Bumped. GO BRUINS. - N
For gamers and college football enthusiasts, early/mid-July means the release of EA Sports' annual NCAA Football title; it signals the start of many video game releases in the upcoming months but more importantly, it (at least for me) serves as a marker on the calendar that fall camp and the season kickoff is fast approaching.
This year's edition offers essentially more of the same, albeit with a few new additions here and there: tackle breaking mechanics, playable tipped balls, and (perhaps my favorite) the inclusion of marching bands in the pre-game cinematics (and yes, the band does spell out the UCLA script for our home games...I'll get pics up in the future), which ties into the overall emphasis on the gameday atmosphere:
But enough with the video game chitchat...let's get to the one team we all care about: the UCLA Bruins.
A quick overview of the team ratings: EA bestowed upon us across the board B-'s, and I can't argue with that except that perhaps the defense could be bumped up to a B (note: these ratings are for the PS3 and are from the updated rosters that EA released on launch day; I've heard that our original ratings were straight Cs). EA includes Impact Players in their games, a game mechanic that emphasizes the go-to players on each team. One is obviously Alterraun Verner, with a 95 overall rating and the All-American designation; unsurprisingly, he is also the highest rated player on the team. Another is Brian Price; again, unsurprising. Perhaps what bugged me the most was the fact that Kevin Craft was number one on the depth chart, with his overall rating of an 84 only one above Kevin Prince's 83. If anything, those ratings should be reversed. For those who play the game, use Prince, as his speed, agility, and acceleration ratings (all important in terms of mobility) are on par with Craft's (and in game, they are pretty good), plus he has the upside of being the younger player.
In actual gameplay, I'll use a game against a ranked opponent that I played one of the harder difficulties last night: #15 California. In any edition of NCAA, the difference in overall team skill becomes apparent when you use an unranked mediocre team (us) against a ranked opponent (in this case, Cal). It essentially plays down to how it should in real life; a win against a ranked team is entirely plausible but you'll need some breaks through turnovers, punts, and smart/time-consuming play on offense. To put it in perspective: Cal's offensive yardage was above 350 and ours was above 150...sounds entirely plausible, correct? The bulk of their offense came from Jahvid Best, who essentially is a one-man wrecking crew in the game in terms of his speed and his ability to break tackles (the first play that Cal ran was a screen pass to him and he broke it open for a TD =/ ). Kevin Riley also looked solid, completing a good percentage of passes...but here's the backbreaker: he threw 3 INTs, one of which was a pick-six by Verner.
But let's shy away from Cal...to sum up UCLA and what many sports writers have concluded: we will be middle of the pack and average. Using the Cal game as an example, the offensive line blocked decently enough, but running holes would be quickly closed. I was able to tally a little over a 100+ rushing yards, 80 of them coming from a broken option play that luckily ended in a TD. Our QB play behing Prince was fairly constant, but nothing big. He was 6-for-8 with 70+ yards, a TD and a pick...and then he suffered some bruised ribs in the second quarter and Craft came in. Perhaps true to life, the play with Craft was affected: he ended the day 5-for-11 with 50+ yards and two picks. Honestly, these offensive numbers seem right in the ballpark of normal. As for our defense, secondary play was solid, again picking Riley off three times; the front seven also hurried the QB and got three sacks. I'd have to say that in the virtual game, the defense carried the team, including on one important three-and-out in the red zone, leading Cal to settle for the FG. In the end, Cal tied it up with a minute left, 24-24, because I decided to run Cover 3 to prevent the big play and it was working...but they still got the TD. With the kickoff returned to our 35, a minute left on the clock, and Craft at the helm....yup, as cheesy as it may seem, Craft makes a completion to Austin running a deep out and steps out of bounds at the 50, then he makes another completion to Rosario with another out route to the opposing 35 (I had been running the offense out of a shotgun spread formation at this time). Then I just ran the ball to center the kicking placement and called timeout with 2 seconds left. Interesting feature: the opposing team actually calls all remaining timeouts to "freeze" the player, which was cool in a way. Anyways, the 40 yard FG goes through and oddly enough, Craft orchestrates a winning drive at the end.
That seemed like a long-winded rant...but the season is fast approaching and NCAA 10 just adds to the anticipation, I guess. I'll put some pics and videos up in a future post soon.
One final note: perhaps my favorite discovery in the game was in our playbook. There is a formation set out of the shotgun called "Wild Bruin". Yup, our wildcat formation that EA so cleverly titled. There's bascially four plays, all putting the isolated receiver in motion (I don't remember if there were twins or trips on the right side of the formation). One has the snap going to the RB in the backfield and handing it off to the WR in motion; another has the direct snap to the RB for a run. There's also play action, with the ball handed off to the WR in motion and then pulling up for the pass. Very interesting, and a neat addition that makes our playbook that much more believeable.