For some reason being stuck at home brings out the impulse buyer in all of us. Luckily, I’m married so I don’t get to spend any of my money*.
However, I was able to make one key purchase early in the quarantine. I noticed a few months back that my brother-in-law had an old Xbox 360 sitting in his garage. I also found a copy of NCAA 14 when going through old boxes. With the stay-at-home order looming on the horizon, I offered my brother-in-law $20 for his Xbox 360. He accepted, and I have been playing NCAA 14 almost nightly after the family goes to sleep.
*Don’t worry, I cleared this line with my Wife. She was cool with it, but she did say that she was going to dock my allowance this week.
This wonderful trip down memory lane got me thinking about other games of the past. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (playable now on Xbox Game Pass) was awesome. Fable was a good time. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a neon and pastel filled masterpiece. Remember when NBA Live wasn’t trash? It’s true, it used to be good. Suddenly, the memories of a certain game come flooding back so rapidly, it was like I was being hit into a wall. Which is something that you could actually do in this game, run full speed and tackle somebody into a brick wall. I am of course talking about the NFL Street franchise.
NFL Street was “hard-hitting, high-flying 7-on-7 action” and “football stylized, attitude energized” according to the back of its box. It was a true arcade style football game, unlike the more simulation style titles like Madden and NFL2K (RIP). There was an “NFL Challenge” mode in the game that involved creating a team of generic players and then earning tokens through the game to improve your team. One of my favorite ways to improve my team was to steal a player from the NFL team.
So, let’s say I wanted Michael Vick on my team. I would spend my tokens to challenge the Falcons. If I won the game, Michael Vick would become a member of my team. This got me thinking, what if that’s how it worked in real life? What if every time you beat a team, you could take one player? And if that were so, who would have the best college football team at the end of the season?
The rules are simple. We will go through a team’s schedule and add a player from the opponent for all their wins. We will not add players from FCS teams, and I will really only be focusing on teams from the more modern era. There are a ton of possibilities, but I wanted to take a look at three recent national champions and then one uber talented team that was robbed out of an opportunity for a national championship at the turn of the millennium. Let’s work backwards starting with the most recent national champion, the LSU Tigers.
2019 LSU Tigers
2019 LSU was one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. They had a record setting offense, led by Heisman trophy winner and number one overall pick Joe Burrow, and a talented, aggressive defense.
They also played an insane schedule, finishing the season with seven wins over ranked opponents.
Five of those opponents ended the season ranked in the top 10. This team also tied the record for most NFL draft picks in one draft with 14 Tigers being selected. Five of those players went in the first round, with 5 others going in rounds two and three. As good as that team was, we can make them even more terrifying.
Joe Burrow was going to remain the starter no matter what. However, it’s never a bad thing to have quality depth behind your starter. I didn’t think anybody from Utah State could crack the LSU starting lineup, so I added their best player. First-round draft pick Jordan Love—who will backup Aaron Rodgers this season in Green Bay—will fill the same role on this team.
No changes here. Thought about adding Deandre Swift from Georgia to provide a lethal one-two punch with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but decided to go a different direction.
LSU lined up in empty formations more than any team in the NCAA last year by a wide margin. While they often did this in their base personnel, why not give them the ability to go to more four and five receiver looks. We decided to add a couple of receivers from the Big 12 in CeeDee Lamb and Devin Duvernay. Both are great after the catch and would thrive in the 2019 LSU offense that involved a lot of RPOs and run after catch opportunities. Who is going to be able to defend a foursome of Chase, Lamb, Jefferson, and Duvernay?
Thad Moss had a great season in 2019. He had some unbelievable highlights and was consistent performer all year. However, he did end up going undrafted. Vanderbilt didn’t have a ton of players this season that would fit in with this LSU juggernaut. Keyshawn Vaughn was a thought at running back, but I decided to go with tight end Jarred Pinkney.
Pinkney was thought to be worthy of a first round pick after a great 2018 season that saw him snag 50 receptions for 774 yards and 7 touchdowns. A rough 2019 season on a bad Vanderbilt team dropped him out of the draft completely. Pinkney would be interesting paired with Moss and would give LSU even more flexibility on offense.
When you run five-man protections as often as LSU did, you better have a good offensive line. The Tigers had just that this past season. Center Lloyd Cushenberry and guard Damien Lewis were both drafted in the third round. Tackle Saahdiq Charles, who missed six games due to off the field issues in 2019, was drafted in the fourth round. To this trio we will add a couple of lineman that were taken in the top 10: Andrew Thomas of Georgia (fourth overall) and Jedrick Wills of Alabama (tenth overall).
LSU always seems to have talent up font on defense, and this season was no exception. Rashard Lawrence was a fourth-round draft pick and plenty of talent will return to the Tigers in 2020. Even with all that talent, there was no way I could pass up taking Derrick Brown of Auburn.
I watched him single-handedly destroy a lot of game plans in 2019. Brown was selected seventh overall. I also decided to add McTelvin Agim from Arkansas. Agim was a five-star recruit for the Razorbacks coming out of high school. Despite the lack of team success, Agim was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft. Agim was originally a defensive end but transitioned to defensive tackle last season. DC Dave Aranda would find great use in a flexible player like Agim.
The Tigers were loaded at linebacker last season. In fact, three LSU linebackers were drafted in the first 97 picks. To this group I decided to add a few more pieces for Coach Aranda. From the two Mississippi schools, I added Willie Gay and Sam Williams. Gay was drafted in the second round , after running a 4.46 40 and vertical jumping 39.5 inches at 240+ lbs during the 2020 NFL combine. Williams is a 6’4” 255lb DE/OLB that allegedly ran a 4.38 40 . Finally, to this group I will add the Queen of the 2019 NCAA chess board, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons played all over the field for Clemson and was drafted eighth overall in 2020.
Over the past few years, LSU has claimed the moniker of DBU. The 2019 team, much like many of its predecessors, was loaded with back-end talent. CB Kristian Fulton and safety Grant Delpit were drafted in the second round. The secondary’s best player, Derek Stingley Jr., wasn’t draft eligible or he may have been a top-10 pick himself. Jacoby Stevens was a five-star recruit out of high school and will likely be a high draft pick next season.
To this group, I added Florida CB CJ Henderson. Henderson was selected ninth overall and would combine with Stingley to create lockdown man-to-man corners on either side of the field. Throw in Fulton and you have three high quality cornerbacks that can be played in whatever rotation or alignment Dave Aranda would like.
Georgia Southern didn’t have many guys who could compete for time on this team. The one and only guy that stuck out was kicker Tyler Bass. Bass was a 79% kicker over his college career and was drafted in the sixth round. Braden Mann has been considered one of the top punters in the nation the past few seasons. He has hit some bombs that made even Pat McAfee blush, averaging 47.1 yards per punt in 2019. Mann was selected in the sixth round.
To a team that originally had five first round draft picks, we added seven more. 12 first round picks on one team. Overall, this roster would include 26 draft picks. Both the offense and defense are flexible and could do just about anything the coaches dream up.
2018 Clemson Tigers
2018 Clemson was the first team to go 15-0 in modern college football and the first undefeated playoff champion. The team was loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, including their freshman phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Clemson beat their final 10 opponents by 20 points, including a 28 point victory over an extremely talented Alabama team in the playoff final. The Tigers only defeated four teams that ended the season ranked, but they played plenty of teams with enticing talents to steal.
According to many experts, Trevor Lawrence may have been the top pick in the last two drafts if he were eligible. He will remain the starter. Duke didn’t have many players that would belong on this team, so I decided to take Daniel Jones. Jones was a surprising sixth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Travis Etienne is a stud and would likely have been the first running back off the board if he came out after his junior season. Pitt only had two players drafted in the 2019 and 2020 draft.
I will take the highest draft pick, running back Qadree Ollison who was fifth round pick in 2019. Ollison gained over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns in 2018. He will provide some depth to the backfield.
Under since departed receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, Clemson consistently produced excellent receivers. The 2018 season was no exception. Tee Higgins and Hunter Renfrow were drafted in the second (2020) and fifth (2019) rounds, respectively. Despite being a later pick, Renfrow played in 13 games for the Raiders during his rookie season. He registered 49 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns in his first season. Justyn Ross is seen as future high draft pick when he comes out for the NFL draft.
To this trio I decided to add dynamic South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel. Samuel was a second round pick in the 2019 draft and recorded 961 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdown on 71 touches in his rookie season. With Ross and Higgins on the outside and Samuel and Renfrow on the inside, this receiving corps would be a tough cover for just about anybody.
Clemson listed both a starting tight end and h-back on their roster. Filling both these roles will be my next pick, Jace Sternberger of Texas A&M. Sternberger was a consensus All-American in 2018 after recording 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 TDs. He was a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Clemson has been able to produce at a high level offensively although they have rarely had top-level talent on the offensive line. LG John Simpson, a fourth round pick in 2020, was the first Clemson lineman drafted since 2014. In fact, Clemson has never had an offensive lineman drafted in the first round. That is going to change. We will keep Simpson but will add four first round picks to the offensive line unit.
Jonah Williams of Alabama (11th overall 2019) and Mekhi Becton of Louisville (11th overall 2020) will be my bookend tackles. From NC State, I will take C Garret Bradbury (18th overall 2019) and for the final guard spot I will add Chris Lindstrom of Boston College (14th overall 2019).
The Tigers seem to reload on the defensive line every season in recent years. Even so, the 2018 defensive line unit was a special one. That unit produced four draft picks, including three first rounders.
To that unit we are going to add even more depth and more flexibility for DC Brent Venables. From Florida State I’m going to take Brian Burns. Burns was 16th overall pick in 2019 and had a productive rookie season totaling 7.5 sacks in a limited role. I will also add defensive tackle Jerry Tillery of Notre Dame. Tillery was the 28th selection in the 2019 draft. The final addition to the defensive line is Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson. Robinson had 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2018. He was a fifth round pick, the highest from Syracuse in six years, in the 2020 NFL Draft.
To the linebacker unit I am going to add Justin Strnad of Wake Forest. Strnad was a fifth round pick in 2020 and seemed like the only Wake player capable of cracking the starting lineup on this team. In 2018, Strnad had 105 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.
No changes here. Every starter has been drafted and all in the top four rounds.
I struggled to come up with players to steal from Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, so I decided to take their specialists. Tyler Bass, a fifth-round pick in 2020, was 79% for his career but had a particularly strong 2018 season hitting 19-21 field goal attempts (90.5%). Pressley Harvin of Georgia Tech averaged 41.3 yards per punt in 2018, whereas Clemson starter Will Spiers was at 39.7 yards per punt in 2018. Additionally, Harvin pulled off a stellar fake punt against Miami in 2019 showcasing a plus arm for a punter.
This Clemson team has had 13 players drafted thus far, including five first-round picks, and will likely have many more in the next couple of years. To this team I added seven first round picks, and 13 overall draft picks. The offense is full of top-end NFL talent and the defensive front would be tough for just about anybody to block.
The 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide saw 40 of its players get some kind of look in the NFL with 29 of them being drafted between 2016-2018. The Tide were supremely talented, but there were some holes on the roster that can be filled in.
This the headliner. While Jacob Coker led the team to a national championship, he was not near the level of Deshaun Watson. Watson would get his revenge on Bama the next season and go on to be a first round draft pick.
Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy for his performance during the 2015 season. All three of his backups were also drafted. However, I still think I can improve the running back room by bringing back one-time Alabama player Alvin Kamara from Tennessee. Kamara’s versatility would be on full display with this unit. He would function in a hybrid running back/receiver role.
Speaking of receivers, this unit had some talent but nowhere near as much as the recent Alabama teams. Calvin Ridley was a first-round pick, ArDarius Stewart was a third-round pick and Richard Mullaney started going by his middle name John and doing stand-up comedy (Don’t Google this).
This group needs some more capable bodies. I’ve decided to upgrade this unit by adding Fred Ross of Mississippi State and Richie James of Middle Tennessee State. Ross led the SEC in receptions in 2015 with 88 catches and was four-star recruit coming out of high school. Ross was a bigger bodied receiver who also ran a 4.51 40 at the NFL Combine. Richie James was a seventh round draft pick in 2018. During the 2015 season James, a smaller receiver who has been said to run the 40 in the 4.4 range, had 120 touches for 1492 yards and nine touchdowns.
No changes. OJ Howard is our guy here.
The 2015 Alabama offensive line featured three players that were later drafted. C Ryan Kelley was a first round pick, while tackle Cam Robinson and guard Ross Pierschbacher were drafted in the second and fifth round respectively. To these three, I am going to add two first round picks in right tackle Jack Conklin of Michigan State (eighth overall 2016) and C/G Frank Ragnow (20th overall 2018).
2015 Alabama was already stacked up front, but you can never have too many big bodies. To a group that already included two first-round picks, three second-round picks and one fourth-round pick, I will add one more high draft pick. To this elite unit, I added Myles Garret of Texas A&M. Garrett became the first overall pick of the 2017 draft. While only a sophomore in 2015, Garrett finished the season with 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
Nick Saban has long been a proponent of using the 3-4 defense. In his defense the hybrid defensive end/ outside linebacker is referred to as the “Jack”. The started at Jack in 2015 was listed as Denzell Devall. Even though Devall has some great depth behind him in Ryan Anderson (second-round pick) and Tim Williams (third-round pick), I’m going to use my pick from Georgia to add Leonard Floyd. Floyd was a top-en pick in 2016 and recorded seven sacks in his rookie season.
Another trademark of Nick Saban defenses is stellar play in the secondary. The 2015 starting unit featured two first-round picks, one second-round pick, and a fourth-round pick. The fourth round pick, Eddie Jackson, has arguably had the best pro career with two pro bowls and one first team All-Pro selection in 2018. The first round picks, Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, were each selected to the Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro in 2019.
With my defensive backs pick I will be looking to replace corner Cyrus Jones and safety Geno Matias-Smith. To replace these two, I will add a pair of first round picks: cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and safety Jamal Adams. Hargreaves (11th overall 2016) has struggled with injuries and consistency in the NFL but was widely seen as a future number one corner at the next level. Adams (sixth overall 2017) has lived up to the promise he showed in college. Adams made his first Pro Bowl in 2018. In 2019 he repeated the feat and add a first team All-Pro selection to go along with it.
We all know you can’t trust an Alabama kicker, so I’m going to replace him. In place of Adam Griffith, I will slide in Daniel Carlson of Auburn. Carlson, a fifth-round pick in 2018, went 23-27 (83.5%) on field goals in 2015.
The offense with a three-headed backield of Watson, Henry, and Kamara will be difficult for anybody to slow down. The defense has an embarrassment of riches for Saban to deploy in a myriad of ways.
I know what everybody is thinking, “You meant to pick 2001 Miami, right?” No. I considered 2001 Miami, but upon further examination I thought the 2000 team would provide some more interesting possibilities. The 2000 Hurricanes probably should have had a shot at the national championship this season as well but were a BCS casualty. They were an enjoyable team to watch, but I think I can make them even more fun.
Ok, this is basically the main reason I went back to the 2000 team. I wanted to add Michael Vick to the squad. Ken Dorsey was a great college quarterback, but Michael Vick he a’int. I also added Mike McMahon. Rutgers was pretty bad this season, so I just went with the best player. McMahon also went on to have a better NFL career than Dorsey, so he will be a fine addition to the room.
I added no tailbacks because this team was pretty loaded at the position already. Senior James Jackson ran for over 1,000 yards in 2000 and was the leader of a running back room that included Clinton Portis, Najeh Davenport, Jarrett Payton and Willis McGahee. The only addition to the backfield I would make would be fullback Jason McKie of Temple. McKie played 8 seasons in the NFL.
This is the other reason I wanted 2000 Miami. This team was loaded at receiver. The wide receiver room this season included Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, and young Andre Johnson. Let’s make the room even better, shall we?
I decided to add a pair of second round picks to the wide receiver unit: Anquan Boldin of Florida State and Antonio Bryant of Pitt. Boldin was a three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, as well as offensive rookie of the year in 2003. In the 2000 season, Boldin had 41 receptions for 664 yards and six touchdowns for Florida State. Bryant had 68 receptions for 1302 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2000 leading the Big East (RIP) in receptions, yards, yards per reception, receiving touchdowns, and yards from scrimmage. Bryant was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year as well as the winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s top receiver.
No changes here. Jeremey Shockey is our guy.
One underrated aspect of the early 2000’s Miami rebirth was the dominance of the offensive line. In 2000 this unit did not allow a sack in it’s final seven games, and extended the streak to 12 straight games the next year. I don’t want to change this unit to much but I will add Marc Colombo of Boston College. Colombo was a first-round pick in 2002 and played nine seasons in the NFL.
If there was a “weakness” on the 2000 Miami team it may have been defensive pass rush. The ends that started the Sugar Bowl against Florida (Cornelius Green and Jamaal Green) combined for 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. To this unit I will add Alex Brown of Florida and Dwight Freeney of Syracuse. This duo combined for 29.5 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks in 2000. Freeney went on to become a first round pick in 2002 and made seven Pro Bowl and three All-Pro teams during his career. Brown, a fourth round pick in 2002, played nine season in the NFL.
The linebacker room is led by one of the greatest seasons in college football history. In 2000, Dan Morgan won the Butkus,Bednarik, and Nagurski Awards. He was the first player to win all three awards. Morgan (136 tackles,15 tackles for loss, four sacks) was flanked on either side by Howard Clark (60 tackles, two TFLs) and Chris Campbell (77 tackles, six TFLs, four Sacks).
To this unit I’m going to add a tackling machine from West Virginia, Kyle Kaden. In 2000, Kaden had 104 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, and three sacks.
No changes. Each of these guys were stellar players, led by Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
No changes needed
I wanted to have fun with this one, so I bent the rules a little.
Louisiana Tech didn’t have any players that would have sniffed playing time on this team, but they were ahead of the curve in one area. The offensive scheme that Louisiana Tech ran in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was exactly what this team needed. The Bulldogs would often spread people out with four and five receiver sets and throw the ball all over the field. So I decide to steal LA Tech co-offensive coordinator/WR coach Conroy Hines. Under Hines, LA Tech threw the ball 46 times a gam and ran it 28.
Can you imagine college Michael Vick in a truly spread out system throwing to Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Bryant, Andre Johnson, and Jeremy Shockey? Defenses would have to account for each of these guys opening themselves up for a lethal quarterback run game. Sorry to Larry Coker and the fullbacks, but your presence is no longer needed.
This offense would be so fun to watch, and the defense would be no joke either. There was an insanely talented amount of young depth (Johnathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, etc.) waiting in the wings on this team too.
There are so many ways to go with this premise. I could have included 2005 Texas giving me a backfield of Vince Young, Reggie Bush, and Adrian Peterson. Or 2008 Florida with Tim Tebow throwing to Percy Harvin, Julio Jones, and AJ Green. You could even use the same teams I did and pick different players. Maybe you’d rather have Dak Prescott instead of Deshaun Watson.There are so many possibilities, but I think I’ve got some pretty strong teams above. Who would you choose?