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(Originally published on Unabashed) This is a great series of games, of which I have owned almost (if not) every version that’s been released. But there always seems to be something getting in the way of my full enjoyment of the games, so I thought I might write a bit about what’s wrong with them in the hopes that the EA folks might happen by here one day and possibly consider making a few modifications to the next release version.

First, the good, and there’s a lot of good. This game is consistently my favorite and most-played game. These are some of the main points, but rest assured gameplay is fantastic:

  1. ‘08’s front room (or main screen, or front screen) is a vast improvement over many of the previous versions. (The Gameday crew of the ’07 version on the game lead-in screen was absolutely laughable and horrendous and I’m glad they dropped it. It wasn’t all that bad an idea, but the application was pitifully atrocious.)
  2. I love being able to set my own schedule. Trading UL Monroe for USC or Michigan or Clemson or West Virginia is a treat and a great feature. 
  3. The stadiums look great. The field looks great. The players look great. Visually this game is awesome. Sometimes the shadows are tough (try playing OSU at home wearing the black uniforms on a day game. You can’t see the players on the shadowy portion of the field) and often the crowds and the sidelines look ridiculous. It would be nice if they gave a bit more effort to the sidelines, made them look more realistic.
  4. Thank God they changed the kickoff difficulty. It was outrageous that a kickoff or punt was so extremely hard in previous versions when the difficulty setting was Heisman. It should be no more difficult to kick a field goal, from a controller perspective, on Heisman as on Freshman. So thanks for changing that.

And now, the bad: 

  1. The playbook design option is great, if only it worked. I spent a lot of time designing my own playbook and then found that, once I’d saved it, I couldn’t access it. I couldn’t choose it to use during a game. This was infuriating.
  2. It takes no less than six option screens to get from the main page to your saved Dynasty screen, and then another three or four to get to play a game. There’s got to be a better way. Why do you have to choose the file, okay the load, then choose the file and okay the load again? The repetition is infuriating every time I load my Dynasty. Put a link to saved files on the main screen so we can click straight in for cripe’s sake.
  3. I’ve never been able to create a recruit and actually recruit him to my team. There should be an option for “Recruit normally” and “Recruit to my team.” Yes, this would be an easy way for someone who has a Dynasty to fill a void, or multiple voids, with great players, but it’s a game and I want to be able to do that. Otherwise the “create a recruit” is a big, fat, stupid waste of time.
  4. Different difficulty levels. I want to be able to score points, but at the same time I want to play in competitive games. This is almost impossible with a single difficulty level. They somewhat managed this by allowing you to change difficulty settings during the game, something you used to be penalized for in the game, but it would be much easier and nicer if I could set my offense to “Varsity” and my defense to “All-American” or something like that. I like that I can change the user and the CPU’s difficulty settings individually, but I would like to be able to do that with the overall difficulty setting as well. a. If my gameplay is advanced enough to compete at the Heisman difficulty setting, I want to be able to do that and still be able to recruit enough quality players to keep my Dynasty going. Give me a different difficulty setting for recruiting that from the game portion, and if I set it to “Freshman” then my team should by God be the number one recruiting class every time.
  5. Recruiting is too difficult and too convoluted, which is fine for some folks. Sometimes I want to spend time looking at recruits and analyzing them, but usually I just want to play the games. Give us an auto-recruit feature so we can pick which one we’ll do, and if my difficulty is set to Freshman my team should by God be the number one recruiting class every time.
  6. Each year there should be an amazing recruit with mad skillz in the recruiting pool, but usually there isn’t. He should be a stand-out super recruit, and if my difficulty is set to freshman my team should by God be able to recruit him. Period.
  7. It’s just irritating to spend recruiting time asking a recruit who wants to go pro to stay another year. Worse, when the answer is, “I don’t know coach. I’m undecided.” And you have to do it over again. And sometimes for a third or fourth time. Sure, it might work that way in real life, but this is a game. Give me an answer one way or the other right off the bat. I’ve got recruiting to get to.
  8. Why should you only be able to change a player’s position on one screen during the pre-season options? And that option comes before the depth chart setting screen. How can I know where I’m deficient for next year like that? I need to be able to look at my depth chart, see where I need help, and then change positions to fill holes.
  9. Also: when you change a players position he immediately sucks at the new position. This is not like real life at all. True, a three year cornerback might not catch as well as a wide receiver, but many of the skills are there. Sometimes running backs are moved to DE in the real world, OL to DL, TE to MLB or OLB, but in the game this is virtually impossible. Real life scenario: This season Alabama moved Jimmy Johns from RB to LB. I tried that on my game and his rating dropped from the 80s to the 50s. That’s bull. JJ is a phenomenal athlete with a broad set of skills, he can play better linebacker than that. Sure, he may not be upper 80s, but he still should be able to play.
  10. Let me delete games from the “Great Game” screen. I lost 17-14 to LSU on the last play of the game on the Heisman difficulty setting and manned up and saved the season. But now that game is recorded infinitely as one of my “Greatest Games.” You know what? Nobody considers a loss, no matter how great the game was, to be one of their greatest games. Penn State probably doesn’t cherish the ’79 Sugar Bowl like Alabama does. Don’t make me stare at my failures like that. 10. As for gameplay, as I’ve already stated it’s remarkable. But it could be better. If a well thrown ball is lobbed up to a receiver who has the lead on a DB to the corner of the end zone, the DB will invariably jump some fifteen feet into the air and swat it away or pick it. To which I say, huh? This is a mainstay play in football, and if a WR has a DB beat, the well thrown ball is caught probably 90% of the time in real life. Fix it.
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Has Nick Saban lost this team? The better question might be “Did he ever have them in the first place?” It’s been rumored far and wide that some few of the players hadn’t bought into Saban or his system, and it’s entirely possible that those few scrubs–among them some of the senior leadership of the team–could have infected other players, too, if not the whole team.

This team, recruited by the grandmotherly Mike Shula, has at all reports never had much asked of them. Punishment has been almost unheard of and the players have been pampered and mothered in ways few other teams would allow. Enter Nick Saban, a disciplinarian with a temper and very little patience, and the kettle has gone straight from simmer to boil.

But if Mike Shula was grandmotherly, then Saban must be the warden or the drill sergeant. Saban is demanding. He requires players to conform to his structured methods, using a proven plan that produces winners. We know enough of Nick Saban to believe he will not coddle the players–or coaches, for that matter. We know he strives to cultivate a championship mentality first and foremost. But what can be done if the inherited players find themselves so entrenched in their comfort zone that they refuse to step outside of it? You end up with a 6-6 record, ending a long season with a 4-game losing streak including one loss to the Most Hated Rival, and you see a coach at press conferences who seems at a loss for what to do.

And what can be done? At Alabama, standing in the shadow of Bear Bryant, you might only have to look as high as his statue at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and remember the hard lessons learned when he inherited a similar situation at Texas A&M. Go back to the Junction. Find out who wants to play and who doesn’t.

Bear only won a single game that first season at A&M, but he stated numerous times throughout his life that it was his best team ever. And why? Because the players that were left after the Junction were the ones he knew would never quit. When arriving at Athens for a game against Georgia, Bear Bryant was asked by Atlanta newspaperman Harry Mehre where the rest of his team was.

“This is the rest of my team,” Bryant replied.

“Well, uh, why didn’t you bring more guys?”

“Because these are the only ones who want to play.”

Nick Saban has a tried-and-true method for building a championship team. But in this case, he might do well to follow the example set by Bryant, go back to the Junction, and find out who wants to play football and who doesn’t.

The season was lost after the Mississippi State game anyway. It would have made a profound statement if he had dismissed half the team after that loss. It would have met with some criticism, sure, but it would have left no doubt as to who exactly was in charge of the team, whereas now there’s this lingering speculation that maybe this team is lost to him.

Attrition will take care of him in the long run. He’ll get the players in there who want to play for him and the ones who don’t will move on, but gradually. His recruiting class is looking very good according to Rivals and may well end up the best class in the nation. But those players will take time to develop enough to overtake the upperclassmen in skill. Unless the non-conformists are weeded out in one fell swoop.

It’s time to make a statement.

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These are the top 25 teams of the NCAA (unaffiliated) Super Conference according to wins. Note: The teams in this poll do not adhere to the tenets of the Super Conference scheduling system which ranks teams based on schedule equality and wins alone so therefore these standings are purely speculative based on the inherent inadequacies of their current schedules. For instance, all teams in this poll would have played a few of the other teams on this poll using the SC system but in reality many of them have not.

  1. Ohio State (8-0)
  2. LSU (7-1)
  3. Oklahoma (7-1)
  4. Oregon (6-1)
  5. West Virginia (6-1)
  6. USC (6-1)
  7. Virginia Tech (6-1)
  8. South Carolina (6-2)
  9.  Michigan (6-2)
  10. Alabama (6-2)
  11. Penn St (6-2)
  12. Texas (6-2)
  13. Florida (5-2)
  14. Cal (5-2)
  15. Georgia (5-2)
  16. Clemson (5-2)
  17. UCLA (5-2)
  18. Miami (5-3)
  19. Georgia Tech (5-3)
  20. Auburn (5-3)
  21. Tennessee (4-3)
  22. Arkansas (4-3)
  23. Florida St (4-3)
  24. Nebraska (4-4)
  25. Notre Dame (1-7)

Teams poised to jump into the SC next year (the top 5 of these teams will replace the bottom 5 of the SC poll next year):

  1. Arizona State
  2. Boston College
  3. Kansas
  4. South Florida
  5. Missouri
  6. Kentucky
  7. Virginia
  8. Connecticut
  9. Rutgers
  10. Wake Forest

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As an Alabama fan I use them a lot to make some arguments because they are a traditional power who have gone through very few uniform modifications over the years. Here’s the list:

  1. Alabama’s New Look (for one game)
    Bama played a game in ’06 with an slightly modified jersey which sported a Houndstooth collar to commemorate Bear Bryant’s 315th win. There was some uproar about the sanctity of the crimson jersey, but I for one thought it was a great move, and one that should be made permanent. This is proof positive that it doesn’t take a big change to give an old look a new feel.
  2. Penn State Prison-Issue Uni and USC Playdough Yellow
    Blue doesn’t even look colorful in Penn State’s uniforms; and don’t get me started on the white-on-white-on-white look. They look like a prison team, and not in an intimidating fashion. And as for USC’s yellow, I know it’s supposed to harken to the true Spartans, but wow is that one ugly color. Single ugliest uniform color in NCAA football. There are many other traditional powers that could fit into this spot–Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, etc.–but though these two may or may not be the worst of them all, they both strike me as especially awful.
  3. Logos are updated
    alabama-new.gifAlabama, among many others have updated their logos (see: Penn State, Florida, Boise State, and Oregon State, to mention a few) with great success in my opinion. Desperately needing to update: Florida State and Wake Forest, among many, many others. So if they can update their logos, why not their uniforms?
  4. Nobody can wear throwbacks.
    Because there’s usually nothing to throwback to, because the uni hasn’t changed in FIVE HUNDRED YEARS. If you really want to honor tradition–and you do, I know you do, because college football is all about tradition–you can better honor it by wearing a throwback. Alabama had to update their uniform to commemorate a historical achievement.
  5. Other Teams have done it, and look good.
    The new uniforms sported by progressive teams aren’t as bad as all the uproar. Hawaii and Oregon have great uniforms, and the writers who take jabs at them are stuck in the past. The progressive styles of these uniforms make a good argument for why uniforms SHOULD be upgraded.
  6. The NFL
    In the most popular sport in the most popular league in America, NFL uniforms change almost annually, updating, keeping it fresh. College football should emulate this. Miami seems to be the only traditional power to be updating in a similar fashion. And I like it.
  7. College Football is stuck in the past.
    I love my Tide and I love the rich tradition, but there are ways to honor the past without being stuck in it.  
  8. Michigan
    Michigan has great potential; they’ve got the best helmet design in college football and their colors aren’t bad. With a little design improvement those unis could be sensational.
  9. Stop Knocking Orange!
    People keep knocking Miami, Clemson, Tennessee, Texas, Oregon State and Florida (among others) because of the predominant orange they use. In my opinion orange is an awesome color for uniforms–it’s bright and bold and looks fresh. Not that I want my team to change to orange, I like Crimson just fine, but I do believe the orange looks good.
  10. Design Details
    The metal stamp design on Oregon’s shoulders, the thin line on Boise State’s jersey, the band on Hawaii’s leg–individually you might find these accents hideous, but I don’t. Adding details to a uniform spices it up and makes it fresh and new. A tiny accent–like the Houndstooth collar on Alabama’s one-time jersey in ’06–can make a huge difference in a uniform’s appearance.
     

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Remaining undefeated teams are:

  • LSU
  • Ohio State
  • Boston College
  • Cincinatti
  • UConn
  • South Florida
  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Arizona State
  • Cal
  • Hawaii

Wouldn’t it be great to see an 11-2 team play (and maybe win) the National Championship? I get sick of hearing speculation that a team’s season is over when they lose. Some even use this as an argument for a playoff (which I am totally against, unless it’s done in a simple +1 format). But the fact is that a loss is just what it is, a loss, and in this age of parity in college football losses are going to come more and more frequently. In fact, if people would look at it objectively, sometimes two or even three losses can still leave a team with a chance to play for a conference title, and conference champions are a prestigious lot themselves, unless you’re in the PAC10 or are Notre Dame.

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