EA NCAA Football 14: A How-to Guide for Your Realistic College Setup With Bowl Season upon us, it's time to wipe the dust off your favorite NCAA Football game

Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Project Scarlett will release in the Fall of 2020, yet here I am playing a PlayStation 3 system I re-purchase used a few months ago. I haven’t actually turned on my PlayStation 4 in 2-3 weeks now as I spend the little gaming time I have truly enjoying one of the great classics of sports gaming: EA Sport’s NCAA Football ’14. This is a simple guide to help you get up and running with console college football gaming again.

Buy a Used Console, and Find a Copy of the Game

The latter of these two will be much more challenging, and you may be surprised with how much a copy of the game costs these days. My suggestion is to setup a search/ping from an app like OfferUp for when someone mistakenly tries to sell it for $10. I ended up buying mine at Game Stop for about $40, but those prices seem to be increasing.

My Setup

One of the toughest decisions is what team to take to start out your dynasty. Don’t just assume that a rebuild is the best and more realistic option.

I’ll get into some finer details of my setup below, but to give you the overall picture, I just finished up my 2013 season after choosing Temple. You can read more about that career in this thread. I am actually not a big fan of the rebuild as I feel it’s an over-used and played-out theme in sports gaming. To me, it’s not the challenge everyone thinks; in a rebuild, you only have one direction to go, and you’re well aware that it’s up. I prefer to choose a more middle-of-the-road situation that gives you a few options to explore (up or down). However, in college football, even a mid-tier program is unlikely to hire an unproven such as you or me to be their next head coach, Therefore, I would encourage you to choose a team with a low star rating, but don’t feel you have to only choose from 1-star programs. Temple was a 2-star team,and fit what I was looking for a truly authentic experience.

I took things a step further and wanted to take a team that actually hired a coach for the 2013 season with little or no experience. I also wanted a team that didn’t hire someone else’s Division I coordinator or head coach as replacing that coach would have them essentially disappearing from the universe, and that felt odd to me. Matt Rhule was the coach Temple actually hired in 2013, and he came from an NFL coaching staff. So that fit made sense to me, and the choice for me to take over as Temple’s coach in 2013 was made.

Start with the 2013 Season

Ohio State ended up going undefeated, beating Alabama in the National Championship game.

I prefer to start as a head coach as I don’t trust the in-game sim engine to get the simulated side of the ball accurate when starting as a coordinator. I also recommend starting in 2013 because the rosters were given more attention this year than any other with the game not being made after this release. It also prevents weird situations happening such as in-game dates not actually matching up with the roster you chose–I didn’t want a situation with Joe Burrow playing in 2013. Also, you’ll see issues with the pre-season All-Americans in a future custom roster.

Use Recruiting House Rules

A 4-OT game against Houston in which we were lucky to sneak away with the win.

There are many house rules to choose from, so you can make that determination for yourself. For me, I used the Search tool and only recruited guys who had me in their Top 10, no exceptions. This had me land the 107th ranked recruiting class with 2-star Temple in 2013 after finishing the season 9-4. It was definitely a challenge and had me excited to land guys who were 66 overall.

Don’t Restart Your Games

I had a game in my 2013 Temple save in which I threw 4 INTs. It sucked, but it’s part of the full-season experience. Another example, seen in the video below, was when I went for 2 in OT to try and win on the road and in the snow at Rutgers. I was marked down at the 1-yard line. Game over. So take the good with the bad, and it’ll make the sweet moments that much better.

Keep a Backup

Simply put, make sure you save a backup of your dynasty file. I rotate between two different ones every other game week.

Adjust Conferences for Future Seasons

By simply using the Wikipedia pages for each NCAA football season, you can adjust each conference to match the actual real-life changes. Some folks prefer to load Team Builder teams–which as far as I know must be done at the creation of the dynasty–but I did not do so. I left Application State and Southern Georgia out of the game as they were not part of Division I for the 2013 season. None of this was a dealbreaker for me as the missing teams all ended up in the Sun Belt, and beyond 2019-2020, I’ll likely have the league start to take on a life of its own and not worry about following the real-life adjustments as much.

You can also make changes to Bowl qualifications; I chose to eliminate the automatic bowl bid for the American Conference for the 2014 season, for instance.

Don’t Shy Away from Being Unique

Johnny Manziel won the Heisman and was just an SEC Championship game loss away from going to the National Championship. Oddly enough, Alabama was able to sneak into the NC game after not even playing for the SEC championship due to Texas A&M’s loss.

What I mean by this is that although it can be helpful to follow the real-life adjustments, team success in your dynasty will never be a 1:1 match of real life. Therefore, you might find yourself shifting your conferences to better align to the happenings in  your save versus real life. I recommend using real life as a suggestions list, but not a bible.

In the end, I’m having the most fun of any sports game this year by resurrecting my enjoyment for NCAA Football ’14. I love that there’s no (imminent, at least) pressure of hurrying through the game before next year’s release; it’s actually a relief knowing I can take my time and enjoy each season and each decision I make.

If you’re enjoying NCAA Football ’14 again, please share how your dynasty/setup is going on our forums.

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