NFL starting quarterbacks are more likely to come from the 1-AA ranks than Alabama or Wisconsin. Currently, there are more NFL starting quarterbacks with Ivy League educations than varsity letters from Notre Dame. Now is it borderline absurd to take the 32 starting quarterbacks in week 1 of the 2011 NFL season and make statistical assumptions based on that finite group? Yes, but it’s a lot of fun.

Let’s look at the tale of the tape.

The 32 quarterbacks come from 27 different schools. The only colleges turning out multiple starting QBs: Michigan (Brady – mainly a back-up there – and Henne), USC (Cassel – always a back-up there – and Sanchez), Auburn (Newton and Campbell), and the powerhouses that are Purdue (Orton and Brees) and Boston College (Ryan and Hasselbeck).

There are obviously 25 teams ranked this week in the Associated Press poll. Only six of those programs have an alum who is currently a starting NFL quarterback (Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Florida, Texas, TCU and Michigan).

The 32 starting quarterbacks are spaced over 14 conferences, including Fitzpatrick of Harvard and the Ivy League,  Romo of Eastern Illinois and the Ohio Valley, Flacco of Delaware and the CAA, and Tarvaris Jackson of Alabama State and the SWAC. The SEC led with six NFL starters (seven if you bench Kerry Collins and add in Peyton Manning), followed by five each from the ACC and Big Ten (including Collins), and four from the Pac-12 (which includes Utah’s Alex Smith even though he didn’t play in the Pac-12). If you count TCU’s Andy Dalton as a member of the Big East (where they begin play next year), that would give the Big East two quarterbacks, breaking their tie with the MAC and Conference USA. Of course, you would probably also have to move Syracuse and Donovan McNabb to the ACC, so the Big East would be back to one.

Without double-checking my math on this category, 13 of the NFL starting quarterbacks were drafted outside the first round. That number does include Brees who was snagged with the first pick of the second round.

The path to a starting QB spot in the NFL has much more to do with how you measure up at the annual NFL Combine than your high school 5-star ranking, where you went to college, your stats there, the system you ran, or how many games your college wins today.

It’s an inexact science to under center. A mix of big-bonus draft picks and late round afterthoughts. The “Cradle of Quarterbacks” has two starters, but one of those (Orton in Denver) is trying to be overtaken by a Heisman should-be tight end from Florida, where a Heisman winner in a pass-happy system (Danny Wuerffel) never panned out in the NFL, just like an option-running Heisman winner from Nebraska (Eric Crouch) never started one game under center in the big leagues.

Maybe Andrew Luck is a sure thing, but don’t sleep on Tulsa’s G.J. Kinne, who threw four picks yesterday.