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Monday, July 18, 2005

Okay. I think I've passed the initial addiction phase as relates to NCAA. I played it far too much this weekend, though I managed to not call my friends and tell them "screw the Wrens, I'm going to sit at home and play a video game for 48 hours straight," I was close. Damn close. By Sunday night, though, I wanted to do something else... at least temporarily.

I'm in season four of Northwestern's inexorable rise to All Everything (I generally have simmed games against loser schools like Eastern Michigan or Notre Dame that I have no chance of losing and death traps away to Michigan or Iowa that I have a 100% chance of crying after... though those get simmed no longer), and I'm somewhat pleased to report that I think with some serious slider work the game will be excellent. As it stands my running back has cracked 2,000 yards without trying particularly hard, and there are still four games left in the season. He'll probably hit 3k. This is a problem.

What is not a problem is that the games are more fun. The last one I played was a 64-61 quadruple overtime thriller against Michigan. I beat Colorado 36-35 and similarly squeaked by a not good Syracuse team. The game is way offense-happy, though: a game against a terrible UNC team ended up 73-49. I waxed Iowa 55-6. I don't think I've played a single game where one team didn't break thirty, and usually it's both. I'm #1 in offense by a wide margin and #110-something in defense.

A brief list of pros and cons, if only to prove that I am still in love with the new bullet gif.

  • The passing game is vastly improved. I've started reading safeties and linebackers and knowing when people will be open, something I tried and failed to do last year. The twelve-foot high jumps from players in coverage are gone, and pass strength and direction are critically important. When something bad happens 90% of the time the only person I can be mad at is myself. (Or the receiver for making like Agim Shabaj.)
  • The running game is vastly improved. A variety of runs now work. Running backs break tackles when not taken head-on. The sprint button is a bad idea on an interior run. Spins and jukes and stiff-arms are all effective in the appropriate places.
  • Controls are more coherent. X always sprints is a wonderful thing once you get used to it, especially with the quarterback. Rollouts are now workable, and escaping from pressure is a possibility. Using the right analog stick for jukes, block shedding, and hits is an excellent decision.
  • Rushing the passer seems pretty realistic. The computer seems to know about blitzes beforehand, however. A favorite tactic is taking a safety who would normally be in a deep zone and blitzing him, which catches the CPU by surprise (man coverage only, please). Other than that, they struck a nice balance: I feel effective rushing the passer but not dominant.
  • Defenses are mostly impotent. I thought at first that playing eight minute quarters was distorting my stats, so I cut it to the more standard seven. Things are still out of control.
  • Running is way too easy. My running back is averaging over ten yards a carry. That, as they say in the south, ain't right.
  • Pass plays remain stupid. Like, say, the various "slants" plays, which send three receivers on, well, slants. If one guy is covered chances are all the rest are, too. Hot routes can fix this somewhat but on the road that's nigh impossible. I would much prefer plays that feature a variety of routes
  • My tight ends are pass-dropping gits.
  • Some punt returns are preordained touchdowns. Sometimes the Red Sea will just open up along a sideline. Returning is always a matter of cutting it to the outside as fast as possible.
  • Bombing it downfield is too effective. The passes are just too accurate.
  • "Impact players" == impact stupid. Players get ordained with superhuman powers randomly, without cause, and then make plays that totally change the game. Screw you, hippies.
  • I still suck at defense.
Northwestern is 9-0 and has one hurdle (at Iowa) left before playing in the NC game. It's year four, though, which is a major improvement over past years, and I'm playing close games, again a major improvement. But recruiting is too easy and soon my team will be rife with eight-stars who kick out the jams, at which point there's only one thing left to do: make the leap to Heisman. In the past this has invariably led to swearing, controller-throwing and game-hiding. Fingers crossed.