, but fall at least 10 guys short of a 53-man roster.

Both Bama and LSU could field strong OT, RB and WR, and good players at all defensive positions.


QB: LSU - 0; Alabama - AJ McCarron. Yikes.

LSU no TEs in the league, no K, only 3 interior OL (1 C, 2 G). 

Alabama no K, only 2 OT, 2 DE. 

Theoretically, if you could trade depth at LB, WR, and CB to shore up the light positions you could build a really good roster from either school's players. But that's over 15 years.

NFL teams are simply better than NCAA, and it's not close.

Same goes for hoops. Duke has a bunch of guys who will be drafted, and probably a few who will have decent NBA careers, maybe even 1 or 2 future stars.

If Zion were a rookie in the NBA right now, he'd probably be a decent, struggling player with a bright future. Most of the other Dukies would be disastrously inept.

LeBron shot 41% his rookie year; Kobe averaged 7.6 points. Guys like Jordan/Duncan/Ewing were older and more experienced, thus more NBA-ready than today's stars.



February 6th, 2019 at 7:41 PM ^

Yeah, I think NFL guys wouldn't give a rip. It's like the pro bowl now; players don't care. Much more important to stay healthy.

I have a good friend who's a Utah grad, so I pay more attention to them than most. Yeah, that team had a good year, but:

- hesitant to bring this up, one of their wins was barely squeaking by RR's horrendous 3-9 team. We missed a 2 point try to tie. First game and all, but that was not a great Utah team. 

- if you watched and remember that bowl game, Alabama was spectacularly unmotivated. I remember even my Utah buddy mentioning 'bama had no interest in playing that game. Classic case where bowl game was decided by which team wanted to be there.

IMO they did in fact roll over - though I'll agree it's hard to call any undefeated team mediocre.


February 6th, 2019 at 9:40 PM ^

We can agree to disagree on the first part. NFL players at that time had a different frame of mind than today’s players. Also this wasn’t a Pro Bowl situation, this is more Varsity Vs JV. If you have been in that scrimmage you don’t let those guys jock you. 

I was at the game vs Utah - first off it was the first game of the year and that is never a good measuring stick. From what I remember we were getting out played  until a very fortunate 4th quarter.

Totally get your point though, Bama was not super motivated. Even then that’s a lax team with Julio Jones and Mark Ingram. Love the insight though from the Utah side. I was a teen watching the game and definitely do remember Utah wanting it way more.