A Journey Through Michigan's (Fictional) Season: Week One

Gregory Shamus

NCAA Football '14 released on July 9th, and I've decided to test my fortunes with playing through the 2013 season with our beloved Wolverines. Now, it has been a few years since I played an NCAA game, and I got the urge to take a pretty good Michigan team, combine it with my above-average video game skills and see what happens. Game-by-game diaries with highlights and hilarity commence.

NCAA '14 is much-improved over the last several editions combined, with nifty dynasty and physics enhancements, plus some great atmospheric tweaks to give it a real personality. For more, read Dan Rubenstein's review over at Polygon.com, and get yourself a copy before the real football season begins and takes your Saturdays away. First on Michigan's schedule is the Central Michigan Chippewas.

First Quarter

After getting acclimated to the game's curious decision to auto-generate fake names for all of Michigan's players, I took control of "Nick Lake" (Devin Gardner) and settled in for 60 minutes of simulated glory. Michigan's Go Blue Banner entrance is finally properly depicted, and Michigan Stadium itself looks pristine. Brady Hoke's likeness in the game reminds me of Tony Soprano but with more hair, and he has failed to point at anything. The quarter ends with no score on the board and very little offense to show for myself, plus two missed long-range field goals (It's not Brendan Gibbons's fault, I haven't mastered the kicking controls just yet). However, Michigan's defense appears to be very, very good if the right play call is made. I've found that calling plays by type rather than formation seems to work, so that I can set up for the run or pass and still change on the fly if I see the opposite formation.

Second Quarter

I manage to get two touchdowns on the board, one from "Ryan O' Neal" (Fitz Toussaint is Irish!?) and another from a guy who looks a lot like Devin Funchess. Central is still struggling to move the ball against my front seven, with zero first downs and under 100 yards offensively.

Next, a slew of turnovers occur for both teams, suggesting preseason jitters and lack of focus on my part. Incredibly, I don't have the same awareness of a college-level quarterback, and make some poor throws toward covered receivers, but whenever I threw an INT, Central threw one right back to me. four turnovers later, no change in the score of the game.

Late in the quarter I finally get the kicking controls right and nail a 40-yarder to head into halftime. Curiously, Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit already seem to have written Central off, commenting multiple times that the game has gotten out of hand despite only a 17 point hole. Michigan leads, 17-0.

Nessler and Herbstreit are still unnecessarily concerned about the score, and the only thing missing from the ESPN integration is Lou Holtz incoherently making the case for Notre Dame to be ranked number one after taking care of the Temple Owls.

Third Quarter

I elected to try the "super sim" feature to blow through the third quarter, and the game's AI figured out that Michigan still has some weak spots on the defensive side. It did give me more points, but Central's quarterback erupted for 237 passing yards and a score. Michigan remains ahead, 34-6 with Toussaint having a huge day, already being at over 200 yards rushing.

Fourth Quarter

I don't elect to play "Lloydball" yet but I want to avoid injuring any of Michigan's play-makers. I went for mostly running plays and bubble screens, and foolishly let Gardner take two big-loss sacks because I forgot to, you know, run away from the guy running toward me (him).

It is at this point I realize I haven't had Dennis Norfleet returning kicks all game because either he changed numbers or was not the default first position kick returner on my roster. This great injustice will not stand for the remainder of the season. I need to have a chat with Fake Coach Hoke in my Fake Schembechler Hall after our fake victory.

Central gets a garbage touchdown halfway through the quarter because if there's one things MAC teams do, it's score garbage touchdowns against superior Michigan teams, ruining betting lines everywhere.

I answer back with another touchdown at last, on a heckuva throw by Gardner to Funchess in the middle of the field, and no one comes close to catching him. Nessler and Herbstreit had just commented how both teams were playing great defense and that Central was giving me fits, but I'm not sure if they were watching the same game. Or else they couldn't hear anything over the multiple chantings of "Seven Nation Army" that EA has now added into the crowd noise (Thanks for that one, guys).

Clock expires on a kneeldown from Russell Bellomy and Michigan enjoys a sound victory over a MAC team. It is a good day.

Tune in next time for a recap of the second-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. Here's hoping EA added 100,000 maize pom poms to get the full effect.

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