A Lighter Shade of Garnet Presents: OUR DIGITAL SEASON

ODS

Since 2004, ESPN has run a Madden NFL simulation of that year's Super Bowl matchup, and aired the highlights in the days leading up to the big game. While I normally bemoan ESPN's trite stunts--I always cringe when anchors are involved in any sort of skit-like lead-in to a highlight package--I don't mind this one so much. It's lighthearted, yes, and not really news. But it at least directly relates to the event, and, for what it's worth, the game has accurately predicted 7 of the last 9 Super Bowls. In 2009, the simulation predicted a 28-24 Steelers win over the Cardinals, narrowly missing the actual 27-23 final. But I digress from attempting to establish its value as a prognostication tool, because that's a losing battle. All in all, it's a bit of harmless fanfare.

The real appeal is this: because of how comprehensive, complex and graphically impressive these games have become, they allow for a fairly satisfying simulation on a superficial level. THEREFORE: I'm embarking on a season-long feature wherein I will simulate the Gamecocks' 2012 football season on EA Sports NCAA Football 13. I call it: Our Digital Season. (A title as lazy as it is unspecific!)

Here's how it will work: I will simulate the 2012 football season in Dynasty Mode, which means the entire NCAA 2012 season will simulate alongside ours. We'll not only get to see how the Gamecocks fare, but we'll have Heisman winners, All-Americans, a conference battle, injuries, etc. Each week, I will simulate (and watch!) a full, 60 minute Gamecock football game. I'll provide a thorough summary of the game action and provide stats and a player of the game. At the end of each week and the year, we can compare Our Digital Season with Our Actual Season and see how things sync up.

Just to reiterate: I'm not out to prove anything with this. It's dumb fun. I've already simulated the Vandy game, and I can comfortably assure you that hilarity can and will ensue. This is a lighthearted slab of entertainment and nothing more.

Before we move forward, let's talk rosters. I've downloaded the most up-to-date rosters available on the EA Sports network as of 8/22/12, and I think they're fairly accurate. For example: Tyler Hull is our punter, and Caderious Sanders and Tanner McEvoy are no longer on the roster. One can expect lapses in verisimilitude when dealing with a video game, but by and large we should see all the names we know and love. I will offer the caveat that the AI in this game tends to rely heavily on certain receivers and play-calls, so expect some statistical imbalance.

A few things to note:
  • I bumped up the defensive AI by about 10%. A test-run simulation resulted in a ridiculous high scoring affair, so I afforded a bit of a defensive handicap.
  • Additionally, I may scale down to 12 or 11 minute quarters, as the game fails to shed any seconds between plays, even when the clock is running. This makes for a much longer game, inflated stats, and a lot of drives. (Spoiler: In the first game of ODS, the teams totalled 50+ drives. Compare that to last year's actual game vs. Georgia, where the total was 32.)
  • No redshirts! Obviously I don't have that information yet, and technically won't until the season ends. Besides, the game's rosters only run so deep, so the more obvious redshirts aren't even in the game.
  • I'm letting Akeem Auguste play for no other reason than pity. Shon Carson is not listed in the 4 deep, so I left him off.
  • By and large I'm going to let the two seasons play out independtly; in other words, if Connor Shaw misses a game in real life, I won't sub him out in the digital game. The only circumstances that may influence the digital timeline are major positional changes—say, move Bruce Ellington to CB—or player dismissals.
It's exciting to think about all the intriguing storylines that could take root as this feature plays out. Will Our Digital Season correlate with reality? Is it worth analyzing congruencies? Don't I have something better to do?* As we stand here today, eager and nervous in the pre-dawn tension of the college football season, all we can do is speculate. So grab a cold one, fire up the grill, and--quite literally--let the games begin.

Look for the Digital Vanderbilt game summary early next week. I'll tell you now: It's a doozy.

* The answer to all three of these questions: "No."
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