As you may know, EA Sports college football video game franchise, the latest installment of which is NCAA Football 14. What we will be doing in this post is examining if the game designers are "keeping it real" when it comes to the ratings of the teams in general and the Kentucky Wildcats in particular when compared with reality. We'll look at the offense, defense, and overall in that order.
Out of the 14 SEC teams, the Wildcats' offensive prowess is reckoned by the NCAA 14 game designers to be tied for last in the SEC with the Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores at 84 where 99 is the highest rating possible. The Alabama Crimson tide are the only team figured to be worthy of the highest possible rating.
Kentucky is figured to be significantly worse then the next higher tier of offensive teams, which include the South Carolina Gamecocks, Arkansas Razorbacks and Auburn Tigers, who all have ratings of 88.
Relatively speaking, Kentucky should be in the lowest SEC tier offensively next year, particularly given the challenges of a completely new coaching staff and offensive scheme. Also, the dearth of players, let alone talent, at the wide receiver position is problematic for Neal Brown and his merry band of offenders.
Compared with the rest of the NCAA 14 teams, Kentucky winds up rated at the same level offensively as teams like the Utah, North Carolina St., BYU, UConn, Fresno St. and Tulsa, among others.
At least upon superficial analysis, this rating seems reasonable and "keeps it real." It seems likely that both Tennessee and particularly Vanderbilt will be somewhat better than that rating. Who knows, perhaps Kentucky as well.
Defensively, EA Sports reckons that Kentucky will be the second worst in the league at 83. Vanderbilt is figured to be slightly worse than Kentucky at 82, while the Mississippi St. Bulldogs are next at 85.
Above that at 87 comes Arkansas and Missouri, with Georgia, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Tennessee above them at 88.
For some reason, I figure Kentucky will actually be better defensively than that. Most of the Wildcats' returning experience, and highest-skilled players are on the defensive side of the ball.
Compared with the rest of the 121 teams in NCAA 14, Kentucky winds up in a group with teams such as Virginia, BYU, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Cal, and ECU.
Kentucky's overall rating for NCAA 14 is 84, good enough for 13th in the conference and just ahead of Vanderbilt's 83 overall rating. Above that is Tennessee at 86, then Auburn, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississipi St. at 88.
It's hard to fault this rating, unless you are a Commodore fan, who might rightly point out that Vandy went 9-4 last year and had a winning record at 5-3 in the SEC. They would reasonably argue that they aren't likely to be as bad as Kentucky is expected to be, and I'd be forced to admit they have a case. In fact, they could argue the same point about Missouri and Tennessee, and possibly Arkansas as well.
Kentucky's company in overall ranking are teams like Houston, Virginia, Rutgers, USF, Arizona St. ECU and California. I actually think that's close, although Kentucky could reasonably be expected to do worse than most of those teams, especially considering their schedule in the SEC.
I think this is a good attempt by the EA Sports game designers to "keep it real" when it comes to the video game. Obviously, ranking teams this way is tricky. To be worthy of their rating, I think the Wildcats will have to perform a little bit better than most non-Kentucky fans expect.
Of course, with the excitement produced by Mark Stoops, Neal Brown and the rest of the coaching staff, I think it is likely that the Wildcats might slightly outperform otherwise reasonably low expectations. The over-under figure for Kentucky, game-wise, is 3.5, and I think that's about right. Given the competition faced by teams like ECU or Rutgers, you might expect UK to wind up at 6-6 or possibly even higher.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what you care about), Kentucky plays in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation. There are no "off" games or gimmies in this league unless you are Alabama.
So I'd like you to "keep it real," and give your thoughts on how these ratings of Kentucky mesh with reality as you see it. We'll be selecting one or possibly more commenters to join me in another discussion on the subject of how Kentucky's 2014 game might compare with NCAA Football 14.