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July 19, 2005

NCAA Football 06 an SC fan's guide

Many sports fans feel that early July is the worst time of year for sports: Mid-season baseball games, essentially meaningless, are a fan's only viewing outlet. However, for many people - honestly, it's mostly guys - there is the release of the new NCAA Football videogame for PS2 and Xbox. While some may consider these games childish, they give the serious SC freak an opportunity to play, preview and embrace the upcoming college football season. It may be a far cry from actually being able to run a 4.25 40-yard dash and somersaulting into the end zone at the Rose Bowl, but shredding defenses with a polygon Reggie Bush gives fans the mid-season fix they need to hold them over until September.

But fans are not the only ones who play NCAA '06. Almost every player on the team confesses to at least playing the game once, and many play the game religiously. "I got [NCAA '06] a couple days ago and have been playing it ever since," said LenDale White.

Dedicated SC fans - and players - who have played the games in the past know that there are a few faults with the games, they are easy to fix with a little time however. Having no names for the players, only position and number, is the main problem. Don't let this mislead you though: The games' developers get every detail about these players except their names.

Another problem with the game only affects those fans who are slightly neurotic about the authenticity of the rosters and player ratings. You are limited to only a 70-player roster, meaning that some key players, especially the younger ones, get the axe. While this may not be a problem for a team like Colorado State who doesn't have incredible depth, this does leave something to be desired for SC fans that want to play four or five seasons worth and have this year's incoming freshmen be the star players in 2009.

Player ratings are the most controversial topic about the game. There are18 different categories in which players are graded, with a 99 being the highest and 40 the lowest. And while the common fan will scoff at a particularly low rating, the actual player may take it personally. For instance, ask Justin Wyatt about his rating and you'll get an earful; He's listed at 5'10" and 180-pounds with 48-strength and 52-tackling.

"[I'm] too tall and too skinny," he said during a break in recent scrimmages. "I'm 5'9"1/2, that half is worth something, so I appreciate the 5'10", but I'm really 190 and I'm not weak! I should not be a 48 strength, and my tackling is not a 52, I'm too angry to have tackling at 52." Fitting comments from a cornerback known as "Lil Man".

Modesty prevented Wyatt from mentioning he's the third fastest player in the game and the ninth best cornerback overall. In all, he said he is positive about the whole situation "It's cool, I'm happy with it; I am the defensive team captain."

Kevin Thomas, a freshman CB with the same strength rating as Wyatt, laughed at his teammate's stats. They both roll up their sleeves and start flexing, trying to prove they each got a raw deal.

Thomas is also a fan of the game, and up to this year had to create himself. "I always imagined being in the game as a kid," Thomas said, with Wyatt still in earshot, "It's fun to put yourself in the game ahead of the starters like Justin Wyatt!"

Polygon position battles amongst players are the topic of much joking, except for one position: quarterback. Mark Sanchez, the top rated freshman QB - both in the game and amongst recruiters - admits that when he plays he still starts Leinart, and only puts himself in for mop-up duty. "I'm happy I'm in the game and it's fun to be a part of it because I've played it for so long," Sanchez said. "You get more into it. You get really upset when you do poorly, it makes it more personal."

Being in the game can be stressful to the players as well; Keith Rivers never wants to see his digital-self do poorly. "I don't play as myself, I think it's bad luck, since I'm not that great at the game I play as a d-lineman," he said. "I don't want to get beat."

Others, such as White, love playing as themselves and wouldn't want it any other way. But he does take some exception to his rating, a 92 overall. "I don't think it was fair, I think I should have been higher, I should be a 99 [overall]," he said.

Collin Ashton, senior middle-linebacker, was unaware of his rating, but questioned the accuracy of the game, "What do the people who make that know about football? They can't know that much, can they?" he asked. When Wyatt was quick to tell him that they scout every team thoroughly, and were at the spring practices this year he changed his stance, but not drastically, "Okay, maybe they know a little more than I give them credit for."

With all 117 D-I programs, and a good amount of D-II schools, EA Sports had 8,000 players to scout and accurately grade. And with how frequently things change in college football something had to be done to update the USC roster. I took it upon myself to make a guide to who to alter, cut, add and improve. Once you have named all the players, here are the top 10 changes that need to be made to make USC's roster more accurate*:

1. Change Manual Wright into Gabe Long, the JC transfer. Although he did not qualify academically, you can redshirt him and have him for the 2006 season. You will have to tone down his attributes. Wright was one of the top DT in the game, how far down is up to your speculations - he was the top JC DT though.
2. Change Eric Wright into JC transfer Mozique McCurtis (6-1, 225). Again, you will need to make him stronger than Wright, but slower and less athletic.
3. ROLB #47 can be changed to be Brian Cushing, who was left off the roster for some reason. Seeing Cushing, 6-4 and 235, in practice would warrant a speed rating in the low to mid 80s. Although you will not be able to redshirt him, it is better to have him in there than not at all.
4. Change Rocky Hinds into a freshman of your choice that is not in the game. I chose Kyle Moore, the freshman DE, because he is likely to play this year and not having the chance to redshirt should not matter.
5. Make Patrick Turner (WR #85) better. He is likely to be the number-three wide receiver on the depth chart to open the season. -They have him as the worst WR on the team, and he looks amazing in the summer workouts. If anything, I would raise his awareness to at least a 70 based on his work ethic alone over the summer.
6. Make LOLB #48 into stud freshman Luther Brown. Brown looks very impressive in summer workouts, warranting a bump in rating from a 68 to about a 77 overall.
7. Change DT #91 into Averell Spicer, freshman DE. Spicer is very athletic and needs his attributes to reflect this. I would suggest ratings similar to Jeff Schweiger's.
8. Change LT #65 into either Chilo Rachal or Thomas Herring. Both play on the line, both will be freshmen, both have immense potential and both were left out of the game. I chose Herring.
9. Kevin Ellison needs to be in the game. He can be the one player that you can create to fill the 70-man roster. Having only seen a little bit of Ellison in practice it is hard to put a rating on him, but anything in the mid 70s would be appropriate.
10. Little things - Move Ryan Powdrell to MLB. Appease Justin Wyatt and make him stronger. Steve Smith insists that he is faster than Dwayne Jarrett. Brandon Hancock is bigger than Arnold. Change his strength accordingly. Josh Pinkard is better than a 78. Make Chris Barrett a better athlete. Kevin Thomas weighs more than 166 pounds. Oh, and make John Walker accurate and give him a bunch of wristbands.

* When editing the players you can change all their attributes except for their year in school. And so to make the roster as accurate as possible you must get creative and make some redshirt freshmen into incoming freshman and live with not being able to redshirt them. In addition, if you're changing a DT into a RB, don't forget to take down the attributes that are pertinent to defensive players, such as tackling. It also makes things easier to print out a complete roster to get the height, weight and jersey numbers correct.



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