First off, let me give a big thank you to the staff here at Good Bull Hunting for inviting me to weigh in on NCAA Football '14. Reader involvement is one of my favorite aspects of GBH, and it’s an honor to be invited to write a post. Having voiced my appreciation, we can get to what you’re really here for: arm-chair video game analysis of the latest (and greatest) NCAA Football offering from EA Sports. My insights from the game are specific to the 2013 Texas A&M football team in the game compared to real life.
EA promised that NCAA Football ‘14 would bring us a renewed focus on making the gameday experience feel more realistic, and it shows. From the new Infinity engine that makes running backs actually act like running backs to the added details like Yell Leaders and yells at Kyle Field, I think EA delivered in a big way. It’s not perfect (they still play stadium music before kickoffs at Kyle), but it’s much improved over the previous games. This game shows that EA has been listening to customer feedback.
With the improved gameplay, EA Sports also tried to more accurately gauge players and how they rate the teams. Overall, I think they did a pretty good job but as you’ll see below, I do have some disagreements. Let’s see how our beloved Fightin’ Texas Aggies stack up, shall we?
Team Overall - 91
Feels a little low to me considering Michigan State, Florida State, North Carolina, and USC(!) are all also rated 91. Then again, so are Georgia and Stanford so who knows. For reference, Texas is given a 93 overall along with Clemson, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech. Wait, what? Virginia Tech got a 93? *deep breath* Moving on... Like I said, 91 feels a bit low, but it’s really just a result of how we’re rated on offense and defense so let’s look at those along with the different position groups because it’s July and oh God we still have 7 weeks until football... *sobbing*
Offense - 95
My first reaction was excitement that we were rated pretty highly at 95. I decided to go check some other teams and see how we compared and saw that Georgia, Clemson, and Texas are also rated 95. Oregon is rated 99, and LSU is rated 94. The LSU rating makes me feel like we’re underrated, but the Georgia and Clemson ratings make me feel like we’re pretty fairly rated considering we lost some big-time players on offense - Joeckel, Lewis, Swope, EZ. Texas seems overrated at 95, but they’re better than LSU and not better than us, so I guess 95 it is.
Obviously the strength of our offense. QB #2 has an absolute cannon of an arm and has some serious speed to enhance the running game. In both simulating and playing with him, he absolutely dominates the game. No complaints here.
The only word to describe this group is ridiculous. It’s so deep that HB #20 only got 7 carries (for 84 yards!) when I simulated a full season. Just an unbelievable level of talent at this group. Every other team in the game wishes they had A&M’s backfield.
Again, this is a very deep and talented group. In both playing and in simulating, this unit put up ridiculous numbers and made passing easy. Phenomenal hands. I’m not even sure I remember one of them dropping a pass while I was playing. No true standout in terms of production when simulating, but WR #13 gets some love in the ratings department at 90 overall.
Not much to say about this group except to say they reflect their real-life counterparts’ talent and skill. Plenty of good running lanes and pass blocking is superb.
Defense - 88
This rating feels accurate, really. Texas A&M has so many first-year starters on defense that it’s just really hard to judge how things are going to go this year. The secondary should be pretty good (and was in the game), but the D-Line and linebacker groups are a bit of question mark. There are some teams rated at 88 that I’m skeptical of deserving that ranking, but Georgia is at 88 too so at least we’re not alone on the “Who knows?” tier of defenses.
I really struggled getting the pass rush going with just the defensive line when I was playing, but they held up pretty well in terms of stopping the run. Not quite so good when simulating, so I take that to mean EA expects them to struggle a bit with their youth. In my 2nd season on dynasty, this group was much improved and frequently got to the opposing QB without bringing any extra pressure. Hopefully A&M’s actual D-line will play a bit better than the digital one.
In the game, our linebackers feel very undersized when playing against teams like Alabama. I’d make the tackle, but I’d get bowled over backwards frequently. They held up pretty well in playing and in simulating though, so I don’t really have any complaints. Good pass rush from the outside positions.
The most experienced defensive group on the field played like it. CB #29 and CB #1 were both All-Americans for me and as a whole, the unit performed very well. I can only hope A&M’s secondary performs as well as EA’s version this fall.
So now that we’ve taken a quick look at the offense and defense as presented in the game, what does it all mean? Nothing! But I pretended it does anyway because it's JULY. I also looked at how EA thinks A&M is going to perform this fall by simulating our fall schedule over and over again to see what we’d get.
Season Simulation #1
Final Record: 11-3, SEC Champion - defeated South Carolina in SECCG
Bowl: Sugar Bowl (L - Boise St)
Other losses - SMU(!?), Miss St
Accolades - Heisman, Maxwell, Walter Camp
Offensive rank - #3
Defensive rank - #94
Other interesting info - LSU’s defense was ranked #93, Texas went undefeated and beat Alabama in the BCSCG. /vomits
Season Simulation #2
Final Record: 10-3
Bowl: Fiesta (L - Washington)
Other losses - Alabama, Auburn
Accolades - Heisman
Offensive rank - #3
Defensive rank - #11 (seriously)
Other interesting info - Alabama defeats Texas for NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP NUMBER 87 PAWWWWWWWWWL ROLL TIDE; Alabama had the #39 ranked defense (seriously).
Season Simulation #3
Final Record: 14-0, SEC Champion - defeated Florida in SECCG
Bowl: BCSCG (W - Louisville)
Accolades - Heisman, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, Outland, Linebacker of the Year, Coach of the Year
Offensive rank - #2
Defensive rank - #79
So what do I take from the simulations? I think it shows that EA developers view Texas A&M as a legit contender for both the SEC and BCS titles, which goes along with what I expect most Aggies feel about the team. We all expect the offense to keep rolling without missing a beat, and the simulations came out that way - never worse than #3 in total offense and 3 Heismans out of 3 simulations. I also think we all have concerns with the defense after losing so many guys, and EA played that out too in the wild fluctuations - as high as #11 and as low as #94. I think we’re going to fall somewhere within that range, probably in the 50’s or low 60’s but maybe Snyder can work some magic and surprise me. I hope so.
Now that we’ve reached the end of my not-so-short review/analysis, let me know what you think in the comments. Did I get anything right? Am I completely wrong? Let me know or just provide your own observations about the game and what we can take away from it in terms of what we can expect from the team this fall.