Monday, July 19, 2004

The Weekend in Review

and by "The Weekend," I mean "NCAA Football 2005," since that's how I spent most of my weekend anyways

Originally, I wasn't going to get the game on Friday night, mostly because I'm lazy and didn't want to drive 15 minutes to the mall.  But, fortunately, Blockbuster has started their new GameRush concept - yet another place to buy/sell/rent video games.  Blockbuster is more or less right down the street from me.
Since GameRush is the new kid in town, they're offering great deals.  "Most money for buy backs!" netted me $12 for NCAA 2004, and "new games only $39.99 with trade in!" cut my total price to $30 and change, tax included.  Hey, I'll take it.  Plus, it makes my game collection evil-free: I dumped Derek Jeter's All Star Baseball in exchange for Albert Pujols's MVP Baseball, dumped Carson Palmer's NCAA 2004 for Larry Fitzgerald's 2005, and I'm holding on to Mike Vick's version of Madden for an extra year.  Take that, Ray Lewis.  Score one for your two murder victims and your four illegitimate children.  Yep.
So, I raced home.  I painfully erased the 2004 "files" from my memory card: my profile that had all but 4 pennants unlocked, the soon-to-be-powerhouse Lorain State (Lorain's not a state) Lightning, the draft class that produced Darrell (yeah, I deleted it.  whoops.), my coaching career that started at Kent State and went on to give ND 2 titles in my first 3 years there...  Progress is progess.  Besides, I needed to make space to begin Lorain State anew.  I decided to start as an "Academic School," because I like to build up from the bottom.  Turns out, it's not a good idea to start as a school with D ratings when you've never played before, even in the conference I'm in (more later).  Cool new feature, though on Create-a-Team.  Not only do you name the city and state, but you also get to point out where in the state that city is located.  Hmm, maybe this will give me more recruits with actual northeast Ohio city names.  After taking 5 minutes to decide exactly where on the map Lorain is (as in, "is it here, or one pixel to the left?"; not as in "I have no concept of geography whatsoever), I realized how much of a dork I was (once again).  Oh well, time to modify my players to turn them into people I know, because I'm a dork like that.  There was one guy I had to leave alone - 4th string RB Keenan Hall. Hey, he's unstoppable.  It's as if he's a big brick building or something.  Anyways, back to the player modifications.  It was here that I first learned how Madden-esque this game is becoming.  They have the new Revolution helmets, plus the two other new styles.  Need a good discussion on helmet styles?  Talk to Ellen.
OK, time to start a dynasty.  Our head coach, obviously, is Joe Yonto.  He believes in a Balanced Run attack, because, as we all know, gimmicks don't pull the train.  Now, should Lorain State go Independent or join the MAC?  Well, I've tried that already, plus I'm going to suck, so let's go for something new.  There's nobody in the Sunbelt Conference that really belongs in IA football (except maybe for Utah State, alma mater of ahhh... Mistah Weavah!), so let's replace them with teams of a more meaningful flavor - Princeton, Penn, Hofstra (for Dave), Montata, Youngstown State (Youngstown isn't a state, but it did get away with tons of crap under Jim Tressel).  Now, it's time to take the field.  After a very disappointing 2-3 start to the season, I decided to check out ND.
Of course, by "check out ND," I don't mean "play a game as ND against a crappy team," I mean "jump right into a dynasty."  A few things I've learned thus far: 1) Ryan Grant seems almost Julius-esque in this game.  Let's hope that he plays like that this fall.  2) Carlyle is the man as a receiver.  Because of him, I almost don't even need Rhema McKnight.  (Fortunately, I also don't need Stovall.)  Defense looks OK, too.  There are quite a few "that's the best we have in this spot?" realizations I came to after playing the first game (a 45-0 thrashing of Michigan; screw you Michigan).  I'll have more of that in a football preview article some time over the next few weeks.  But, here's one thought: remember Sports Guy's theory about picking NFL playoff winners based on the backup QB?  Basically, he never trusted the Colts, because they were one injury away from having a then severely untested Kelly Holcomb as their QB.  Now, I'm sure Pat Dillingham is a good guy, and he has won games for us, but it looks like he's our best option if Quinn were to go down (perish the thought).
All in all, a good game.  It wasn't a game that made huge leaps like 2004 did.  For instance, 2004 introduced a lot of new things, like the College Classics.  This year, the College Classics didn't even change.  However, I can't complain about the gameplay at all - Grant dances around too much, even when I'm controlling him, and I still have a tendency to drop the ball waaay too much.  Dah.  Maybe this game is too realistic.  Plus, the first time you play away in a big game, and the controller starts to shake, it's something else.  It sucks for a person like me who likes to call tons of audibles, hot routes, and defensive shifts, but that's just a new thing I have to factor in.  Good times, and I'm sure I'll get my $30 worth in no time.

Other items on the game

Signs: As a take off of Madden's new Create-a-Fan feature, NCAA has a Create-a-Sign feature, where you can make custom signs for each of several different situations.  Of course, I go into the feature for the first time, and the default sign is "Lee Corso is a genius."  Dah.  Well, I had to change that, and here are my custom signs:

  • General : More Cowbell!

  • Passing TD: Out of Control

  • Rushing TD: Power pulls the train

  • Big Play/First Down: Get 'em up! (a reference to the Bone first down thing)

  • Interception: Gimmicks don't pull the train

  • Fumble: Better to die a small boy (all I could fit)

  • Blowout: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

Custom Playbooks: Well, not as cool as it sounds, but you get to pick the 9 formations your offense will use.  Finally, I can replace one of the five Ace formations with a good, old fashioned Frank Leahy T.
Recruiting: They stepped it up a notch this year.  In 2004, I could start as a crappy team, then unexpectedly pull in a coupld 5 star guys and be set.  That doesn't look to be the case this year.  Gulp.
Matchup Stick: OK, it lets you see who's good and who's bad, but that's it.  Not really worthy of too much hype, but I guess it could be useful if you want to audible to a run over a weak D-Lineman, or hot route a receiver to a fly pattern against their version of Clifford Jefferson.  A good idea, but I guess I was expecting more out of it.
Academic Issues: Sometimes players do bad things, and you have to punish them for it.  If you're too easy, the NCAA gets upset.  As I figured, the game had no balls, and started all the schools with a generic "B" rating for discipline.  There was one other thing that was missing, but hopefully be there next year.  I was expecting that the recruits would have a discipline rating - something that says how often (if at all) the guy will get in trouble.  That way, as in real life, you can take the Willie Williams, or you can be like Ara, and take the not-as-talented guys with good character, and just coach them into becoming great players.  Some notes on Lorain State's academic issues so far: In week one, Frankie and I were both in trouble.  Frankie's grades were a little low (ok, he and I were underacheivers in real life), and I had forgotten to sign and return a progress report.  What, is this third grade?  That is very realistic, though.  In week two, Ellen, normally a good student, was a little late for curfew.  Keep this up, and Dave might end up in Carroll.  Everything was OK, but we did have to use WR Dominic (Ellen loves him!) as the kickoff specialist for a quarter.
Transaction Wire as usual on Wednesday.  As I've started to do lately, I'll include all the latest MLB and NBA trade/free agent rumors I come across.  Also, I ran the latest KankaMatic stat update, but I realize I haven't updated the web site yet.  If I have time before my 9:30 softball game Tuesday, I'll do it then.  Until then, I want you all to think about how terrible fan voting is.  Here are some examples: last season's American Idol (I didn't watch, but I hear there was much controversy), Jeter/Nomah 1-2 at AL shortstop and Giambi at first base, and Diana Taurasi over Annika Sorenstam as Female Athlete of the Year in an awards show presented by... you guessed it... ESPN.  After you've come up with a good response, be sure to email Dan Shanoff, and include the words "publicity contest," "drunken idiots," and "bandwagon."  Thank you.