The Georgia State Panthers are the NCAA champions.
Who? The what?
You all heard me right. At least that’s the way it played out in the “NCAA Football 14” video game when I was back in college.
With the cancellation of the Pac-12 football season, many Pacific Northwest fans could be left wondering where do I get my collegiate football fix.
And well, I’ve got my answer for you.
Go buy NCAA 14!
The game is a classic among sports enthusiasts because it was the last college football simulation to be released, before the ruling of O’Bannon v. NCAA. In this context, the case resulted in the eradication of the popular franchise.
But enough on that.
Once you start to unwrap that shiny rectangle box with Denard Robinson on the cover, cherish that moment. You may be holding onto a piece of history. No one knows if and when there will ever be another version of this game for sale.
You slide that metallic disk into your system, and as long as there’s no red ring of death, you’re good to go. The fight music blares throughout the speakers, and it’s for some gridiron action. But right before you pick USC and blow out some no-name opponent.
You hear the words of Nick Bartlett, telling you to challenge yourself today.
I know so many people who play sports video games on the easiest difficulty, and I’ll never understand why. Is it really fun to press buttons, stare at a screen, and learn nothing?
Instead, turn the difficulty up to Heisman, start a dynasty, and pick one of the worst teams in the nation. This creates a lifelike vibe in the matchups in which every play matters. Furthermore, it feels rewarding when your team goes from playing in front of four fans to a packed stadium.
In my college years I started a dynasty with Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference. They were considered a one-star team, and entered the game with respective ratings of 60 on both offense and defense.
Obviously, some matchups can prove frustrating when your team lacks talent.
But consider it a test of your football knowledge. This isn’t real life where a team like the Panthers will get dominated by a superior team’s athleticism. If you’re able to understand the difference between a draw, dive, and screen, you may have a chance.
And I promise you, it’s possible to win.
In my first season I finished with a 5-7 record but qualified for a bowl the following year. As time progressed, I started to achieve bigger accomplishments, such as a conference titles and prestigious bowl berths.
But before we go to the glitz and glamor of national championships, let’s pay our dues to the Sun Belt Conference. One thing I learned from playing at an obscure school is that there are talented teams everywhere.
I specifically remember that I needed to be prepared for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette contests; the Ragin’ Cajuns were probably the team I feared most in-conference.
One particular night, probably four of five years into my dynasty. I decided to drink way too many beers and hop on the sticks. I’d built up my program and figured the Sun Belt foes couldn’t hang anymore.
The details are blurry.
But to the best of my recollection I was trailing by four points with three seconds left, and 35 yards away from the game-winning touchdown. In other words, I was screwed.
I took the only option I had left and chucked the ball into the endzone where one of my receivers miraculously came down with the pigskin. I’ll never forget that one. I actually just started laughing and a huge smile shined across my face in remembrance of this moment.
But on Heisman difficulty, you can’t win them all.
In another glorious dynasty, this time with the Washington State Cougars I was en route to a three-peat national championship run.
Shutup, yes, I played this game a lot.
This particular team I had was probably one of the most talented squads I’d ever assembled, so I had a special love for this group. However, I knew I was in for it, as I had USC rolling into town for a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup.
This back and forth affair came down the wire in Martin Stadium.
With about two minutes left, I returned a punt for a touchdown to give my hometown Cougs a six-point lead. All I needed was one stop for glory. But the Trojans had other plans. They methodically drove down the field, my gut sinking in my stomach the whole time.
I felt like I was playing Tom Brady.
My two-time champion Cougars were talented, but this was still USC, and top to bottom they were the better team on paper.
The Men of Troy continued their push and ultimately punched the ball in the endzone with about 20 seconds left. After a couple unsuccessful passes, time ran out and my room fell silent.
USC had stolen my shine.
So, what are you waiting for? Go buy this game and create your own lasting memories. It may not be real life but it’s a heck of a ride.
And for Peter’s sake, turn up that damn difficulty