July 16, 2012

NCAA Football 13 hints at big season for NU

With the start of the season still more than a month away, college football fans across the nation thirst for anything football related to hold them over until the year begins. Enter NCAA Football 13, EA Sports' latest model in a long line of video games.

We've heard hundreds of opinions on how the Huskers' season will go - including some that Eric Martin wasn't too fond of. If everyone else is giving their opinion, why not ask EA Sports? The following is a simulated season with the game's original rosters.

And because many think Nebraska's season will go as he does, we paid special attention to the production of quarterback Taylor Martinez. EA rated Martinez as an 87 overall, but the junior quarterback proved, at least in one fantasy simulation, that he has a few surprises up his sleeve this season.

Week 1: Southern Miss - Nebraska's season started off with a bang as Ameer Abdullah busted off a 58-yard touchdown run just more than two minutes into the season. Martinez was excellent, especially when throwing Kenny Bell's way. The receiver hauled in two of Martinez's three touchdown passes as NU cruised to an easy Week 1 victory.

Nebraska 45, Southern Miss 14

Martinez: 14-28, 208 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 7 rushes, 38 yards

Week 2: UCLA - The Huskers jumped out to a 14-0 lead on two scoring hookups from Martinez to Bell and led the Bruins 21-7 at the half. UCLA fought back with a pair of TDs in the third quarter to tie the game, but Martinez scrambled and found the end zone with 10 minutes left to provide the game's final tally.

Nebraska 28, UCLA 21

Martinez: 12-24, 168 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 14 rushes, 58 yards, 1 TD

Week 3: Arkansas State - As expected, the Nebraska didn't have much trouble in this one. The Huskers rushed out to a 24-0 lead early in the third when Ciante Evans returned an interception for a touchdown. Arkansas State responded with a field goal, but safety P.J. Smith picked off a pass and took it to the house to put the game out of reach.

Nebraska 31, Arkansas State 10

Martinez: 15-30, 213 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 10 rushes, 69 yards

Idaho State - NCAA 13 doesn't have Idaho State, so the computer substituted a made-up team with a similar rating, FCS West, which didn't put up much more of a fight than most expect from Idaho State. The Huskers scored 38 points before allowing a field goal, including two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground from Martinez. Abdullah scored three times. And Brion Carnes finally made his season debut, completing all three of his pass attempts for 79 yards. It took until NU's third blowout for Carnes to get a snap - at least that feels realistic.

Nebraska 52, FCS West 3

Martinez: 11-21, 197 yards, 2 TD, 6 rushes, 29 yards, 1 TD

Come on EA!
There are a lot of things to love about the new version of NCAA Football, but, as always, there were a few ratings that left players scratching their heads. Here are a few Husker-related question marks we picked out.

Speed: It's unclear how EA Sports determines speed ratings for the game, but there are some serious head-scratchers with Nebraska. Martinez, one of the fastest players on the team, is an 84 in the speed category, which is barely faster than linebackers Alonzo Whaley and Will Compton. Kenny Bell is listed at a 91, the same speed as Quincy Enunwa. Possibly most egregious was poor Tim Marlowe, a player who does have some wheels. But Marlowe was stuck with an 81, the same speed as third-string tight end Jake Long. Ouch.

Defensive ends: Eric Martin got no love from NCAA this year. Yes, he's still relatively new to the defensive end position, but certainly showed promise there. EA gave him just a 70 rating, while putting both Jason Ankrah and little-used Joseph Carter at 79. Martin's downfall? An awareness rating of 61.

Outside linebacker: While it's generally assumed some combination of Sean Fisher, Zaire Anderson, Compton and Whaley will fill out the linebacking corps, EA seems to disagree. It has Whaley rated much higher than Fisher and has redshirt freshman David Santos slotted to start over Anderson.

Brett Maher: Despite having a spectacular first year as a starter, Maher earned just an overall rating of 86. Despite missing just one kick inside 50 yards, Maher received an 85 rating on kicking accuracy. Seems a bit low for the Big Ten's best kicker and punter.

Week 5: Wisconsin - Just like last year, the Badgers handed Nebraska its first loss in the year, though the score was much closer this time around. The Huskers contained UW running backs Montee Ball and James White, but quarterback Danny O'Brien tossed for four scores. Brett Maher kicked a 49-yard field goal with 3:35 left to get NU within a score, but the Badgers burned the clock to preserve the victory.

Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 31

Martinez: 12-29, 155 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 14 rushes, 42 yards, 1 TD

Week 6: Ohio State - Nebraska suffered its second straight defeat despite injuring Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller yet again. But backup Ken Guiton found wideout Devin Smith with a 39-yard scoring pass with 51 seconds left to provide the final score. Martinez struggled mightily for the second straight game, throwing for just 85 yards with three interceptions. Rex Burkhead kept the game close with 111 yards and three scores, but it wasn't enough.

Ohio State 28, Nebraska 21

Martinez: 9-26, 85 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 19 rushes, 98 yards

Week 8: Northwestern - The Huskers recovered after the bye week to easily dispatch the Wildcats and exact revenge for last year's loss. This time around the Blackshirts handcuffed quarterback Cain Colter, who threw for just 63 yards. Martinez was picked off twice, but he threw for a trio of scores and Nebraska got 130 yards and a score from Burkhead.

Nebraska 34, Northwestern 14

Martinez: 17-30, 236 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 14 rushes, 77 yards

Week 9: Michigan - Down 24-10 at the half, this one looked like a replay of last year's debacle in Ann Arbor. But Martinez came through with his best game of the season to save the Huskers. He found Ben Cotton for a pair of scoring passes in the third, then threw two more touchdowns in the fourth. Andrew Green returned an interception for a touchdown, one of four picks for Denard Robinson on the day, to put the game out of reach.

Nebraska 45, Michigan 31

Martinez: 15-26, 305 yards, 5 TD, 10 carries, 42 yards

Week 10: Michigan State - Much like last season, the Huskers didn't have much trouble with the Spartans. With the game tied at 10 in the second quarter, NU ran off 24 straight points to pull away. Martinez continued his hot streak as he threw for two scores and rushed for another without turning the ball over.

Nebraska 34, Michigan State 17

Martinez: 16-27, 280, 2 TD, 14 rushes, 55 yards, 1 TD

Week 11: Penn State - The Huskers winning streak continued against the Nittany Lions. After scoring two touchdowns in the opening quarter, the NU offense bogged down and Penn State pulled within five points when a Martinez interception was returned for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But the two-point conversion failed and the Blackshirts held on to secure the victory.

Nebraska 21, Penn State 16

Martinez: 12-20, 200 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 15 rushes, 75 yards

Week 12: Minnesota - The Huskers led 28-0, thanks mostly to a trio of scoring runs by Burkhead, before the Golden Gophers finally got on the board in the fourth quarter. Martinez continued to establish a great connection with Cotton, who had 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, which almost matched his numbers from all of last season (14 catches, 189 yards).

Nebraska 35, Minnesota 16

Martinez: 13-22, 251 yards, 2 TD, 16 rushes, 93 yards

Week 13: Iowa- The Huskers easily dispatched the overmatched Hawkeyes, although Iowa hung with Nebraska in the first half. But with the game tied at 21 at the break, NU ripped off 28 unanswered points in the second half to run away. Martinez had arguably his best game of the season, accounting for six total touchdowns. Jamal Turner, Mike Marrow and Quincy Enunwa were all on the receiving end of a Martinez touchdown pass.

Nebraska 49, Iowa 21

Martinez: 18-26, 192 yards, 3 TD, 18 rushes, 136 yards, 3 TD

Big Ten Championship (Wisconsin) - The Huskers finally got the best of the Badgers and did it when it counted most. After NU amassed a commanding lead in the third quarter, Wisconsin scored 21 consecutive points to take a 42-41 lead with five minutes left. But Martinez came up big again, finding Enunwa with a 44-yard scoring pass with 2:35 left to give NU the lead back. The Huskers missed on the two-point conversion, but the Blackshirts held to give Nebraska its first Big Ten title.

Nebraska 47, Wisconsin 42

Martinez: 20-35, 285 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 12 rushes, 60 yards, 1 TD

Rose Bowl (Utah) - Nebraska held a three-point lead over the Utes heading into the fourth but couldn't hold it and missed out on a chance to secure a BCS bowl victory. It would be impossible to blame Martinez, who accounted for four scores without a turnover. Bell was the main beneficiary, hauling in 11 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

Utah 35, Nebraska 31

Martinez: 21-33, 305 yards, 3 TD, 16 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD

Nebraska ended the season ranked No. 9. Martinez threw 32 touchdown passes, breaking Zac Taylor's record of 26 back in 2006.

Season notes

***In a cruel twist of irony, Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell, who has been dismissed from the team, easily won the Heisman Trophy. Almost more surprising was Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington finishing second. Ball finished a distant third. In a decision that Husker fans hope doesn't mirror reality, Burkhead was nowhere to be found in the final tally.

***Cotton won the John Mackey Award, given to college football's best tight end, and was a first-team All-American. Burkhead and Green both had standout seasons and were named second-team All-Americans. All three, along with linebacker David Santos, made first-team All-Big Ten.

***Oregon defeated Georgia to win the national title.

Griffin simulation

But because one fantasy isn't enough, we decided to take it a step further. One of the shiny new additions to this year's version of NCAA Football is the ability to take former Heisman winners, put them on whichever team you choose and play out the season. There are only about 15 former Heisman winners available (sorry, but no former Huskers), so we took the player we thought would fit best with NU's hybrid-spread offense, Robert Griffin III, and played out a season to see if the Huskers would fare any better with the Heisman trophy winner.

The results were eerily similar to those with Martinez.

NU again finished the regular season 10-2, losing to both Wisconsin and Michigan State in games decided by 10 points or less. The offense was more productive, scoring more than 35 points nine times. The Huskers again exacted revenge on the Badgers by winning the Big Ten Championship and earning a trip to face USC in the Rose Bowl.

This is where the RGIII simulation breaks from the one with Martinez. Griffin III guided the Huskers to a 31-28 win over the Trojans and helped NU finish No. 2 in the nation behind Florida State, who won the national title.

On an odd side note, EA Sports must have been really high on Georgia's Crowell coming into the season. The running back won the Heisman, just as he did during the normal Husker simulation, but this time he just barely edged out RGIII. If Crowell were half as good as EA seems to think he is, Alabama State would contend for the national title this year.

A final comparison of the season statistics:

Martinez: 205-377, 3080 yards, 32 TD, 12 INT, 185 rushes, 939 yards, 9 TD

Griffin III: 166-262, 2217 yards, 27 TD, 4 INT, 209 rushes, 1354 yards, 14 TD

The stats are pretty similar (although for some reason the pixilated Tim Beck seems overly intent on letting Martinez sling it around). The simulations ended with just a difference of one win - but it was a win in a BCS bowl.

And of course, this is all fantasy and means nothing. But until September 1, it will have to do.




 

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