Simulated Season Part 1: Half A League, Onward

Here we go. The start of August and practice means that the 2012 Louisville football season is officially here. I have been dreading this moment. Not the regular season; the simulated season. That's right, for the fourth (?) time I have simulated the entire season on NCAA 20xx and am planning on writing about it in three separate, extremely wordy, drastically-in-need-of-editing posts. And I have been dreading it. One reason: these are a pain to write, and I think by now pretty much every joke has been used, overused, and then joked about how overused it is. Two is, How many more words can I come up with for "caught" to describe the touchdowns?

But the real reason I am dreading this is that the last 4 have been all over the place in terms of predictive value, but mainly not very good. Last year's results were very, very bad and very, very wrong. See, EA servers? You did not have enough RAM to account for Charlie Strong. That felt like a bad omen at the time, and a 2-4 start with a closer-than-should-have-been win over Murray State, losses to FIU and Marshall and a struggling offense didn't help matters. But then some stuff happened, and I ended up freezing my b--ls off watching the players play their b--ls off in a bowl game.

We are in uncertain times. All of a sudden UofL is the conference favorite, but half the league is moving on or has already left, or never showed up like they said they would. And we are trying to get as far away from the half that remains as possible. College football is moving from the hated BCS that protected the blue bloods and hoarded the money, to some sort of weird SuperBCS that will give another layer of protection to the bluebloods and hoard even more money. Conference affiliation is now a thing, a thing that really matters, for money, recruits, post-season, and, ultimately, whether Charlie Strong will still be fist-pumping in the Yum! come February of 2013. Instead of feeling like the beginning of something really amazing, this season feels like we are approaching the end of something.

But on the field, none of that should matter. We have really good players this year. We have continuity on the staff and in the 2-deep. We have a schedule that sets up well. But all of that means that our players are now in a position where, if they win, they were supposed to, oh, and the Big East sucks anyway. And if they lose? Don't want to think about it. So if this season simulation is really bad, that would suck to write. And what if it is really good? Am I just adding to the pressure of the thankless task that lays before a bunch of, frankly, teenage boys? Is it fair to put all of those expectations and the added pressure of The Future Of The Program, Hanging In The Balance on them?

Has it ever felt worse to be a fan of college football on a global, long-term level? Has there been a more exciting time to be a fan of Louisville Cardinal football in the short term?

Much less serious stuff, (new and Improved thematic arcs, now featuring The Wire references!)......after the jump.

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I did this simulation the day the game came out, but after I had downloaded the available roster and tweaked our guys upward. Mainly because EA had our people way too low and it doesn't seem fair, and also because I am a complete homer and this is my pointless exercise, don't go outside of the chain of command to complain to Mike, and just deal with it.

Game 1 (0-0, 0-0) - Kentucky @ Louisville

I also played this game instead of simulating it. Anyway, the schedule works out well again this year. Not sure how the UK game would have gone as the first game last year, but I think the way it played out was I guess how it needed to play out, and while Will Stein did not deserve to get hurt and then lose his starting job, deserve has nothing to do with it. But UK deserves an absolute beat down this year, and the schedule has us playing in the first game of the season, the 3:30 game on Sunday, so that we can start the 2012 Rampage Tour with style.

Record for earliest ever digression: it feels like with everything going on with TV, money, conference, respect, etc., considering we get to play Pitt and Syracuse one last time, and Cincinnati stands in our way of a BCS bowl, and everything that has happened with UK in the post-3/27 world.....I dunno, just feels like a good season to just stomp on some mfers and just, you know, Rampage. Maybe with AwNaw (POD/Nappy Roots version) playing in the background? I dunno. There's something there.

Anyway, what we are for now calling the Rampage starts halfway through the first quarter: Michaelee Harris gets a short pass from Teddy and takes it 53 yards for a touchdown. UK answers with a field goal in the 2nd quarter, then Teddy finds Chris White for a 6 yard TD and UK hits a field goal as time expires for a 14-6 halftime lead. There is not much scoring in the third quarter as the author and the players are a little rusty from not having played in awhile, but a UK field goal cuts it to 14-9 heading into the 4th quarter. On the ensuing drive, Jeremy Wright puts it in from 3 yards out and the Cards hold on for a 21-9 victory that was never in doubt, but likely would have been larger if I called better plays.

We moved the ball much better - 13 first downs, 294 total yards, and 100 yards on the ground, against UK's 9 first downs and 56 yards in the ground, but two turnovers (both interceptions, totally my fault Teddy) helped keep it close. Both teams scored on both trips to the red zone, but the Cards converted touchdowns while UK settled for field goals. The Cards were great on 3rd down, converting 4 of 5 attempts, while UK struggled going 5-11. All in all, stats skewed by a human playing, but we've covered that.

Teddy had an efficient game: 8-12, 194 yards, 2 TDs and a 224.1 passer rating. The INTs totally my fault again, Ted, sorry. Corvin Lamb carried the load on the ground, rushing 11 times for 66 yards, although Jeremy Wright had the longest run, highest average and only rushing TD, so maybe I should have gone to him more. Brown and Perry both had a couple carries, and no I will not rhyme this couplet. The throws were spread evenly among Rogers, Parker and Harris, although Eli caught 3 balls for 103 yards, and the other 2 had just 2 for 22 and 63 yards respectively. Need to practice what I screech and throw downfield to Parker more. Alex Kupper: FOUR PANCAKES.

The defense was led by Preston Brown with 7 tackles from the MLB spot, so that's realistic. Hakeem Smith and Andrew Johnson both had 4 tackles and Brandon Dunn had the only sack.

For UK......who the f cares, UK sucks. Some guys did some stuff but it wasn't enough.

Serious talk time: I cannot imagine how hyped this place is going to be in a month for this game, but we have to be careful not to read too much into the results. Anything less than a 2006-style beatdown is setting up to be a disappointment, but that should not be the case. A win is a win. And a win over those blueberries would be sweeter than the 8th grade Randy and Dukie on The Wire, which, in case I had not mentioned, I recently watched and found to be, like, totally the best show ever how have you never seen it?

Game 2 (1-0, 0-0) - FCS Midwest @ Louisville

I never understood why they have to call these schools by these names, but there are lots of things I don't understand. Like why, on that one episode of The Wire, just kidding.

A properly simulated game gets proper stats: an early FG and a 6 yard TD pass to Harris give the Cards a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but FCS MW does what UK failed to do and gets a touchdown of their own to cut it to 10-7. The second quarter goes much better, as the Cards extend the lead to 24-7 at half behind a 27 TD pass to Corvin Lamb (who I may have gone overboard in juking his ratings, but I am excited about him) and an 8 yard Teddy TD run. The third and fourth quarters also see TDs: finally throwin' the ball downfield to motherf---ng DeVante Parker, first for a 22 yard TD pass and then a 39 yard TD pass in the opening moments of the 4th. And there was much rejoicing as the easiest game on the schedule is an easy win and Parker gets TD catches which makes everyone happy, 38-9.

FCS MW apparently can move the chains: 23 first downs to our 17, including 220 yards on 44 rushes - yikes, what a boring offense. 9-29 passing sounds more like it, and 2 fumbles lost probably did not help them. They made it to the Red Zone thrice but came away with only one TD to show for it. The Cards racked up 436 total yards, 211 on the ground and 14-22 passing for 225 yards and 4 TDs, with no turnovers, so, basically what we expect of Teddy every game including the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. But maybe more passes and a higher percentage and more yards, but 4 TDs is fine I guess. Perry and Corvin split carries thanks to the Formations Subs feature, with Lamb going for 68 yards on 13 carries and Perry getting 37 yards on 10 carries. I guess we are a wishbone team or something because Teddy got 93 yards on 10 carries as well, including a 22 yard run and a TD. So, again, what we expect from Teddy: more than 300 yards of total offense and 5 TDs with no turnovers, and a 9.3 average per carry. No pressure, bro.

Parker led the WRs in a big way, getting 6 grabs for 145 yards and the 2 scores. Passes were otherwise given out evenly among Harris, Rogers, Nord, White and Lamb, so that's cool. I feel as if everyone would be getting along after this game and that makes me happy.

Preston Brown again gets tackles lots of the tackles, and Bushell and Jermaine Reve (remember that guy? he might show us some stuff this season for real) join Hakeem Smith with a lot of tackles from the secondary. I guess they basically just run the whole time and block really well? Bushell keeps his reputation as a playmaker by forcing a fumble and Charles "Don't Call Me Garth" Gaines gets into the action by forcing another one. First, I just realized Charles Gaines may not even have been born during the whole Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines fiasco and second I don't know as I sit here today what position Charles Gaines will be playing, but last I read he was a WR right? But that could change again?

Anyway, lots of guys on defense get tackles, but no sacks. And the Cards continue their upward trajectory in terms of challenging opponents, and get the most important non-conference game on the schedule, as whatever is left of the North Carolina Tar Heels come to town in mid-September. That is going to be a HUGE game and I for one cannot wait. Kinda like in 2006: talented ACC opponent on a national Saturday game. Statement potential. Lots of downside. Larry Fedora (I'm sure Larry Fedora saw highlights of that game or maybe even watched it live so that counts).

Game 3 (2-0, 0-0) - North Carolina @ Louisville

Big game. Back and forth game. No one scores in the first quarter, but the Cards take the lead on a 2 yard TD pass to Parker, who now has 3 for those scoring at home. A UNC field goal cuts the lead, but Harris gets a 19 yard TD pass and PJCS is rocking as the Cards lead 14-3 closing in on halftime. If we can just get to halftime with that lead. But with 1:30 left, a 55 yard TD pass that looks like it was probably a screen to Bernard quiets the crowd and brings UNC to within 14-10 at the midway point. The Cards strike first and extend the lead on the first drive of the third quarter as Michaelee Harris gets a 3 yard TD pass for a 21-10 tally. UNC answers a couple drives later, and goes for 2 to bring them within a field goal (seems a little early to be using the chart?) and then takes the lead with 22 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, both on short Bernard runs. I hate that guy. Anyway UNC leads 25-21 to start the 4th quarter.

The Cards get a field goal to cut it to 1 point, but a 19 yard TD pass extends the lead back to 8, 32-24. Holy crap, this one is going down to the wire: with 5 seconds left Corvin Lamb goes off left tackle for a 5 yard TD run, and the score is 32-30. A two point conversion will send this game to overtime.

But it is not to be. 2 point conversion fails and UofL loses 32-30. So close. At the time you think, well, it was a close loss, UNC is a good team, it came down to a 2-point conversion to tie, we don't look bad, it doesn't matter. But in maybe my favorite scene of the whole series, as Carver says to Herc, "It all matters. I know we thought it didn't, but....it does." Sums up life, the show, and this 3,000 word post on a regional sports blog about a video game simulation of a college sport in which none of us actually participate. In no particular order.

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The stats show that we outplayed UNC: 29 Cards! First! Down! (so help me god I hope they don't play the Taco Bell bell after every 3rd one or whatever this year. When they DIDN'T play it my brain would do weird things and I felt like I was in a car when someone hasn't brought it to a complete stop but you aren't really moving, and that anticipation for a full stop that doesn't happen induces slight vertigo. I may have problems.) to UNC's 16. 464 total yards to 328 to UNC. Better on 3rd down (8-12 v. 5-12) and a better passing day (22-32 v. 15-23). But as you can guess, turnovers did this: 4 for us (2 of each) and one interception for UNC. That -3 turnover differential, along with giving up the big play on the screen before half, are what people point to the following week.

And somewhat Teddy: 22-32, 265 yards and 3 TDs are awesome, but the 2 INTs are tough, and he had both the fumbles. Were they his fault? Hard to tell. He is just a true sophomore starting his like 10th game. Also, too, 6 sacks which means either the UNC defensive front is monstrous and scary or our OL is not as good as we need it to be, or both. Actually, twas Kupper who gave up all the sacks. Hope he ate a couple extra lobsters and gets some more weight on him before the season starts. Corvin had a good day and got most of the carries: 20 rushes for 118 yards. But the longest was 13 yards, and he didn't have much YAC. Perry was the only other RB to touch the ball, going 9 carries for 44 yards. Teddy had 18 carries for 34 yards so there's some scrambling and some sacks in there, not sure how that really shakes out. IRL they need to fix QB rushing stats to reflect the true nature of QB runs v. sacks v. scrambles. Have advanced metrics come to football? I do not believe so, but science should figure that out.

Harris leads the way from the receiving corps, with 9 snags for 114 yards and 2 TDs. DeVante had a good one too, 7 receptions for 84 yards and 1 TD. The rest were spread out, and Eli does not get as much love in the game as he does in real life from Teddy.

Brandon Dunn was heard from today, getting 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack. Unfortunately, Preston Brown had a bad stat game: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, and that's it. Charles Gaines had the INT. Football could really use some advanced metrics on defensive statistics because it is hard to tell who did what and whether that was good. Like Smith and Bushell both had 5 tackles but UNC scored a lot in the air, so was that their fault? Who knows.

And so the Cards will not go undefeated, and the Big East thing gets worse. I feel lousy, like I am a mere cog in an institution that will keep going with or without me and that I cannot change and only cares about propagating itself, not doing the Right Thing. Like the BCS. THE BCS IS LIKE THE WIRE. That just happened.

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Game 4 (2-1, 0-0) Louisville @ FIU

So this becomes a big game. Last year I had some fun with hothot about his fear of TY Hilton, but it turns out he pretty much nailed it. TY ain't walking through that swamp, though, as Louisville travels to pretty much the worst place on earth, the state of Florida, for a Friday night game against Mario "No I would rather coach here than in New Jersey in the Big East" Cristobal and his fightin' panthers of FIU. We really need to win this game. The weather must be awful or, as Florida calls it, weather because there is not much going on here. No scoring in the first quarter, at home or alone, but two field goals from Fletcher give us a 6-0 lead at half. FIU cuts it to 6-3 in what is either the most tense, hard fought defensive game of the week or just a crapfest in a monsoon. Senorice Perry breaks through with a 4 yard TD run with about 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and a 13-3 lead seems like it will be enough. A late field goal (brilliantly going for 3 down 10 so they could offsides and try for a bomb, which no coach actually does in real life) provides the final score of 13-6.

We did more with the ball than FIU did: 241 total yards to their 210, 108 on the ground (38 rushes) to their 99 (32 attempts) and more passing yards (133 v. 111). There were a lot of plays: we ran it 38 times and passed 33, they ran a total of 65 plays. They left points on the board, getting into the red zone 4 times and only getting 2 FGs out of it. For 6 points. That's math. Turnovers, specifically interceptions, seem to be a problem: 2 this game, and only 1 pick of FIU.

Rough outing for Teddy, 13-33, 2 INTs and no TDs is good for a 61.1 rating, and I have no idea if that is good or bad but I guess it is average? Anyway, Teddy also ran 23 times for 89 yards and took 3 sacks, so I have no idea what was happening there. Corvin and Perry shared carries equally (7 apiece) although neither did much with the ball, combining for 19 TOTAL yards. Harris had another good game, leading the team with 6 catches for 57 yards. Eli finally got a big play, getting a 31 yard catch including 10 YAC on that play. DeVante was slowed down, 4 catches for 28 yards.

I think what is obviously going on is that this was a slop fest and neither team could do much because of the weather. Florida really is the worst.

After last week's down performance, the defense held well: BJ Dubose was a man, getting 8 tackles including 4 tackles for loss. Preston Brown also atoned, getting 6 and an interception he brought back 29 yards. Hakeem Smith had 3 "back of the house" tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 2 deflections. So a good game for him.

And so the Cards end the first third of the season 3-1, with only a last-second loss. I promise I simulated this season just once and this, and what will follow next week, is what came out. Everything that I write about was predicted by the game. I have not embellished, rewritten or juked what happened on the first simulation.

If it's in the game, it's all in the game.

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