During the season, the question of whether the top college football team could beat the worst team in the NFL always seems to come up. That question should always—without exception—be answered with a resounding "no."
Apparently there's a similar question that could arise during the 2013 season.
Speaking to fans at a UGA event, Georgia head coach Mark Richt was asked his thoughts on who's tougher to game-plan against, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, according to Seth Emerson of The Telegraph.
His answer was quite surprising:
I would think it would be tougher to gameplan Johnny Manziel.
I would say Clowney is the best football player in the world though. Seriously. I think he might be the very best player who exists today, at any level.
Clowney's a freak—there's no question about it. But the best player at any level? That's a stretch.
I'm not the biggest NFL guy in the world, but Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and his 20.5 sacks would probably object, along with San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith and his 19.5.
Clowney put up a stellar college season last year, finishing with 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. On top of that he does things that don't impact the stat sheet, such as pressuring the quarterback and taking on double-teams.
He is the best player in college football. Yes, better than Johnny Manziel. He forces opposing coaches to game-plan around him, which all things being equal, is much more impressive than Manziel doing the same from the quarterback position.
But it is still college football, a game played by 18-to-22-year-olds. Not grown men.
The hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith from the 2013 Outback Bowl earned Clowney an invaluable amount of exposure, but he was handled quite a bit by Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Is Jadeveon Clowney the best football player at any level?
"That was a great hit, he won an ESPY for it," Lewan told MLive.com. "He played a good game, I played a good game, it was two people with mutual respect for each other in a 12-round fight."
Lewan is an All-American, too, but we are still talking about two college stars...not pros. There's only a limited time college players can devote to the game, while it's the livelihood of professionals.
This isn't a knock against Richt. He's just paying Clowney a compliment—one which Clowney has earned after playing a big role in the previous two South Carolina victories over Georgia. That's just Richt being who he is, one of the most respectful coaches in the game.
But let's not make this a lingering discussion. Clowney is the best player in college football, and let's enjoy that for one more season. He could become the best player in the NFL at some point, too, but that's a topic for down the road, not now.