I’ve been playing NCAA 14 more than any other game lately, and I know I wanted to try and get back to an offline dynasty to play at my own pace and really up the challenge when it comes to gameplay and recruiting, both of which can be a challenge to monitor in an online dynasty where streaming games is difficult to monitor and enforce. Below are some suggestions that have made my solo dynasty very fun and very challenging into the third season of my coaching career.
Before we get into the list, here is some background on where things are at with my dynasty currently. I’m now in my third season as a head coach and am currently with 1-star Kentucky in the SEC after playing two seasons in the American Conference with Temple. I went 16-10 in my 2 years with Temple, 1-1 in bowl games.
After 2 seasons, Temple only went up one star rating to a 3-star team overall which happened after going 9-4 in my first season, far exceeding the expected 6 wins from the school. A 1-star bump felt appropriate, and the team ended up staying at 3-stars after we went 7-6 with a bowl loss in the 2014 season. We had a lot of returning talent, and that season was admittedly a let down to where I thought we’d win anywhere from 10-12 games. That’s the beauty of a truly challenging solo dynasty.
After being offered the 1-star Kentucky job, I couldn’t resist wanting to play games in a larger conference. I’m not personally a fan of a rebuild, so I was a bit worried about taking on such a bad team in such a challenging conference, however, I was curious to see whether my house rules would continue to work as well as they had while with Temple. So far they have. We’re now currently 2-0 after winning at Auburn 42-35 and at home vs rival Louisville 20-10. Both were tough games, and I’m lucky that we have some nice, established pieces on offense as well as a 20-rated offensive coordinator who the game signed for me during my transition to the team (former Tulane coach Curtis Johnson).
Choose Your Team Realistically
There are a number of ways to do this, but I recommend choosing a school who hired a new coach in real life that year who had no previous college head coaching experience. I also will not take a HC job filled by someone who was a real-life coordinator the year before as to me it seems weird to have that real-life person just disappear. Instead, I look for a guy with a 0-0 career record, and I use Wikipedia to search for these coaches to see whether they came from another program or not as a coordinator. You’ll end up finding a team who hired someone from the NFL, Division II, or someone who was previously a position coach, exclusively. That is where I get my pool of eligible teams who’d hired a bum like me. This is a more realistic experience than just picking a 1-star school, and it even gives you some options to get into a slightly better conference to start with.
Absolutely no scouting whatsoever. None. This includes the pre-season stage in which the game will auto-scout guys on your board. I’d recommend adding a bunch of bums to your board for that week; guys who you’d never recruit anyway. Then in Week 1, you can start adding your actual recruits to the board and leave them unscouted all year long. Once they sign with your program, you can scout them, or wait until the recruiting period is over to reveal the surprises.
Start with Coaching Tree at 0, and Never Reset Them
You’ll have plenty of time to build up your coach’s coaching tree, so feel the struggle of a first-year coach by starting with a bare cupboard when it comes to coaching tricks up your sleeve. By the end of the first season, you’ll likely have around 6 upgrades to work with. At the start of each season, do not reset them.
Play Using Heisman Sliders
I have been using J-Kitt’s sliders from Operation Sports the entire time, and have not made a single change to anything as far as gameplay is concerned. The 2013 and 2014 seasons with Temple were quite different from one another as well as I went 9-3 and then 7-6.
Limit/Eliminate Money Plays
I do not run a QB sneak or FB dive more than once a game. I do not overuse the QB read plays. I try and not use a play more than 2 times in a game, ever. This is a challenge, especially when you’re in a tough bind and need something to get you out of it, but it’s extremely rewarding when you are able to convert a tough 3rd-and-3 using a play from your playbook that you haven’t used very often. Playing in a realistic way that does not take advantage of the places where the game can be exploited, even on Heisman difficulty, makes the losses feel more organic, while making the wins feel far more rewarding and earned.
Never Reset Your Game
Live with the highs and lows of college football; it’s not always going to be perfect. I just lost a 3-point game to LSU at home after my QB threw 3 INTs, including one on what could have been the game-winning drive while still tied 17-17. LSU kicked a FG with 3 seconds left.
Recruit Top 10 Interest Only
Only add players who, via the search tool, have you as a top-10 choice. No exceptions. This alone makes the challenge very realistic while also keeping it easy to manage. Even at a time when I needed a kicker with Temple, I stuck to the plan and eventually had a few guys show interest. None of them were very good, but that’s to be expected with a 2-star program. Had I gone carte blanche with recruiting, I could have easily talked one of the top kickers in the nation into coming to Temple. Now in my first season with Kentucky, I only have 3-star guys showing any interest so far as we’re a 1-star school. Those guys have interest mostly because we’re in the SEC and because I have a coach prestige of an A-.
No Offers Unless AI has Offered
It’s common knowledge that there are good players who will go unsigned all season long. Let it happen. I consider those players to be academically ineligible, but it does the realism of your dynasty no good to be the only team signing these players year-after-year. Some of them will eventually get offers from schools, and at that point, offer away, but not until then.
Don’t Over-Saturate a Position
I generally try to sign no more than 1 player per position group each season. There are exceptions, such as if you only have 2 Gs returning, for example. However, if you have 7 WRs returning for next year, do not pursue a WR recruit. I sometimes will make an exception if the player is too good too pass up, but that hasn’t happened yet with either Temple or Kentucky. If you keep bringing in a bunch of recruits who are barely cracking 65 overall, you’re just log-jamming the interest future recruits will have in signing with you in an upcoming year.
Let AI Set Your Schedule
Letting the AI handle the scheduling of games makes for a nice surprise each pre-season as you see what sort of schedule–good or bad–you’re up against for the upcoming season.
Use the Dynasty Editor Tools
4-team playoffs, jersey number edits, team infractions, equipment edits, and much more can be modded into your dynasty. The community over at Operation Sports have done an amazing job of breathing new life into NCAA 14 through the use of Modding Tools. There is a bit of a learning curve using these tools, but set a few days aside at the end of the 2014 season to get your playoff setup right and anything else you’d like to edit. I setup a playoff, adjusted stadium capacities, changed fictional jersey numbers to include more 1-19 numbers, and altered conference alignment to match real-life as I went through each season of my dynasty. Be sure and keep a handful of backup files, and expect some delays as you learn the database and what it’s capable of.