I won’t pretend to be a video game expert. I’ve logged significant hours with a number of gaming systems over my lifetime, but I don’t judge these experiences through the watchful lens of a gamer microscope.
In the instance of EA Sports’ NCAA series, however, I’ve earned my master's degree a handful of times over the years. And with the launch of the latest installment, NCAA Football 14, it provides yet another edition for us football degenerates to dive into.
Forget about the minutia, the details that will undoubtedly gobble up paragraphs on sites dedicated to tech-driven video game reviews. Although the guts of the game are integral to the enjoyment, we’re interested in what matters.
Football. The playbooks, the players, the teams and the things you need to know about the game to satisfy the football fanatic inside.
If you plan to purchase NCAA Football 14—and you should because it’s fabulous and there’s still time to kill before the season begins—the following are worth noting.
The Oregon Playbook is a Neon Sea of Excellence
After a long, exhausting Saturday, on comes Oregon. And then, at least in most instances, the game is over in the first 18 to 24 minutes because the Oregon offense puts up video game-like production.
In NCAA 14, the video game-like production comes full circle with an actual video game. Virtual Oregon has the same beautifully destructive feel to it—along with 17 HD television stressing uniforms—and the playbook is teeming with options.
Without question, my favorite play in the game is the shovel-option, a designed run giving the user the option to pitch it backward or throw a quick shovel pass with the click of a button. It is addictive, incredibly successful, and good luck not falling in love with it.
Seriously, I have a shovel-option problem. Send help.
There are also around a dozen different options to pick from in the Oregon playbook, along with jet sweeps and a handful of designed QB runs that work exceptionally well—more on that in a minute.
Making all of this that much better, however, is having quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back/wideout/human cheat code De’Anthony Thomas at your fingertips.
They make running these plays fun and easy, and watching Thomas work his magic in the open field is pretty much my video game zenith.
No Longer Limited, The Run Game Has Drastically Improved
Growing up, I remember running the option on repeat, getting to the outside and picking up 50-yard gain after 50-yard gain against FCS West (or some other overmatched foe). I was always very stat-driven with my early-season dynasty scheduling, and please don’t judge.
Over the years, however, this loophole has been closed. EA has tightened up the run defense so one can no longer just run around everyone like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. During this time, however, the game felt limited in which run plays would actually function with relative consistency.
Although inside runs and option plays have evolved quite nicely, draws, designed QB runs and other unique ground-game options have never quite operated at the level that they do on the field. And with these plays seemingly becoming a larger part of the actual game, it felt like a large part of the playbook went unused.
Well, until now.
With the likes of Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota and many others at your fingertips, players can now take full advantage of their quarterbacks with fast-moving legs.
These run plays work much better than they ever have, and there’s plenty of space and openings if your reads are correct. QB draws and other successful calls will provide opportunities for massive gains, and running backs certainly benefit from this as well.
On the defensive side, well, good luck. It’s now more lifelike than others, which is bad news for your defensive coordinator (aka you).
Alabama is Hereby Banned From Ranked Matches Due to Excessive Awesomeness
Imagine sitting down at a buffet with your choice of lobster, crab, filet, ribeye, barbecue and many other exceptional consumables, all prepared by world-class chefs.
This parallels the NCAA 14 experience of playing with Alabama, which was given a rating of 99 on offense, defense and overall. To further put this excellence in perspective, running back T.J. Yeldon isn’t even ranked in the top 10 on the roster.
The depth is actually somewhat terrifying. Unless, of course, you’re Alabama.
Offensively, it’s like taking me straight from my Nissan Altima and dropping me in a Ferrari. The options include Yeldon, wideout Amari Cooper and, of course, AJ McCarron, who wears his 97 rating well.
When Yeldon needs a breather—and be honest, you turn fatigue off so this won’t be a problem—you’ll have your pick of other running backs, including the touted freshman Derrick Henry.
On defense, linebacker C.J. Mosley also sports a rating of 97. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and defensive end Ed Stinson are right behind, rated as 93s, while defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, Adrian Hubbard and safety Vinnie Sunseri have a rating of 91.
Alabama is immensely talented everywhere, and you can feel the difference after only a handful of plays. The calls on both offense and defense are endless, and you are not allowed to play with them against friends, family or strangers because they are simply too talented.
Rules are rules.