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Shutdown Mailbag: What if the worst NFL teams and the best NCAA teams could switch?

Jay Busbee
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Mismatch? Maybe. (Getty Images)

There is not football every day. That is a crime against Man and Nature, but until it's properly rectified, we have to make do with columns like this one, where we kick around topics both sublime and ridiculous. Want in on the mailbag? Send your questions, quips, comments and queries to or find me on Twitter at @jaybusbee. The best questions might just end up on our NBC Sports Network show SportsDash, too.

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We were pretty harsh on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the last week, and I wish I could say it's going to get better ... but it's not. Let's get started, shall we?

Soccer has a fascinating concept called “relegation”—basically, if you’re one of the worst teams in your league, you get booted down to the next-lowest league for the next season. And the best teams in that league get promoted upward to replace them. Nice way of ensuring that your team doesn’t pull a Cleveland Browns, isn’t it?

Anyway, there’s no way it would ever happen, but based on those tweets above, let’s do a little thought experiment here: what if the NFL and the NCAA had a relegation arrangement? Let’s say the three worst teams from the NFL get bumped to the NCAA, and the three best teams in the BCS get promoted. Where will this take us?

Important note going in: for now, the worst team in the NFL is going to absolutely bury the best team in the NCAA. As Prediction Machine noted last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars would beat the 2011 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide 94 percent of the time by an average score of 33-9. Sorry, Tide fans, but that's truth.

So we know how this is going to go initially: in most cases, the NFL teams are going to romp through the college ranks, and the college teams are going to go 0-16 except when they play each other. But there are a few variables we’ll add in:

-The NCAA is insane. The three NFL teams won’t all go undefeated, because two of them will face each other in the BCS Championship game. And it’s possible, then, that an undefeated college team could sneak ahead of an NFL team in the final rankings.

-The college teams will get the first picks in the next year’s NFL draft, and will get to retain those players, and free agents, even if the team gets relegated. Meanwhile, the NFL teams won’t get access to the draft if they’ve been relegated, and will have to spend at least one year recruiting. Imagine a pro coach sitting on momma's couch eating pie and trying not to cry as he tells her about the pride of playing for Cleveland.

-Teams can be moved to different conferences or divisions based on geographic common sense.

Obviously, this sets off a butterfly effect that’ll take us a long way from reality, but just for the heck of it, let’s run this simulation for the last three years.

2010 BCS Final Rankings: Auburn, Texas Christian, Oregon

2010 worst NFL teams: Carolina Panthers (2-14), Denver Broncos (4-12), Buffalo Bills (4-12)

Oregon gets the #1 pick, and snags Cam Newton from Auburn. It doesn’t help, as Oregon gets waxed in the AFC West, and Auburn and TCU get smeared as well. Meanwhile, Carolina wins the SEC, Denver takes the Pac-12, and Buffalo runs up some frequent-flier miles manhandling the Mountain West Conference. This one’s a straightforward run-the-table NFL-NCAA switch after the 2011 season.

Now, in 2012, things get a bit more interesting. Oregon, with Cam Newton and the other free agents it signed during its NFL stint, rolls past Alabama for the National Championship. (Related: Bama now has no national championships in its current run. Sad Tide.) Georgia beats Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. (Ohio State is ineligible for promotion.) Up in the NFL, normalcy reigns, as the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles are the worst teams.

So that leads to Oregon and Chip Kelly (who doesn't go to the NFL, he has the NFL come to him) having a second full season of draft/free agent play in 2013. Alabama and Georgia are quickly waxed in the AFC South and NFC East. (Side note: Georgia outdraws the Falcons by a 2-1 margin.) But Oregon? Oregon might just win a couple of games.

Down in the college ranks, it gets even more wild in 2013. The Chiefs are still able to win the Pac-12. But in the SEC, Philadelphia wins the East and Jacksonville the West, and after the SEC Championship here’s our one-loss NFL team scenario mentioned above. With Ohio State once again eligible for the postseason and no NFL opponents in the Big 10, the Buckeyes go undefeated, and thanks to the joys of the BCS system, end up ranked ahead of Jacksonville at the end of the 2013 season.

So there you go: under this scenario, Jacksonville is the first NFL team not to get itself promoted immediately back to the NFL at the expense of Ohio State, and Oregon, with the benefit of some pro draft picks and free agents, is the college team most likely to stick in the NFL. It'll take a few years, but it could happen. Sounds about right. This would never, ever happen, but man, we need to figure a way to get EA Sports to do this, at least.

(Got alternative suggestions or a different potential history? Let us know.)


What I can't understand from any of you guys is how little respect you're giving the Dolphins ... When are analysts and writers going to wake up? We aren't the favorite to win a Super Bowl, not quite anyways, but we are certainly the best team in our division. Oh, I know Tom Brady is still playing, but top to bottom, our squad is more talented, hungrier, and Mr. Brady will struggle against our rush. It's just a matter of time before my Fins get the credit they deserve. Ryan Tannehill is the real deal, and Coach Philbin was the answer needed in South Florida, not another Dan Marino the media has so desperately looked for. We have a good system with a real-deal QB, the sky is the limit.


Love the name, but oh, I'm not so sure about the "best team in our division" answer. The Miami Dolphins are one of those "oh yeah" teams ... as in, "oh yeah, they're still in the league." Seriously, outside of hearing about the '72 Dolphins celebrating every time the last undefeated team loses, when's the last time you even thought about the Dolphins? They're the victim of indifference. Put another way, we don't think about them because we don't think about them.

But the good thing about being an also-ran is that you're in prime position to SHOCK THE WORLD. Looking at the Dolphins' schedule, there are quite a few winnable games there, and some (Baltimore, Atlanta and the rest of the NFC South) that wouldn't be a shock to see a Miami victory. This weekend's game against Atlanta will be a bellwether: if Miami can win this one against one of the NFC's big dogs, they're going to be firmly on the NFL's radar, not flying under it.

As for Brady ... step away from the stone crabs there, Jay. The sunscreen fumes may be altering your brain.


Don't you think the inherent difference in an offensive versus a defensive player's job is enough to cause a large disparity [in fines]? With the heavy increase in scrutiny for helmet-to-helmet hits (which often cause fines) and other hits of that nature, don't you think that the fact that defensive players are far and away more likely to initiate one of these hits would create a large disparity in fines by itself? Is there a calculation of the total percentage of fines for all players attributable to these egregious hits? I'm guessing that it would be very high.

-Houston Nolin

Houston's writing in relation to this article about the injury to 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams, in which I noted the stark difference between fines against offensive and fines against defensive players. And on the surface, Houston is right: despite the name, defensive players are actually attacking the offense, and can draw fines in that way with big, potentially injurious hits. The reason why many people think that there's a disparity is because a play that would draw a fine, an ejection or even a suspension were it inflicted on an offensive player might not even draw a flag were it done to the defense. But given the fact that guys are getting fined for hits that aren't even flagged during games, nobody knows anything at this point. The defense is just trying to ensure that they're not marginalized or threatened the way that, say, pitchers in baseball would be if aluminum bats were allowed.

As for the percentage of fines due to hits, we're still too early in the year for a sample size to be of any statistical relevance ... well, that and the fact that Ndamukong Suh's $100,000 fine throws off the curve. Let's see where we're at after Week 17.


Can you please tell me why the NFL keeps wasting our time with kickoffs? Every kick results in a touchback, with the odd exception, when they kick into a strong wind or the kicker doesn't catch it properly. Just place the ball on the 20-yard line and get on with it.


Tradition, more than anything. There's nothing like that buildup, surge, and release as the entire stadium cheers the opening kickoff. (Well, there IS something like it, but this is a family column.) But you're right, kickers have gotten so strong that they're booting temporary souvenirs into the crowd. The Pro Bowl has already done away with kickoffs altogether, and while we're loath to consider anything involving the Pro Bowl as worth copying, this is a possibility for the future.

Between the propensity for kickers to put it out of the end zone and the possibility that a kick returner can get his brain scrambled to grape jelly by a kick-coverage team, I think that the days of the kickoff as we know it are numbered in the NFL. They'll either back the kicker to the 10-yard line or start the game with an anticlimactic first down at the 20.

Either that, or the NFL should begin a new tradition: FAT GUY KICKOFF.


And that'll do it for this week. Want to get in on the action? Write me at or find me on Twitter at @jaybusbee. And to kill more time between games, check out our Shutdown Podcast on iTunes right here. Enjoy your Sunday, friends!

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