It is impossible for me to even guesstimate the amount of time I have spent playing the NCAA Football series in my lifetime. "Way to much" is something that you will never hear me admit. From the second I started playing NCAA Football '98 on PS1 I was hooked...hell, obsessed.
'98 and '99 were the glory days of running the toss play with HB #22 (J.J. Johnson) and watching him break a few tackles, find the sideline and race for a touchdown. NCAA Football 2002 marked the move to PS2 and me trying to explain to a real-life Wayne Madkin (QB #9) why I had benched him in favor of Kevin Fant (QB #16). SORRY, WAYNE! I NEEDED MORE THROW POWER! In the latest editions, I've found myself consumed with the online dynasty feature as I battle old college friends for 5-star recruits and national titles from the comfort of my couch.
The first thing I always check when firing up the game for the first time is Mississippi State's roster. The ability to edit everything from socks to play recognition rating allows me to customize the team to my preference, but I still like to see what EA Sports thinks about the Bulldogs. So, let's take a look at the offense first.
OFFENSE RATING: 90
According to EA, MSU's offense is the 6th best in the SEC (tied with Florida and Mizzou). That's pretty accurate considering the Bulldogs finished 7th in total offense in 2012. The return of Tyler Russell, LaDarius Perkins, and four starters on the offensive line should lead to improved numbers in 2013. However, State returns no significant contributors at the WR position and I believe that is keeping the offensive rating from being higher. Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson, and Joe Morrow have worlds of potential and breakout year from that group could have the unit playing like a 93 or 94. If Malcolm Johnson can stay healthy, I expect a true breakout year from him. We've seen flashes, but not for a whole season.
DEFENSE RATING: 85
If this year's real-life unit plays like an 85, MSU is in TROUBLE. I'm talking about Texas A&M Snow Bowl Commemoration trouble. The 85 DEF rating is good (or bad) enough for 12th in the SEC. I can't blame EA for the low marks though. Last year's defense, even with two top 50 NFL draft picks at the corners, was susceptible to getting shredded like low-fat Best Value cheddar. However, last year's defensive coordinator, Chris Wilson, is out and co-DC Geoff Collins takes over a unit that returns six starters. Most MSU fans you talk to will say Wilson's vanilla schemes kept us from getting pressure on the quarterback, making it too easy for opposing teams to find open spaces to make plays. I agree. This group is better than an 85 rating. Benardrick McKinney is an emerging star at middle linebacker and there is plenty of talent and depth on the defensive line to cause fits for opposing quarterbacks.
OVERALL RATING: 88
Fair enough. 90 OFF + 85 DEF = 175 / 2 = 87.5 + solid special teams = 88 OVR. Based on these ratings MSU is tied for 8th in the SEC with Auburn, Arkansas, and Missouri. I give MSU the edge over all of those teams with the exception of Auburn who shouldn't be as offensively inept under Gus Malzahan as they were with Chizik at the helm. Could the real-life team be better than an 88 OVR? Sure. The defense must find a way to replace the play-making of Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay and the offense must get some big contributions from the new wide receivers.
What does everyone think? Did EA "keep it real" with these ratings? Let me know! I'll be choosing a commenter to participate in another post about NCAA '14 next week.