University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier rarely throws out one his
biting verbal jabs without a purpose.
Back when he coached at Florida in the 1990s and the Gators were burning up the Southeastern Conference, Spurrier use to dig archrival Tennessee, because he was always knocking the Vols out of a BCS Bowl bid and relegating them to the Citrus Bowl, which had a contractual right for the second-place SEC team.
* "You can't spell Citrus without UT [University of Tennessee]."
* "I know why [former Tennessee and current NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning] came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP."
So that's why you take Spurrier's recent compliment about top-ranked and reigning BCS champion Alabama with a healthy dose of salt.
"Alabama, gosh, they look like they could beat a couple of those NFL teams that I've watched on Sundays," Spurrier said Wednesday on "The Dan Patrick Show."
"I think a lot of the oddsmakers out there that usually know what's going on; I'd guess Alabama would be favored a bit."
Although the Gamecocks don't play Alabama during the regular season, there's a slim chance the teams could meet in the SEC championship game, so perhaps Spurrier was trying to lull the Crimson Tide into a false sense of security.
Spurrier, who played and coached in the NFL, knows that no college team, not even one a seemingly dominant as Alabama, could beat even the worst NFL team.
Pregame.com, a betting service in Las Vegas, told ESPN.com that Alabama would be a 24-point underdog against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) on a neutral field.
I always get a chuckle when I hear some people make statements like Spurrier's. It can be fun to make such a statement about a college team for hyperbole, but in reality, it's not even an argument worth having.
Alabama would have no, nada, zippo chance of beating Jacksonville (1-6), Kansas City (1-7), Carolina (1-6) or any other team currently cellar-dwelling in the NFL.
Because you need only one or two great players to change the fortunes of an NBA team, the argument that the 2012 NCAA champion Kentucky - with four first-round picks, including Nos. 1 and 2 - might luck into a win or two in a seven-game series against the worst NBA team might have a bit more merit, but I wouldn't bet on it.
But the worst NFL team against the best from college football would be a total mismatch.
First, you are dealing with fully developed men against still maturing boys. The nature of human growth alone makes it virtually impossible for one college team to amass enough 18- to 21-year-olds who are big enough, strong enough and fast enough to compete physically against an NFL team.
Alabama might have more NFL prospects than other schools, but they are still only prospects.
Every NFL team has 53 players who already beat the incredible odds it takes to make any NFL roster.
The pattern for football is fairly clear.
If you were a star in Pop Warner, then all your teammates in high school will be the best players on their Pop Warner team.
If you were All-County or All-State in high school, then everybody on your college team was All-County or All-State.
If you make it to the NFL, all of your teammates were the best players on their college teams.
At each level, the guys you play with and against are generally the best of the best from the previous level.
The numbers of players who are good enough to compete decreases as the levels increase.
And by the time we talk about the NFL, there are only 1,696 jobs, plus a handful of openings on each team's practice squad.
Every player, from the star quarterback to the punter, was the best-of-the-best selected from hundreds of college teams.
The math for Alabama's beating any NFL just does not work.
"I was confronted with that at times at [USC] and the falsehood is to think that that could ever take place," Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who won three National Championships at the University of Southern California, said at his weekly news conference. "It ain't even close.
"Alabama's got a great team, but when you match up interior lines against regular NFL teams on either side of the ball, it wouldn't be close."
The 2012 BCS champion Alabama team had four players selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, including running back Trent Richardson, the third pick overall.
Richardson, Tampa Bay safety Mark Barron and New England linebacker Dont'a Hightower are starters.
That's three out of a possible 22 NFL starters every Sunday, Monday or Thursday.
I don't doubt that the current Alabama team has two or three players who could step onto a NFL roster tomorrow and make an impact.
But the rest of the team would be woefully overmatched.
Spurrier was just being Spurrier. He knew he spouted "bull-bleep" the moment he said Alabama could beat an NFL team.
Anyone who thinks Spurrier might actually be right need only do the arithmetic to see how it walks.
Contact John Smallwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.