Nov 4, 2013, 9:23 PM EDT
Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.
One of the weird things about me is that I like to make rankings. I don’t know why but there’s something fun about quantifying something that is inherently unquantifiable. Maybe I just enjoy futile tasks. Like I said, it’s weird. Probably part of being a math major.
So a new weekly blog I’m going to have is a slow reveal of my list of the top 100 Notre Dame players of all time. That’s right, every position from every era impossibly sorted out in a neat little chart.
“Now, Craig,” you ask. “Why do I care about who you think are the top 100 players of all time? You probably have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Fair point. And that’s precisely why this is fun. I’m 20 years old. Of my 100 players, I’ve only actually seen six of them play (bonus points if you can guess the six). If you don’t like where I rank Dave Casper, you can complain about how I’ve never seen him play and that my list doesn’t make any sense.
The truth is that there is obviously no objective list. You could have two people who watched all the games from the past century come up with two completely different rankings. Just look at the disparities in AP voters, and they only have to deal with teams over one season.
However, my ignorance might be advantageous. Besides my six, I have no bias towards players. If you went to Notre Dame in the late ‘70s, you might overrate Bob Crable, Vagas Feruson, or Bob Golic. I did not make these picks randomly or intuitively. In fact here’s how it works:
To be eligible, you must have been at one point on at least one All-American list (1st, 2nd, or 3rd team). Notre Dame has had 143 players make at least one first-team All-American list. If you can’t get on the third team, you can’t make the cut. Which brings me to my next point.
I don’t consider NFL careers. Combine those two criteria and you can probably see where I’m going with this.
That’s right, Joe Montana is not on my list. Whine away. Get it over with now. Then look at his college stats and tell me he belongs in the top 100. I love Joe as much as the next Notre Dame fan, but these rankings are all about fairness. I am a middle child after all.
One of the several difficulties with this ranking is how to compare across eras. How do you compare Brady Quinn and Gus Dorais? Bob Dove and Jim Seymour? So I looked very minimally at stats. Football has changed so drastically that it’s impossible to compare numbers across generations.
Instead I looked at All-American numbers (unanimous worth more than consensus worth more than 1st-team, etc.), award finishes (especially the Heisman), and national championships. After getting a base list, I made some necessary adjustments. For instance, George Gipp was only an All-American for one year and earned no Heisman votes (it started in 1935). Those kinds of credentials wouldn’t put you in the top 40 of Notre Dame players. At the risk of losing suspense, he is not that low on my list.
But for the most part, the foundation of the list lies in All-American and Heisman votes. So just remember, when you argue with the rankings, you’re arguing with facts.
Stay tuned for numbers 96-100 later this week.
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