On July 9, 2013, EA Sports released NCAA Football 14, the latest in the annual college football video game series. The game was a mild success and it included features like conference realignment, a re-done dynasty mode, and
most importantly a downloadable uniform pack that allowed you to use the proper red-T helmets for Louisiana Tech.
But due to likenesses and lawsuits, NCAA 14 was the last installment of the beloved franchise (so far. There’s always hope). Fortunately, however, the game included a feature that allowed you to create custom rosters, upload them to the internet, and have others download them.
So due to a dedicated team of college football fans updating the rosters every year, the game lives on, even if it’s in a Frankenstein-ian way.
The group of volunteers analyze every team, create ratings for every player, and set the team up to mirror each school’s opening week depth chart. And they do this for free
or at least I think that’s what volunteer means.
And because of this group of metaphorical Frankenstein’s monster creators, we can simulate the games on Tech’s schedule to see how they should have gone.
Midway through the season, the ratings were completed (I’m picturing everyone in the group doing Italian chef kiss afterwards), so we were able to simulate future match-ups for the Bulldogs, and we included them in each week’s preview post.
But we weren’t able to include the first few weeks of the season (because the ratings weren’t done yet). And we weren’t able to see overall how the season would go if we simply threw out this past year and replaced it with an XBOX 360 simulation.
Especially because this (real life) season didn’t go how we all expected. Many of us thought this would be the year we finally capture the Conference USA Championship trophy. But instead, we ended the season at 7-5 and a birth in a bowl game like, a long way away.
But what does the computer say should have happened?
Before we look at the games, let’s look at the players. Starting first with the most important position in football :
One of the arguments against benching J’Mar near the end of the year was that there just wasn’t another QB on the roster anywhere near as good as him. And if we take these ratings as gospel (which is the fun way of doing this), that is definitively true by a landslide.
It was jarring seeing Dancy listed fourth on the depth chart, but it’s a little less so when you notice there are only two ratings-points (is that what you call them?) separating 1st from 4th.
Teddy Veal was the highest rated Bulldog on the team. That would make sense based on last year’s performance, but Adrian Hardy (who is rated 11 points lower), ended up with nearly double the receiving yards in the Actual 2018 season.
Other Players of Note
At an 87 overall, Jaylon Ferguson is criminally underrated.
Simulating the Season
So now on to the simulations. I used the game default settings (4 minute quarters) and didn’t control either team (because that would be cheating). I let the game run in the background and took note of the post-game stats.
The real life Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 7-5 record.
Can the digital Bulldogs do any better?
Week 1: South Alabama
Real Life Score: Tech wins 30-26
Simulation Score: South Alabama wins 17-16
Simulation Record: 0-1
Commentary: So uh… not off to a great start are we here?
Week 2: Southern
Southern, as an FCS school, doesn’t exist in NCAA 14. We could simulate a game against one of the built in generic FCS schools, but it wouldn’t really tell us anything. So let’s go ahead and count this one as a win (and pretend like 2014 never happened).
Real Life Score: Tech wins 54-17
Simulation Score: Tech wins
Simulation Record: 1-1
Week 3: LSU
Real Life Score: LSU wins 38-21
Simulation Score: LSU wins 34-21
Simulation Record: 1-2
Commentary: In this version, Tech is winning at halftime, so Tiger fans probably don’t leave at halftime like they did in the real life version.
Week 4: North Texas
Real Life Score: Tech wins 29-27
Simulation Score: North Texas wins 17-14
Simulation Record: 1-3
Commentary: Well, that sucks. Also, I’m a bit confused on how a 0 yard pass is possible.
Week 5: UAB
Real Life Score: UAB wins 28-7
Simulation Score: Tech wins 13-10
Simulation Record: 2-3
Commentary: We beat UAB!! Nothing else matters anymore.
Week 6: UTSA
Real Life Score: Tech wins 31-3
Simulation Score: UTSA wins 34-31, in 2OT
Simulation Record: 2-4
Commentary: Tech’s blowout-iest win in the “real world” is a loss now. And at 2-4, we have to start worrying about bowl eligibility.
Week 7: UTEP
Real Life Score: Tech wins 31-24
Simulation Score: Tech wins 35-14
Simulation Record: 3-4
Commentary: This is honestly how the real life game should have gone.
Week 8: FAU
Real Life Score: Tech wins 21-13
Simulation Score: Tech wins 17-13
Simulation Record: 4-4
Commentary: I wonder if the digital Lane Kiffin cried too.
Week 9: Mississippi State
Real Life Score: Mississippi State wins 45-3
Simulation Score: Mississippi State wins 20-17
Simulation Record: 4-5
Commentary: Yeah, this is still a loss. But not a soul draining one like its real life counterpart.
Week 10: Rice
Real Life Score: Tech wins 28-13
Simulation Score: Tech wins 21-14
Simulation Record: 5-5
Commentary: Tech was up 21-0 in Q4 and almost blew it? Yep, that sounds like Tech to me.
Week 11: Southern Miss
Real Life Score: Southern Miss wins 21-20
Simulation Score: Tech wins 27-10
Simulation Record: 6-5
Commentary: Wait, we get to beat UAB and USM? Sign me up, Morpheus!
Week 12: WKU
Real Life Score: WKU wins 30-15
Simulation Score: Tech wins 9-6
Simulation Record: 7-5
Commentary: With Skip at head coach, we all knew it was a matter of time before we witnessed an only field goal game.
While the individual game results were different, it seems like a 7-5 record was inevitable for the Bulldogs in the 2018 season.
The most interesting thing to gather from the simulations is that digital J’Mar seems much more likely to run that real life J’Mar. The simulated QB scored 14 touchdowns on the ground, while the skin and bones version only reached paydirt twice.
But while the record was unchanged, I would gladly exchange wins over South Alabama and UTSA for wins over Southern Miss and UAB.
So I guess that means we are living in the worse reality.