I predict the Razorbacks will go 14-0, will be BCS Champs, and Jonathan Williams will take home the Heisman trophy. You probably think I’m crazy right? Oh wait, I left out one important detail - this will all happen in a video game. (Editor's note: As Dumbledore says, "but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?")
EA Sports is set to release its annual CFB franchise NCAA ‘14 on Tuesday, July 9th. I’ve had all iterations of the game since 2007; each year the developer does a great job building the franchise by adding new exciting features and this year is no different. Arkansas fans have a lot to look forward to in NCAA ‘14.
The game features an all-new presentation system including Neutral Site Games, new music, and new broadcast elements, in addition to new gameplay capabilities such as Infinity Engine 2 physics, Stumble Recovery, Force Impact Trucking, and improved blocking AI. These new mechanics will likely be put to good use by anyone who plays as Arkansas – just follow Kiero Small and the broken facemasks.
Arkansas’ ratings seem quite generous at 88 OVERALL, 88 OFFENSE, and 87 DEFENSE. According to the game, Kicker Zach Hocker is the highest rated player on the team; no joke. I’ll be the first to say that is highly uncommon and I’m not sure what that says about the team, both virtually and in real life.
Considering what the team lost on offense with Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Knile Davis and Chris Gragg, an 88 on offense is fairly surprising. That rating tells me the folks at EA Sports have respect and high expectations for Coach Bielema at Arkansas. Virtually speaking, the offense should be ok with returning talent on the O-Line led by the top rated offensive player and preseason All-American Travis Swanson.
The running game will play a significant role with this team. In the game, users will be able to utilize the new running game mechanics to make defenders pay with precise user-controlled juking, steel bar stiff arms, and sky high hurdling - and remember, Kiero Small's force impact trucking! Jonathan Williams could have a breakout season with an emphasis on the running game under this new coaching staff. Don’t forget that there is incoming talent like RB Alex Collins, TE Hunter Henry, and OL Denver Kirkland. Highly rated incoming players are generally given a decent bump in the ratings. The virtual Hogs’ offense should be a formidable foe in NCAA ’14 with this year’s enhancements. Hopefully reality matches the game’s expectations for the Hogs on offense; honestly I have my doubts.
The defense isn’t wholly forgotten here. In the game, the Razorbacks’ D-Line features 3 of the team’s top 10 rated players: Chris Smith, Byran Jones, and Robert Thomas. I’m thinking, where is Trey Flowers? (Editor's note II: If Flowers isn't among Arkansas' top 10 players in the game, that's a strike against keeping it real) Another defensive player rated in the top 10 is S Eric Bennett. That side of the ball doesn’t feature many highly rated impact players. But as a whole, the defense is rated strongly enough to be serviceable in the game.
Special Teams is pretty solid with Zach Hocker rated a 93 overall, so go ahead and boot that 60 yarder at The Swamp…. in the video game, not in real life Coach B.
The Hogs aren’t favorites in the SEC-West by any means; most pundits are picking them around 4 to 6 wins. That is to be expected with new coaching staff/system, inexperience at key positions, and a TOUGH schedule. As a Hog fan, you might want to supplement the upcoming season with a virtual one from NCAA’14 from EA Sports – I know I will be.
Go ahead and "keep it real" in the comments by telling us what you think about the upcoming season and this game. Are the Arkansas ratings accurate? What game features are you looking forward to the most? Let us know. We'll be selecting at least one commenter to join us for another post in a couple of weeks in which we'll use the game as a springboard to discuss the actual teams.