I've spent more hours than I care to admit on the NCAA Football series - and though I promise myself every year that I won't buy the next iteration, I inevitably do anyway, succumbing to the temptation of new freshmen classes and the promise of improvement.
My streak of purchases figures to continue on July 9th, with the release of NCAA 14, the last edition that will be tailor-made for 360 and PS3. The focus for this year has been "Keep It Real", indicating EA's increased emphasis on the realism and authenticity of the college football experience, and seizing upon this theme, I'll be doing exactly that over the course of this post.
When you pop in your disk this year, you'll find Cal rated at 86 on offense, and 83 on defense - and if we're keepin it real, one of those numbers is far too high.
For all their talent and potential, the Cal offense cannot be viewed so highly just yet.
This year, the Bears are replacing anywhere between 3 and 4 starters on the offensive line, bringing in 2 new starters at running back, and breaking in a brand new quarterback, for good measure. Oh, and all this is happening while the team is absorbing the nuances of a new offense, too. While the Bear Raid may be an easy to understand system, believing that 50 point showings will be the norm this season is more than a bit a tad optimistic, especially with all the new pieces being shuffled around. For that reason alone, 86 is too high of a rating to award Cal's offense - at this point of the offseason, the Bears have tallied up more marks in uncertainty than anything else.
So, the question becomes - what would the team need to do to live up to such its 86 on offense? Well, clean, penalty free play would be a start, as would an offense that consistently moves the chains, and ends drives with points of some kind. Last season, Cal averaged 23 points, and 391.2 yards a game, two numbers that will need to jump significantly if the team hopes for success - virtual or otherwise. The quarterback stats weren't pretty either, but if any one of the Klindergoff - and judging by the ratings, EA is assuming it's Kline - can surpass 2214 yards and a 12:10 TD:INT ratio, that would help immensely.
The other problem with having an 86 rated offense is that it grossly underrates the Cal defense, which has a ton more returning talent and experience. Indeed, on that side of the ball, nearly every player has accrued significant playing time, if not starts. The only exception to this might be the cornerback duo of Stefan McClure and Kameron Jackson, and perhaps even Khairi Fortt, but one served as the nickel back for the 2011 Bears, one stepped in capably for a concussed Marc Anthony last year, and one played fairly often for Penn State. Furthermore, all the "hyped" Cal players - so to speak - the players that are gaining national attention are on defense. In fact, a pretty decent case can be made that Avery Sebastian or Jalen Jefferson deserve to be on the top ten list, especially when comparing what they contributed to Maurice Harris' myriad of drops.
Even with the team's offensive and defensive ratings being a shade out of touch, it must be said that NCAA 14 does rate Cal properly properly when considered in context. EA sees the Bears as the 8th best team in the Pac-12, and though there are some placements to disagree with specifically (Utah better than Cal after losing Star? Really?), it does have Cal at about the right place overall, at least for this season, anyway. There is simply too much changing in Berkeley right now to expect that things to come together this August.
And lastly, some Keep It Real points in regard to other things:
- You would be hardpressed to convince me that Maurice Harris is one of the 10 best players on Cal's roster, 4th best on offense, or even better than Bigelow.
- Harper and Treggs, as gifted and fantastic as they may become under the Bear Raid, are still a couple points too high for my taste.
- Also, how is Treggs faster than Bigelow?
- Cole Leininger is not the best player that Cal has. Sorry. No. No, no, no. No.
- As far as I can tell, the new uniforms are not in NCAA 14 yet. #Unreal
Anyway. I kept it real. Your turn. What do you think the Bears should be rated? What are you looking forward to the most about NCAA 14?
Comment away - we'll be asking one commenter to sound off for Part II of this Keep It Real series.