We're just a few days away from the unveiling of EA Sports' NCAA Football 14, marking yet another milestone in the long march from the BCS National Championship Game to the beginning of the new season.
The theme of this year's game is "Keep It Real," which probably thrills the NCAA's lawyers to no end as they're fighting a lawsuit arguing that the "fictional" players in the game are meant to be real-life players, but I digress. Given that theme, and with the release of the franchise's next installment coming up Tuesday, let's take a look at the overall ratings for each of the SEC teams.
And while there are all sorts of other factors to consider -- scheduling, tiebreakers, etc. -- let's use those power ratings to see what the division standings would look like if they fall in line with EA's numbers. We'll start with the West, where the leader (by a rather large margin) is unsurprising.
Now, the alphabetical order for ties makes the placement of Mississippi State even stranger than it would be -- I'd have less of a problem with them ranking fifth as opposed to seventh -- but it raises the question of just how good the Western Division Bulldogs will be this year. Only one of the bottom three teams had a winning record last year and is coming off three consecutive winning season, and it isn't Arkansas or Auburn. And it's not like Mississippi State still hasn't beaten Arkansas or Auburn under Dan Mullen -- they did so just last year. I'm not certain that Mississippi State is better than Arkansas or Auburn right now, but I'm not sure I see the case for all three of these teams being equal, either.
Ole Miss' rating also seems a bit generous to me. I don't have a problem with it being ahead of the bottom three teams -- but one point behind A&M, and rated 90 overall? Hugh Freeze has done a great job in Oxford, but I'm not sure I'd go putting the Rebels in the 90s just yet. Perhaps everyone in the bottom four ought to be backed up just a bit. (Part of this might be the way the game's system works out. The lowest team rating I've seen is a 60, and South Alabama clocks in at 68.)
On the other hand, the rankings of the top four here make a good deal of sense. You can quibble with the exact placement of LSU and Texas A&M, in particular, and whether Alabama is really that much better than either the Tigers or the Aggies. But those are largely quibbles compared with the other problems here. The order is at least defensible and perhaps even sensible.
This one gives me a bit more heartburn. First of all, by having Florida, South Carolina and Ole Miss all rated a 90, that suggests that Ole Miss is equal to the Gators and the Gamecocks, which strikes me as just a little bit of a stretch. We could test this a bit better if they were playing this year -- they're not -- but my guess is that Florida and South Carolina would both open as favorites against the Rebels. Not overwhelming favorites, perhaps, but favorites nonetheless.
But what really seems rather odd here is the bottom four. Of those four teams, one of them beat the other three in their games last year. Can anyone guess who that team was? If you said Vanderbilt, you are correct. This seems to me to be a case of ranking Vandy last because, hey, they're Vandy, not because of any tangible reasons on the field. Putting them behind Missouri, which was clobbered by injuries and all manner of other misfortune last year, might be understandable. Putting them behind a Tennessee team that they defeated by 23 points is questionable. But putting them behind a Kentucky team that they blanked 40-0 in Lexington last year seems downright ridiculous, even accounting for whatever changes might have happened in the rosters and such in the interim.
James Franklin's team might take a step back in 2013, but being at the bottom of an SEC East that still includes Kentucky and Tennessee implies that the wheels have fallen off the Commodores' road trip, and I just don't think it's likely. The 83 might be a bit too low.
Some of this gets back to the question of how the ratings themselves are devised. If Kentucky is an 84 in NCAA Football 14, that seems a bit high in and of itself. Kentucky was probably not as bad as they looked last year, and is likely better with Stoops and Co. leading the Wildcats this year. But an 84? That seems a bit high.
Of course, that would be in line with the bottom teams from the SEC West, as well. If the rankings of the bottom teams in the SEC are any indication, it looks like EA has joined those who think that even the worst teams in the SEC are better than a lot of the football that's being played out there.
Now, here's the potential fun part: If you want to participate in our next segment, keep it real in the comments below and someone will be picked to contribute to the second installment of our NCAA Football 14 preview.