NCAA Football 14's theme this year is to "Keep it Real" and they have done so by focusing on key aspects found on the football field each Saturday like the read option, a new physics engine to portray realistic tackles, and new animations to show all sorts of variations of throws, runs, and catches.
We all know that Iowa State is no stranger to the read option. It has been their base running play since Paul Rhoads took over the program in 2009 and will continue to be even with the addition of offensive line coach Chris Klenakis and his version of the Pistol.
The other additions to the game just add to the immersion factor and with that in mind we take a look at Iowa State's team in NCAA Football 14 and see how their ratings on the virtual field may translate to the real gridiron this fall.
Sam Richardson heads up a strong backfield with an overall rating of 77. It seems a bit low until you figure in NCAA's typical progression and he is likely a high 80s overall by the time he's a senior. Good enough to be well above average and probably top half of the Big XII in 2015. At this point in Richardson's career can anyone really argue against that potential? With 8 touchdowns and 1 interception last year Richardson has shown potential and EA has been fair in giving him this rating coupled with 83 throw power and throw accuracy. If there's anything that doesn't show Richardson fairly it would be his speed, which is just rated at a paltry 69. Anyone who has watched Richardson play knows that while he is not elusive he has good straight line speed.
Not too many surprises in the running back corps as James White, Jeff Woody, and Shontrelle Johnson are all rated 85 or above with White the highest at 89. The four point gap between he and Shontrelle seems high to me, but I am an unabashed Shontrelle supporter. The surprise here, and something that will play out on the field this fall, is DeVondrick Nealy being a distant fourth on the depth chart at 77 overall. His natural abilities are up there with White and Shontrelle but it's going to be about whether or not he can show enough in practice to work his way into the rotation on game days. If I had to bet, I would say he will.
For the most part EA got the backfield right. Solid, dependable guys who may not light the world on fire but will keep the chains moving and pull out big gains on unsuspecting defenses. What you see in ratings may end up being very close to how these guys play in the fall.
The Offensive Line
It's hard to blame EA for their ratings of the offensive line. They were abysmal in 2012 and without the hiring of Klenakis would likely be abysmal in 2013. The average starter clicks in at a 77 overall rating but in my opinion these ratings do not do the unit justice. Three full time starters return with a fourth starting after having played significant snaps in 2012 and starting late in the season in place of an injured Brayden Burris. This unit will not be tops in the conference with Kansas State and Oklahoma State returning the starters they do, but a top half performance in a system suited to their size is not out of the question.
Criminally Overrated Offensive Player
Jarvis West by a mile. Despite totaling only four touchdowns in his career (3 receiving vs Baylor, 1 rushing vs Oklahoma), West clocks in at an 84 overall and leads Albert Gary by 3 points. On talent alone it seems Gary deserves his rating, but for whatever reason he does not see the field enough to justify it in the game. West, however, deserves his speed based ratings (92 speed, 91 agility, 94 acceleration) but whatever else drives the 84 overall rating is too strong.
Criminally Underrated Offensive Player
Ernst Brun clocks in at a 76 overall. Given that Brun had 6 touchdowns on 26 receptions last year this rating seems a bit on the low side. With a young starting quarterback in 2013 and an offensive set that will be designed around the run game it only makes sense to see Brun be more involved in the passing game as a security blanket and outperforming this rating would not be a surprise.
By and large EA got the ratings right for what this offense has achieved to date and what one can expect from them in the fall. The big question mark on the offense, the line, got the some of the lowest ratings and it coincides strongly with what a lot of us feel about the fall. As the line goes, so goes the offense. Now let's turn to defense.
Hide Yo Kids, This Defensive Line is Bad
The starting four of Willie Scott, Walter Woods III, Brandon Jensen, and David Irving are not terrible and clock in at 79, 79, 71, and 80, respectively but we know in the past this has been a line that has went 12 deep and if they do this year it will not be pretty. Given the youth (Aka, Krick, Lemke) and the unproven JUCO (Coe) it's easy to see why EA would give little rating to the depth. The defensive line is the unit that scares me the most heading into 2013 and until game action happens I see little reason to change that opinion.
Linebackers and Defensive Backs
No shockers here as the top at each position clocks in around the low 80s and most of the depth is in the high to mid 70s. Similar to the defensive line it's easy to see how these ratings are assigned and the relative youth at all positions is the biggest reason behind it. All of these guys would be set to progress to mid to high 80s players by the time they're seniors and that would make them more than competitive in the Big XII.
Criminally Overrated Defensive Player
Criminally Underrated Defensive Player
Hard to pick someone on the defense that is underrated as the starters have fair assessments and the depth is rated low due to their inexperience. The closest thing here would be Kirby Van Der Kamp's 84 overall rating and 83 kick accuracy. This is a guy that only had two touchbacks last season after dropping 29 punts inside the 20. Come on EA, you know the punter is always Iowa State's best weapon.
Overall it's hard to pick a bone with how EA rated this year's Cyclone squad. Starters are capable of playing week in and week out in the Big XII but the depth has yet to prove itself. Aside from minor quibbles here and there about individual player ratings EA got it correct for a team that has been consistently at .500 for the last four seasons. The only way to find out how the team looks in the game is to do a full season simulation, so check back next week to see how the 2013 Cyclones fare on the virtual gridiron and whether or not the real season will come close to matching it.