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NCAA 13 Virtually Predicts the Season

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some self-proclaimed gamers. We’re not talking about people who kill some time and relieve some stress by popping on the XBOX. We’re talking about Gamers. With a capital G. The kinds of people who stay up all night, forget about worldly things like commitments and hygiene, and blinking be damned, game for hours on end. Let us not be confused with those folks, but the OTP leadership does enjoy some virtual entertainment from time to time. Most notably of the college football variety. So it’s a no-brainer that we would look to our digital overlords to predict what to expect from the 2012 Cardinals.

Any college football fan who also considers themselves of the gaming persuasion always looks forward to summer when EA Sports helps us fill the void of football-less days with digital football instead with their NCAA Football franchise. I’m not saying I take a vacation day from work when the game comes out, I’m not saying I don’t. I’m just saying for some people, it’s a big deal. So with game in hand, plasma on HD mode, and hungry for some nuggets of optimism I decided to see how NCAA 2013 sees this season playing out for our beloved Cardinal and White. In order to have some good methodology, three seasons were simulated.

Record: 4-8 (2-6 MAC)
In what I would classify as “disappointing”, the Cardinals struggled to get off the ground in this particular season. Though they did beat IU. Well played, EA Sports. Jamill Smith, Austin Holtz, and Barrington Scott were all injured for the majority of the season as well, which I’m sure contributed to the 4-8 ledger. Miami beat Northern Illinois for the conference championship, LSU won the national championship, Rex Burkhead won the Heisman, and there was exactly zero BSU players on the 1st or 2nd team All MAC teams. Stellar. The stats leaders…

Passing: Wenning 190-411, 2311 yards, 13 TDs, 14 INTs
Rushing: Edwards 163 attempts, 813 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Tomlinson 53 catches, 802 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Martin 80
Sacks: Miles 5.5
Tackles for Loss: Miles 15
Interceptions: Pinkston 2

Record: 4-8 (3-5 MAC)
Record remains the same, but the MAC record improves. The lone out of conference win? The IU Hoosiers. Which makes me smile. The injuries continued in simulation 2.0, as Willie Snead, Zane Fakes, and Jonathan Newsome all spent considerable time on the injury report. Toledo beat Miami in the virtual MAC Championship and in true SEC trolling fashion, Georgia wins the national championship. Orwin Smith from Georgia Tech takes home the Heisman, and yet again no BSU players landed on the first or second team All-MAC rosters. Stat leaders for 2.0…

Passing: Wenning 191-399, 2596 yards, 18 TDs, 22 INTs
Rushing: Edwards 180 attempts, 932 yards, 4 TDs
Receiving: Smith 66 catches, 826 yards, 6 TDs
Tackles: Freeman 43
Sacks: Hinton 5
Tackles for Loss: Ollie 17
Interceptions: Pinkston 5

Record: 6-7 (4-4 MAC)
BOWL: Military Bowl vs. Navy (L)
It would be all too fitting for me if this is actually how 2012 plays out as I have relocated from the Washington DC area. Surprisingly, though, I wouldn’t at all be shocked as the various what have you’s about this simulation seem the most plausible. Miami beats Toledo for the MAC Championship and USC hoists the big hardware. Denard Robinson adds to the legend of Brady Hoke with a Heisman. Jahwan Edwards and Jason Pinkston are selected first team All MAC and Kitt O’Brien is a second team selection. The stats…

Passing: Wenning 193-429, 2359 yards, 12 TDs, 14 INTs
Rushing: Edwards 197 attempts, 1117 yards, 11 TDs
Receiving: Smith 54 catches, 765 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Freeman 34
Sacks: Miles 5
Tackles for Loss: Ollie 15
Interceptions: Pinkston 8

Now, what does all this tell us, other than that I have far too much free time on my hands? Not much of course. But the thing that gives me a little bit of hope is the third and final simulation had the most realistic non-BSU outcomes and they had the Cards going bowling. I’ll take it! Looks like the Cardinals are going for the digital Rise Up.

Fixing Student Apathy is Easier Said than Done

Making some noise for your Cardinals! That does not mean they are “your” Cardinals.

New athletic director Bill Scholl is trying to increase attendance from the student body at Ball State home games. The plan being if more students come then it will create a livelier atmosphere attracting more fans. Coach Lembo has even started a Twitter account to improve communication with students.

It is a good goal to have, but it is just not going to happen.

Student attendance at Ball State games has been a big issue for every year except the magical 2008 season. There are plenty of factors but when it comes down to it; Ball State students are not Ball State fans.

With ESPN, geography does not matter much anymore. Countless times I saw students wearing North Carolina and Duke gear on campus. One of my best friends had no connection to Duke but knew their whole basketball roster and made sure to watch every game. When it came to Ball State games he was apathetic.

Think about it, by the time a person is say 15, he or she will have knowledge of the best teams in college sports and developed some favorites. Before one even considers college he or she is likely a passionate fan of one or more college team.

Since Ball State earns little media attention, future students typically do not become fans until they truly are students. At that point most students have ties to other schools. I was one of them living in Lexington, Kentucky the first eight years of my life. It is a poor assumption that incoming freshman will be passionate about a football team they know nothing about. My fanaticism with Ball State developed late but for many students it does not develop at all.

For comedic purposes here is how I became a Ball State fan starting all the way back in grade school.

1996: Saw the first minute of the Las Vegas Bowl between Nevada and Ball State. Had no idea what Ball State was and thought it was a stupid name. A decade later I discovered the Cardinals lost.

2001: Shocked that some school named Ball State advanced to the final in the Maui Invitational. Because I hated Duke I rooted for Ball State to win the final game. Living in Kentucky at the time, I learned that Ball State was located somewhere in Indiana.  With little knowledge of the northern half of the state I assumed it was near Bloomington in either Seymour or Columbus.

2004: Attended a summer journalism workshop at Ball State as a high school freshman. Learned Ball State played in the MAC. The only schools in the conference that I could previously name were Marshall, Toledo, and Miami. The latter I assumed was in Florida.

Larry Fitzgerald may be on the cover but all know Dante Ridgeway was the star.

2005: Played my first college football video game. After playing as my favorite teams in Kentucky and Purdue I played as Ball State for the added challenge. Dante Ridgeway is still open.

2006: Because of my interest in Ball State’s journalism program it was almost a lock I was going to Muncie. Pushed Peyton Stovall to the max in NCAA 06 March Madness and won it all. I know Ball State can win in basketball because Electronic Arts says so. Stovall became and still is my favorite Ball State athlete from watching him persevere through multiple coaches and poor teams his junior and senior seasons.

2007: Attended Ball State’s football loss at IU wearing a Ball State shirt my senior year of high school. Took crap for it and could not have been happier. That same year I was cheering for Western Michigan to beat Iowa simply because they were a MAC school. I had gone off the deep end.

Bottom line, it is not easy to become a Cardinals fan. Ball State has to fight through the bigger schools just to grab attention.

I was interested in sports going in, most students are not. The school is filled with nursing, education, and architecture majors who are not interested or too busy to attend games. The rest of the student body has allegiances elsewhere. They are fans of IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Duke, Boise State, and everything in between. At multiple home games I recall students asking people next to them with smart phones to check the Notre Dame score. Their body may be in Scheumann Stadium, but their heart is elsewhere.

It is hard to be passionate about Ball State sports when it is not your favorite school. I do not see how Scholl or anyone in the athletic department can change that. Students are new to the history of the program causing blank faces when Rick Majerus or Bonzi Wells comes up. I guarantee you most students could not name more than a couple of MAC schools. The only thing students know about Western Michigan is that it is somewhere in western Michigan. Speaking of which the Broncos and Chippewas have it tough too.

To be a Ball State fan your focus can not be about winning national championships. You care about respect more. That is why when Kent State made it to the College World Series or Ohio to the Sweet 16 we rallied behind them. What those schools did was grab the aristocratic BCS schools by the lapels of their suits and yell “Don’t Tread on Me!” That is how you go Revolutionary War on the BCS.

Ball State had their turn to do that in 1990, Maui in 2001, and the 2008 football season. Life of a Ball State fan is meaningful as you never take any victory for granted. Compare that to when Ohio State wins a football game it is logged as another conquest to be forgotten the next day. I know how it feels from being a Kentucky basketball fan. Winning is so expected fans become numb to it. That is why Kentucky fans react more passionately to losses.

When Ball State has a chance to beat a BCS team time seems to slow down. I can tell you what I was doing when Ball State pushed Michigan in 06 and Nebraska in 07. Those were moments where Ball State fans said “Oh my God is this really happening?” For Michigan and Nebraska it was just another game.

It is difficult to reach this point for many students. They grew up thinking it was all about going to the BCS and Final Four. If your school does not have the resources to make it there many students say “What’s the point?” They fail to see the intrigue of trying to beat Clemson or South Florida with one hand tied behind their back as a small school. The only question students have is “Why can’t you beat them?” It does not help that when students visit the Muncie Mall there is just as much IU and Purdue garb for sale as Ball State. The implied message students receive is Ball State is and will always be second-rate.

If Ball State is serious about attendance its best bet is to build the identification Muncie residents have with the school. When residents view the Cardinals as representation of the area, like a third senator, attendance will rise. It is going to be tough but until places like New Castle, Anderson, Portland, Richmond, and even Muncie identify stronger with Ball State empty seats will be an issue.

A close example is when Indiana State placed a “WV” on their helmets to claim they represent the “Wabash Valley.” Fresno State does the same with their helmets. May sound cheesy but if Ball State makes the claim it represents “Eastern Indiana,” or the “White River Valley” it could help residents take pride in the team.

I like that Scholl and Lembo are taking proactive routes to improve the fan base, but if they think they can get more students to come to games I have a feeling they will be introduced to student apathy the hard way.

Why Should Quale Have All the Fun?

Say perhaps you’re a fan of the underdog and have no reason to throw a gamecover with the human bowling ball known as Quale Lewis in your NCAA ’11 case like we suggested and created for you yesterday. Then feast your eyes on this…

BOOM. Parrish’d. You’re welcome, America.

Who Needs Tebow When You Have Quale

Like many, I was somewhat disappointed that the cover boy of NCAA ’11 this year would be the Tebowchild. Granted, I love me some Bible verses and some baby rhino-ness, but enough is enough. There are far better players or perhaps more interesting characters to grace that cover. I can think of one from Ball State. Enjoy…

(click the image to enlarge, print, insert in case… )

The Scheu Updated in NCAA Football 11! Finally!

Yes, we’re nerds. Yes, we still play video games. Yes, it sort of irked us that Scheumann Stadium didn’t look quite right last year with no end zone seating and no updated press box. Fire up, boys and girls, because Virtual Scheumann looks damn good.

It only took a couple of years, but EA Sports finally got it right.

From 2010:

And the pressbox from 2011:

The End Zone from 2010:

And now the endzone from 2011… with pillars, baby!

This is exciting for a whole host of reasons, most notably is now Edge and I can find something else to bitch about regarding NCAA 11. Game on, Cardinal fans!


Nothing to do with Notre Dame, but this small leprechaun does make an appearance in this column

Edge is back. And let me tell you something – there has been no shortage of news in the college football world. Conferences are expanding and contracting, and it seems like we’re just a few moves away from some serious super-conferences that may completely kill the BCS. But that’s for another time, possibly a podcast?

Since our pseudo-hibernation, I’ve learned a few things. You might want to take some notes. The first thing to remember is this: the Luxor in Vegas makes some pretty strong scotch drinks. So strong in fact, you’ll think roulette is a sure winner, even when you’re down to your last five dollars. The lesson here is: avoid the Luxor’s scotch.

The second lesson: Don’t kneel when taking a picture with a midget dressed as a leprechaun. Apparently they hate that.

The third lesson: always set aside $60 in mid-July. That’s right NCAA fans – EA sports is releasing NCAA Football ’11 on July 13. I hope you’ve saved some vacation days, because this one is going to be pretty involved.

First of all, the Dynasty mode will probably cause you to lose your job. Not only will you be able to recruit from your console of choice, you will also be able to pick up where you left off on your iPhone or iPad. Yep, you heard that right. You can make the big moves and negotiations Rosenhaus-style. Also, Dynasty updates or big events can be emailed directly to you. Seriously, just go ahead and get your resumes ready now, because you’ll probably lose your job.

Some of the other features that will make the game more authentic include more accurate playbooks (even for BSU!). Maybe that’s not such a good thing. The “Locomotion System” looks to be a major enhancement as well. As a running back, you will be able to make an explosive first step and stop on a dime while having to maintain balance to get moving again. Sounds tricky, and I’d not recommend a bunch of drinkage while trying this.

While there’s no word yet whether or not stadiums will be updated from years past, EA is promising 150 authentic stadiums, so perhaps BSU will have the pillars and lawn seating shown this year. And don’t fret: Erin Andrews is back.

The only drawback? No Lee Corso. Seriously, WTF? He might have gotten annoying, but he was at least somewhat entertaining by brining a little bit of enthusiasm to the mostly-bland Herbie.

You can download the demo now on most consoles of choice, so go check it out when you have a free moment. Who am I kidding, you have time to read this – go get the demo and save your pennies for July 13. OTP Online Dynasty could happen as well, so send us an email to get signed up first.

Gaming with OTP – NCAA ’10

ncaafootball10Like Alan said earlier, welcome to the improved Over The Pylon!  This new interface is the first of a few new additions to the OTP Universe, so make sure you visit regularly to see what else we have in store for you this upcoming football season.

We’d like to extend an invitation to all you video game nerds out there to join Alan, RV, and I in NCAA Football ’10 online on Xbox Live.  In the coming weeks, we will be setting up an online dynasty mode so you can play with your chosen team and possibly get a shot at playing for the National Championship (if Orrin Hatch still wants to call it that).

Email us at overthepylon [at] gmail [dot] com with your Xbox Live gamertag to secure a spot in the dynasty.   We will then have a lottery team draft – unfortunately we can’t all be Ball State or Kentucky.

EA’s NCAA Football  ’10 hits shelves tomorrow, July 14, so get some practice, email us, and we’ll see you in a few weeks on the (virtual) gridiron.

Virtual Commonwealth Stadium

Like virtual Scheumann Stadium we talked about earlier, EA Sports’ newest version of NCAA Football’s take on Commonwealth Stadium has hit the interwebs. The curious thing about this particular photo shows a visiting section decked out in red. This must mean Alabama is there, as clearly, if it were a Louisville game, most of those seats would either be empty or filled with blue.

No clue about whether or not the virtual coffee and hot chocolate runs out by halftime, whether or not you can smuggle in virtual bourbon, or whether the virtual band is as virtually dull as in real life. But it’s only a few short weeks away until you can answer all those things for yourself.

Virtual Scheumann Stadium

For anyone like me who’s anxiously awaiting the release of NCAA 2010 on July 14th, this comes as yet another dose of awesome to sort of get you through the shakes until it hits the shelves. Virtual Scheumann Stadium. No word yet on what virtual Charlie looks like, whether or not the Pride of MidAmerica is accurately represented, or whether or not virtual Sean Baker actually eats virtual souls in the game. Supposedly, if it’s in the game, it’s in the game, so virtual souls should be collectively soiling their virtual pants.

Everything looks fairly good, though the visitors section is in the wrong area of the stadum, and I’m not sure how the hill is going to look. But, hey, at least the stadium looks good.

Sam Keller… Entry #1 for Sports Douche of the Year

It may come as a surprise to some of the OTP faithful that gaming in the ancient times of Sega Genesis or worse, the original Nintendo didn’t come with any sort of fancy appointments. In fact, looking back, most of us were suckers to continue to waste valuable allowance or precious real estate on our Christmas Lists for sports titles that would force you to play as QB8 or WR88.

It was a slow transition to the names showing up in professional sports, and even then there were a few random holdouts. Randall Cunningham springs immediately to mind as someone who was always not included. You sort of knew who it was, but it was still minorly frustrating. As next-generation consoles, titles, and franchises like Madden, or the NCAA series began to really become a major player in the gaming world, the need for authenticity and realism grew with it.

What began as someone spending a couple hours doing the team they were playing with (guilty as charged) blossomed into full fledged roster creators who would spend days editing depth charts, appearances, equipment, and ratings for all 100 or so Division 1-A teams. A roster community quickly flourished and now it’s as easy as downloading something via XBOX Live or PlayStation’s network. All ridiculously simple, all made that way because of the developers (EA Sports) wish to have the game be as realistic as possible.

The reason EA cannot simply do it themselves is because of amateur athletes and their inability to receive likeness rights, etc. It would violate their ability to play the sport for which they are being featured. An interesting twist of irony, and apparently a real point of contention for former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, who in true American fashion, is suing EA Sports.

I am no legal mind, and as such, will leave the legal merits or lack thereof to one Clay Travis

But here’s a legal dilemma for you, the NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to make money off their sport. That’s why the fig-leaf of not using the player’s names exists in the first place. Earlier this week I wrote about how ludicrous the jersey issue was. Namely that the universities and their sponsors make so much money off the players by not putting their names on the back. So procedurally how could a player ever collect and retain his eligibility?

Think about this, say EA pays out $20 million to settle the lawsuit. There are 4k or so players on every game. Each of them is entitled to payment for the appropriation of their likeness. Only the NCAA forbids the use of their images for commercial gain. So they’ve won a settlement (a judgment could happen too but there’s no way a case like this ever goes to trial), but they can’t collect if they want to keep playing college football.

How ridiculous would that be? Even if the payments went to the players after they graduated, they’d be retroactively rewarded for their payment. Which is still illegal, because they’re being paid for something they did while playing the sport. So the entire NCAA record book would have to be wiped clean because every player accepted improper benefits.

Yeah… he’s good.

The alternative solution would be to randomize rosters. DO NOT WANT. Granted, the roster community would fix it all, but it’s wasted effort and a fix for something that isn’t really a problem. Keller’s attorney says, “[Keller is] not interested in getting compensated for himself. He just didn’t think it appropriate that, given that the NCAA says you can’t profit from your likeness … they do the wink and the nod when EA Sports presents them with the game, which has the likeness of the player.”

My, my, Sam… how altruistic of you. I’m sure the fact that no one can get paid for this lest they vacate their eligibility, record books would become moot, etc. matters not to you. You’re fighting the good fight. The fight that no one was complaining about before you sauntered into the video game world and proceeded to piss all over our parade. Am I right in thinking that should EA Sports decide to compensate you that you would give it all back? No? Ok… didn’t think so.

I mean, while we’re fighting the altruistic good fight, let’s ignore some things, shall we, and just focus on those pesky video games. Nevermind the fact that colleges, universities, and conferences make millions of dollars hand over fist on the work, sweat, and injuries of NCAA athletes. Pay no mind to the glaringly obvious problem with a tournament that generates billions of dollars of revenue to schools that the kids who play in don’t see a dime of. Having never played division one athletics, I can only assume how it would feel to see a likeness of me in a video game. And the answer is more “Totally kick ass” than “Sue those greedy bastards”. Besides, the argument could be made, albeit flimsily, that players already receive compensation… in terms of a zero balance tuition and room and board, but let’s not open up that giant can of worms.

So consider Keller, in all his douchetacular wonderment, entrant #1 for the 2009 Sports Douche of the Year.