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NCAA Football 14: The "Video Game Team" Phenomenon

Ever notice how certain teams are a lot better in video games than they are in real life, and vice versa?


Ever since teams and individual players started being rated by skill level in sports video games, I've been fascinated by how certain teams play better or much worse in video games than they do in real life. Even though the Bucs were Super Bowl contenders in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was a real struggle to win with them in Madden. On the other hand, a talented but wildly dysfunctional team like the Jim Haslett-era Saints would turn into a berserker in Madden. How could this be?

The answer: by focusing on the raw talent only, the game developers had nullified the effect of coaching. Coaching, either good or bad, is what makes a less talented team better and a more talented team worse. But there are no coaches in a video game. You're the coach, and you can deploy your talent however you see fit, even if it doesn't match the way they play in real life.

I was reminded of that when the team rankings for NCAA Football 14 came out a few weeks ago. Twitter had a lot of fun with the "overrated" teams, like Texas, Iowa, Illinois, and Auburn. There are some "underrated" teams, too, like TCU and Boise State. That's where taking out the coaching effect makes all the difference. TCU and Boise constantly succeed because they're well-coached; Iowa and Auburn failed miserably last season because they weren't.

USF is in that same boat. Despite last year's 3-9 debacle, they have an 84 overall rating, which is right in the middle of the pack in FBS. Their 87 defensive ranking ignores their total lack of impact in 2012, and focuses on their talent level. And I think the Bulls have usually been a team that plays better in video games than they do in real life -- a collection of talent waiting for someone to figure out how to exploit it. (That someone is usually me. They'll never forget the time I had Jamius Gunsby throw for well over 6000 yards in an NCAA 11 dynasty season. Yes, that happened.)

Have you all ever experienced this with your favorite teams in NCAA or Madden, or maybe a game from another sport? Do you think that we'll start seeing on-field results out of USF that match the video game talent?


This is the first in a two-part series on NCAA Football 14, and we'll pick one of you from the comments below to participate in the second post next week.