Image: Electronic Arts

7 things we need from the new EA Sports college football game

EA Sports announced to widespread fanfare that it will be producing another college football game after a seven-year hiatus. Here’s what I want to see from the next installment of the beloved franchise:

#1. RPOs

RPOs have existed in some form in college football since at least the late 1990s, and they were fully mainstream by the time NCAA 14 came out. Ironically, these plays didn’t exist at all in the world of the game even though cover athlete Denard Robinson made a name for himself running them early in his career while Rich Rodriguez ran the show at Michigan. 

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Since then RPOs have found their way into the playbooks of every team in the NFL and college fans are fresh off watching Steve Sarkeesian’s RPO-based offense steamroll Ohio State enroute to Alabama’s sixth National Title since Nick Saban took over. 

Football video games are a great way to learn about the sport, and as of now RPOs are one of the most frequently misunderstood concepts in football. It’s still common to see people (including professional broadcasters) confusing RPOs with play-action passes when they see them live. Featuring RPOs in this game would help more people understand the reads, leverages and play combinations that help make these plays so explosive.

#2. The Transfer Portal

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Ohio State’s Trey Sermon transferred to OSU after three seasons spent with the Oklahoma Sooners. Sermon is one of many college football players to find success after utilizing the NCAA’s transfer portal. Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Transfer recruiting is baked into college football’s core. Whenever a head coach is fired, a program is sanctioned by the NCAA or a school is devastated by natural disaster (shout out Coach O), coaches from other schools arrive on their doorstep to sniff around and see which players might be interested in a change of scenery. That’s just the game.

Transferring in college football has only gotten more common in the years since the last installment of EA Sports’ College Football series. Former transfers like Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield, Trey Sermon and Landon Dickerson have become some of the most celebrated college football players of the last few seasons. A more robust transfer mechanic is in order for EA’s next college football game. 

In dynasty mode, gamers should be able to recruit players who enter the transfer portal during the offseason in the same way that they can recruit players coming out of high school or junior college. EA should also install mechanics that give gamers the choice to prioritize keeping their own players from entering the transfer portal. 

Transfer mechanics should also have a place in the next addition of Road to Glory. 

#3. Realistic Athleticism 

If you’ve played NCAA 14 for as long as I have you’ve witnessed computer controlled defenders perform countless superhuman feats of athleticism. The amount of times that I’ve seen a mediocre group of five defender suddenly make a play that would automatically earn them a first round grade in the NFL draft is unacceptable. I’ve found this to be the most thoroughly frustrating aspect of the game in all my recent play throughs.

An average MAC outside linebacker should not be able to consistently run with Big Ten slot receivers on seam routes. BYU’s slowest, shortest cornerback should not be able to recover from over 10 yards behind my fastest wide receiver to win a jump ball interception (I’m definitely not still bitter about that one). 

Football is a game of matchups. The matchups in NCAA 14 could be pretty broken, this time around they have to get it right.

#4. Copycatting

My favorite detail in NCAA 14 was something completely out of my control.

During my last Dynasty run, I brought the Bowling Green State University Falcons back to college football prominence with a basic-as-shit triple option attack. The triple option is a great offense for teams with a talent disadvantage and I was able to pull off upset after upset while only calling 3 or 4 different plays in any given game. 

The year after I won my first BCS title with the Falcons I noticed that a few of my MAC rivals had begun using the same old school option playbook as I had. By year 6 of my dynasty, however, five teams in the top 25 were operating almost exclusively out of the wing-t.

I’d successfully brought college football back to 1972. 

College football coaches love to steal and borrow from one another, especially when there’s something new and exciting on the scene (“the Coastal Carolina Offense: Coming to an Underachieving Power Five School Near You!”), and something about infecting the rest of the country with “veer-fever” really warmed my heart.

A college football video game should try to include as many weird and quirky details about this deeply weird and quirky sport as possible. 

#5. No NBA 2k style cut scenes

If the cutscenes don’t involve me being offered an SUV by some oil baron’s greasy bag man in exchange for playing strong safety for Texas A&M or being offered membership to Augusta National in exchange for coaching South Carolina then I don’t want anything to do with them.

#6. Money in the players’ pockets

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Photo by Pictures of Money

The fact that this new game is being referred to as “EA Sports College Football” rather than “NCAA Football” is very telling. College football’s status quo’s days are numbered, and EA knows it.

 It’s likely that federal legislation regarding student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses will be passed before this video game hits shelves. If the new legislation allows “group licensing” then college football players would be able to strike a deal with EA Sports that would mean a direct path to compensation for all the players depicted in the game. 

College football players deserve more than just the ability to profit from their names, images and likenesses, they deserve to be paid for their labor. But this would be a good start.

#7. Ethics

Many of the games put out by EA Sports over the last few years have been pumped full of micro-transactions which functionally amount to legal gambling marketed towards children. Journalist Jim Sterling does an excellent job outlining what has led the video game industry to this point in their 2019 Youtube video “The Addictive Cost Of Predatory Videogame Monetization”.

EA Sports’ announcement was met with widespread joy and celebration. I was no exception of course, but it’s important to keep in mind that EA Sports, Electronic Arts in general and other large game developers like it have abused our trust before.

We can’t let them do it again.