BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ask a New Orleans foodie -- and they aren't too hard to find in the Crescent City -- why they think their city is better than other food meccas like New York or San Francisco and you might get told about the random dive test.
Go into a random dive in New Orleans and there's a good chance you'll eat something pretty good. Wander into a random joint in New York, they argue, and it's more likely you'll find a kitchen nightmare than in New Orleans. The point? New York might have more good restaurants because it has almost 20 times New Orleans' population, they argue. In New York, they say, you better know where to go.
In the Big Easy, the good eats have you surrounded.
The same argument gets made by Louisianians about their football. Want to say Florida, California and Texas are the biggest football hotbeds? Fine, so long as you also acknowledge that all three of the top hotbeds have at least five times the population of Louisiana. Cities such as Houston and Los Angeles have larger populations than the Pelican state.
But pound for pound? It's Louisiana.
According to the chart compiled by ESPN.com, Texas produced 478 players on rosters of Top 20 teams in 2010. Texas had a population of just over 26 million, meaning one out every 54,500 Texans played for a Top 20 college football team that year. By comparison, Louisiana had 110 players on Top 20 rosters out of 4.5 million people. That means one in every 41,800 people in Louisiana played on a Top 20 team.
Louisiana's per capita rate of players on ranked teams far exceeded Florida (approximately one in every 127,000 people), California (one in every 186,000 people) and Georgia (one in every 111,000). Buoyed by the in-state heavy roster of national champion Auburn and highly-ranked Alabama, Alabama (one in every 31,400) had the best ratio and Mississippi (one in every 41,200) was second. Louisiana was third.
This is not unusual.
Many studies have shown that the states in the heart of SEC country produce more players per capita than other states. An annual study by USA Football showed that Louisiana produced the most players on NFL opening day rosters per capita four straight years. In the 2012 results, Louisiana was followed by Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. The top six states are all from SEC country and Louisiana annually leads the way.
So does the random stadium test according to Louisiana people. The "big three" might produce more players, but you better know where to find them. In Louisiana, you might go to an off-the-beaten-path tiny town such as Clinton, La., and find four-star Kendell Beckwith carrying tiny East Feliciana High. You may stumble into a game in New Orleans pitting a team with four blue-chip prospects (Karr) against a school with possibly the nation's top 2014 running back (Leonard Fournette of St. Augustine).
You might find places with more, but in Louisiana, the smell of great football, as well as the smell of good gumbo, is in the air everywhere.