Last Sunday, Matt Forte was the singular influence in the Chicago Bearsâ€™ surprising season-opening win over the powerful Indianapolis Colts. The Tulane running back showed that he would be an impact player in the league as a rookie.
Jake Delhomme shook off Tommy John surgery and almost a full season of inactivity on one play, a touchdown pass with the clock showing 00:00 that led the Carolina Panthers to an upset road win over the highly-regarded San Diego Chargers.
The last two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and MVPâ€™s? Theyâ€™re from the Sportsmanâ€™s Paridise.
It goes on and on. And those two examples donâ€™t even include the impact of players from LSU, the stateâ€™s gridiron pinnacle when it comes to preparing talent for the NFL.
Players from Louisiana dot the rosters and make significant impact at colleges across the South and in much of the country.
Those facts are undeniable. But when it comes to comparing the impact of high school football in the state with that of other states, things become more subjective.
Thereâ€™s no question that high school football in the state is among the best thatâ€™s out there. The key there is â€œamong,â€ because thereâ€™s no way to truly compare with other states. Itâ€™s impossible â€¦ there are too many variables â€“ population levels, budgets, fan support, etc.
ESPN is trying to do that with its current â€œGreat State Debate,â€ but whatâ€™s currently on the networkâ€™s Web site is about as unscientific as it gets. Itâ€™s nothing but a popularity contest, designed to solicit E-mails to increase traffic to its site and â€“ big surprise â€“ increase the rates it can charge advertisers.
Itâ€™s fan-driven. Itâ€™s kind of like â€œAmerican Idolâ€ or â€œAmericaâ€™s Got Talentâ€ and we know how fair and accurate those are.
But thatâ€™s another story.
The debate is through two rounds in what amounts to an eight-state, single-elimination tournament. A bracket matches up states in each round eventually leading to a final round, where number one â€œseedâ€ Texas is expected to meet No. 2 Florida.
In the first on-line voting, Texas got 85 percent of the voting against eighth-seeded Virginia (Virginia?). The second matchup pitted Florida against No. 7 Louisiana.
Now, for one thing, Floridaâ€™s population and its pure number of schools are higher than Louisiana. But thereâ€™s no interest in per-capita selections, something that would be over the head of the average on-line voter, anyway.
So it shouldnâ€™t be surprising that Florida took 65.8 percent of the voting to move into the semifinals. Third-seeded California meets sixth-seeded Georgia and fourth-seeded Ohio faces fifth-seeded Pennsylvania in the other first-round matchups that will be staged over the next few days.
Maybe itâ€™s an honor for Louisiana to be in the top eight. After all, we know how good our stateâ€™s prep football is, but thatâ€™s probably not as well known in Idaho or New Hampshire â€“ or Bristol, Conn., where ESPNâ€™s located.
Those in the know usually rank the same ones â€“ Texas, Florida, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania â€“ among the top on a mythical list of best high school football states. To be included in that number, even if itâ€™s just below on someoneâ€™s listing, is a compliment.
ESPNâ€™s on-line write-ups break down some of the reasons for Floridaâ€™s â€œwinâ€ over Louisiana â€“ more players (a given), more national-level recruits (a product of the first reason), more nationally-known programs (begrudgingly given).
But it also mentions coaching â€¦ and Iâ€™ll put J. T. Curtis or Lewis Cook or Red Franklin or Charlie Brown or Chick Childress up against anybody Florida has to offer.
But again, this is subjective. Itâ€™s fodder for debate, and itâ€™s kicked up some on the site, which is the whole idea.
But treat it for what itâ€™s worth, and remember that difference of opinion is what makes horse races. Or, in this case, imaginary horse races.
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