It was around this time a year ago when I wrote one of my favorite pieces for this site, “If NCAA Football 21 Existed: Louisville Player Ratings,” and I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide y’all with this year’s edition. A lot has changed, but let’s start this exercise by looking back at where things sat with the EA Sports’ NCAA Football series just a year ago:
“July 9th, 2013 – It was a normal July day. Just days before Joey Chestnut had scarfed down 69 hot dogs to take home his seventh-consecutive mustard belt, Andy Murray won Wimbledon in dramatic fashion at his home venue against Novak Djokovic, college football media days were in full swing, and the MLB All-Star weekend was just around the corner. Yet, the only thing on any sports fan’s mind was the most important preseason teaser in all of sports: EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2014 Launch Day.
Little did we know that this would be the last grand reveal of one of the most treasured sports video games in existence. Seven years later NCAA 14 has become that of folklore. Each July since the EA Sports had to shut down its NCAA Football franchise, fans and gamers around the world mourn and reminisce about the golden days when you could turn Eastern Michigan into a dynasty that would make even the likes of Bear Bryant and Knute Rockne envious. And during this pandemic there were surges on aftermarket sites like eBay where those same fans bought PS3s and old copies of NCAA 14 for outrageous prices, just to have a little good old fashioned fun while the world changed around us.
But unfortunately, as we sweat through mid-July once again, there’s that sudden and inexplicable pang in our hearts and feeling of an emptiness that can never be filled again. We scramble through our minds trying to figure out which ex-high school lover is making us feel this way again before we realize it’s something much much worse: It’s the realization that NCAA Football is dead. And it will be (maybe) forever.”
That last line hasn’t aged well, and thank God it hasn’t. As the momentum behind NIL began to grow, EA Sports announced in February of this year that there are legitimate plans to bring back the beloved video game series. There isn’t a set date that the game is expected to return, but with NCAA athletes now able to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness, the door is wide open for the game to return. With the amount of time it takes for video game developers to put something of this magnitude together, it’s anticipated that we could see the game return by 2023 or 2024. I’m in the camp that thinks we’ll see something in 2023.
Now, with NIL the game may look a little different. EA Sports shouldn’t have any issue getting licenses from all 130 FBS programs to use their logos, stadiums, and uniforms. But where things will be different is the players themselves. It will be virtually impossible for EA Sports to get every single FBS football player to agree on the same terms, unless some kind of players association or union gets formed, so instead of having “Player #8” look and play exactly like Lamar Jackson, we’ll probably get just a generic/blank slate roster that the users can edit freely.
And the good news is, people are already doing this!
Each year since EA Sports shut down their NCAA Football, the at Operation Sports have kept the NCAA Football series alive by combing through and meticulously updating the entire NCAA 14 rosters to reflect the rosters of today. They spend countless, unpaid hours poring through spring practice reports, depth charts, game film, high school film, and recruiting camp results to make the most accurate and up-to-date rosters available. One of the team leaders on the project, BossHawgMichigan, has a great explainer if you’re interested in learning more about their methodology.
This means that if you currently have a PS3 or an Xbox 360 and a copy of NCAA 14, you can download the latest roster and play as if the game never went away. It’s awesome.
As of August 16th, the team at Operation Sports has updated 72 of the 126 teams in the game to the latest rosters post-spring football. And thankfully for us, Louisville is one of them.
And with that, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you all to the 2021 Virtual Louisville Cardinals.
In this year’s edition Louisville’s overall rating slips from 2020’s 88 Overall rating down to 84. The overall rating sounds fair, but the offensive and defensive ratings are baffling. Bill Connelly’s SP+ has Louisville’s offense ranked 18th overall, and the defense 95th. I don’t think the offense will finish the season Top-20, but I also think the defense will finish below 80th. So….yeah, Not sure how to explain this one.
Malik’s overall rating takes a hit after his unstable performance last year as he slips from 86 overall to 84. Looks like it’s his throwing accuracy rating (THA) that’s fallen from an 85 to a 79. Have to think his interceptions are what’s being factored in there. Evan Conley was infamously snubbed last year as he received a 69 overall rating, but he finally gets the respect he deserves and makes a big jump to 74 overall. As for T.J. Lewis, he somehow has a higher speed rating than Tyler Harrell. So he should be fun to use on option plays in the game.
After a fairly quiet season last year, Hassan Hall sees his overall rating plummet from 87 overall to 79. A bit harsh, but I think low-80s is where he’ll end up. As for Jalen Mitchell, he should be starting the season with a low-80 rating, but I can understand that he may be an unknown commodity to the folks at Operation Sports. I think that’ll change quickly.
I know, I know. They used the TEs as the FBs. Don’t raise hell over it. The game’s weird.
Shai Werts receiving the highest overall rating for WR is wild and if he ends up being our best receiver in real life that probably means something horrible has gone wrong, and that’s not a knock on him. Also, Tyler Harrell only having a 93 speed rating when he runs a 4.19 forty is outrageous. I’ll probably manually update that one to 99.
Yes, I see the Francis Sherman rating. Yes, I’m on may way to Operation Sports’ headquarters to beat some ass.
I think they actually nailed these ratings. The o-line looks stacked and the depth is there, just like in real life.
I will be using Yaya on every single blitz, thank you very much.
Love these ratings. I know it’s hard to work in Jack Fagot at the star position, since there’s nothing really like that in the game. But this looks about as good as they can make it.
Tre Clark’s coverage ratings are absurd. And correct!
I’m going to run so many fake field goals with those passer ratings.
Going to score a billion kick return TDs with Shai “Uncle” Werts.
Starter and former 5-Star long snapper Mitch Hall getting snubbed from the game for a second year in a row breaks my heart for him.
And there you have it once again! The most accurate player evaluations in history. Surely you all won’t disagree with any of this.