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Lee Corso Delights Crowd at Team Selection Committee Kickoff Dinner

For more than two decades, Florida Citrus Sports members have looked forward to Lee Corso’s annual appearance at the organization’s Team Selection Committee Kickoff Dinner, and on Monday, the legendary ESPN personality came through yet again, entertaining a sold-out crowd at Linda’s La Cantina with his 2017 projections and personal recollections from a lifetime spent in football.

An Orlando-area resident and Florida Citrus Sports’ 2017 Howard Palmer Award recipient, Corso spoke for nearly 40 minutes at the Central Florida dining institution, fielding questions from emcee and former Howard Palmer winner Paul Kennedy, as well as many of the more than 150 guests in attendance.

As expected, many of the questions pertained to some of the country’s most high-profile teams.

“Alabama gets all the best athletes in America,” Corso began, speaking about the top-ranked Crimson Tide. “They were No. 1 in recruiting seven straight years. But the impressive thing about Alabama is what they do with those athletes. They develop players better than anybody in America, by far. They take the best players and make them better.

During dinner, Corso made the rounds, mingling with the more than 150 Florida Citrus Sports members in attendance at Linda’s La Cantina.

“If I was a football player and I wanted to be the best I could be,” Corso continued, “I’d go to Alabama.”

When asked later about whether Alabama does enough to prepare its players for the NFL, Corso provided yet another strong opinion.

“Nick Saban’s job is not to make NFL players,” Corso said emphatically. “It’s to beat everybody in college. And he takes the best players in the country and he makes them better for him, in college.”

Despite all his praise, however, Corso isn’t convinced that Alabama is destined to win its fifth national championship of the Saban era.

“I picked Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Southern Cal, and I think the winner will be Southern Cal,” Corso said of his College Football Playoff selections. “I think of all the teams that could beat Alabama, it would be those athletes from California.

“(USC) had a tough time against Texas the other night, but they’ve got a quarterback that can play and they’ve got great receivers,” Corso continued. “So Southern Cal was, and still is, my pick to win the national championship.”

Here are some of the other opinions Corso shared during the Q&A portion of the event:

On his Camping World Bowl picks: Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State.

On his Citrus Bowl picks: Wisconsin and Auburn.

On his Heisman Trophy pick: Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Corso predicted a Virginia Tech-Oklahoma State matchup in this year’s Camping World Bowl and a 2005-06 rematch in the Citrus Bowl, with Wisconsin facing Auburn.

On the best team in the Big Ten: “I think Ohio State, but Penn State you’ve got to watch. Penn State is a terrific football team and they’ve got a good coach. But they have to play in Columbus, which is a big game. So I’ve got a tendency to take Ohio State, but Penn State will be right up there. Plus, they have Iowa this week, in Iowa, and that’s a sneaky game.”

On No. 2 Clemson: “They lost 7,000 yards and 49 touchdowns to graduation. That’s a lot. And they might be better. They might be a better all-around team this year than last year. They are very, very good.”

On Alabama’s biggest threat in the SEC: “Mississippi State – watch out for them. Any team that could whip LSU the way they did on Saturday, that gets my attention. So they might be a sleeper. … To beat Alabama you’ve got to beat them at their game, which means defense. You’ve got to stuff it to them. If they continue and nobody gets hurt or anything like that, I’d take a chance on them (when the teams meet in Starkville on Nov. 11). I’d love to pick them and ring the cowbell.”

On Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield: “I think he’s the most competitive football player in college football right now. He’s a tremendous football player, a good leader, throws the ball well. He beat Ohio State by himself, and that’s a tough thing to do, especially in Columbus.”

On which coach he’d want his son to play for: “I’ve said before and I’ve said it again, if my son were going to play football in college, I’d want him to play for Mark Richt. I have respect for him as a man, as a human being and as a coach, and he’d make Steve a better person just by being around him.”

In addition to Corso’s remarks, members also heard from Florida Citrus Sports chairman Andy Odenbach, of Tavistock Group, who spoke about an exciting past year for the organization.

Florida Citrus Sports chairman Andy Odenbach, left, highlighted the organization’s efforts in the community during his pre-dinner address.

“A couple years ago, we had a very dated facility, we had a couple of bowl games, and we were getting by,” Odenbach said. “And Florida Citrus Sports, over the past few years, has changed radically — not only in terms of our facility, but what we’re doing as an organization.

“It’s not only the games,” Odenbach continued. “Now, you add in a kickoff and an ACC Championship Game and a Pro Bowl and major soccer competitions and concerts, but at the end of the day, it’s about community service, it’s about the legacy we leave and it’s about what we’re doing with LIFT Orlando.

“We are changing lives, we are creating a job space and a permanent residential base, and we are taking D-rated schools and making them A-rated schools,” he added. “And that’s because of your participation in this organization.”

The Team Selection Committee is an all-volunteer community that represents FCS at games across the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12, and participation is open to all active members of Florida Citrus Sports. To learn more about membership options, visit our information page.