Going up against an AI-controlled Oregon team may actually be representative of playing the real Ducks. I knew I faced a quick-scoring, fast tempo team that wasn't going to allow my defense to ever be comfortable, and that is precisely what happened. With unmitigated disasters added in while I had the ball.
Initially, I was able to anticipate the Ducks' offensive weapons and keep a handle on their penchant for inhaling yards. I stopped them on their first two offensive series, but couldn't do much of anything when the ball was in my hands. Yet going half a quarter of scoreless football against Oregon felt like a herculean effort.
Oregon then decided to start playing, apparently. With seven minutes to go in the quarter, no-huddle offense and all, the Ducks charged down the field courtesy of read option plays that gave me flashbacks to Michigan's real game against Oregon in 2002. 7-0 and it only got worse from there. I was getting some yards against Oregon's pass rush, but struggled to hit open receivers and their front line was quick to tackle Fake Toussaint. I got far enough into the red zone to add a field goal, and at the 3 minute mark I found myself down four, 7-3.
Again, I managed to stop the Ducks on my side of the field, yet on 4th and inches they burned me with a pass over the top, and expanded that lead to 14-3. On Michigan's next possession, Fake Gardner was completing passes left and right, until Fake Funchess caught one in the middle of the field, got upended by an Oregon defender, and dropped the ball. If there is one thing we learned from Saturday's real games, it's that when Oregon gets turnovers, they make their opponent pay through the nose. However, the Michigan defense dug in and held to a field goal.
17-3 with four minutes left in the half, and that marked the point when the train wreck loomed.
Michigan's next possession ended in -- what else -- a turnover, as I threw right at a defender in the wrong-colored jersey, and they took less than two minutes to score. Now down 24-3, I put together a solid two-minute drill, and got down to the 20 yard line, but Oregon picked me off in the end zone to end the half. Immediately after the half I got the ball again, and the very first play, I threw an interception. Oregon again capitalized, and it was 31-3 and I felt like the game was out to get me, to make up for all those comeback victories I had during the regular season.
Broken and defeated, empty of any feeling of hope, like a maize and blue Heisenberg, I turned to the simulator to give me a quick death. It may have been quick, but I watched in horror as the following drives took place from Oregon:
Michigan somehow squeezed in a touchdown of its own, as if that was to make me feel less horrible, but when the game flashed double zeros on the clock, I had had my soul ripped out and stomped on by duck flippers. Oregon annihilated me 59-10, but if it's any consolation, Ohio State lost the BCS title game to an SEC team (again).
I won't read too far into a 14-game season by an artificial Michigan team, but it is eerie how similarly Michigan's fortunes are determined by Gardner doing well. If anything, it at least gives a rough idea of how good Michigan can be when clicking on both sides of the ball, but it's still a simulation. For 14 fake games, I felt like I was in control of a damn fine team, and the beauty of actual college football season is that I get to see how closely Michigan performs to their virtual alter egos, without the feeling of being personally responsible when something goes wrong.
Eight (definite) games are left in the actual season, and no simulation can accurately portray what kind of mayhem we will see.