One of the great indignities a struggling professional sports franchise can face is public debate about whether it can be defeated by a college powerhouse.
The Browns have been ripe for this treatment pretty much every year since their 1999 reboot, but this year the stars of soul-crushing symmetry have aligned. The Browns are 0-12 and in great danger of joining the 2008 Lions in 0-for-16 infamy. Alabama is 12-0 and a heavy favorite to win their fifth national championship in eight years.
If these two teams played, who would win? The Wall Street Journal asked that question this week, coming down hard on the side of a blowout Cleveland victory. This conclusion was backed up by input from with a Hall of Famer, a college expert, quantitative analysis and men who prognosticate in desert hotels.
"The size, the speed, the athleticism, the mentality," opined Joe Namath, who starred at Alabama before becoming the greatest of all Jets. "A pro team would really have to beat itself by fumbling, interceptions, dropping the ball ... it would have to play its worst game and the college team would have to play its best."
Online sports simulations company WhatIfSports.com crunched the numbers and deduced that over the course of 1,001 games, the Browns would beat Alabama 93.9 percent of the time. By a blowout, too: The average score was 33-14.
"I think the Cleveland Browns' inevitable win over Alabama would resemble a dismembering more than a beating," Goodbread told me. "For all the draft prospects Alabama has, you're still talking about 22 guys who belong in the NFL playing against 22 who are a mix of some who will and some who won't."