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Free-For-All Friday: Iowa Hawkeyes/EA Sports NCAA Football Edition

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EA Sports’ NCAA Football might not be back, but that didn’t stop us from talking about it extensively.

Brad Banks carries the ball Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

JPinIC: Oh Jerry. It’s sad to be sitting here talking with you and not have the topic at hand be the first ever Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza. But at the same time, here we are for the first time in almost two months without the shackles of a pre-determined topic. The possibilities are endless, man!

I can get all my gifs in. We can ramble on about random stuff nobody cares about. We can get back to 4000 words of nonsense that nobody could finish even with the longest of workday restroom breaks. We’re back, man!

Hello Jerry: It’s a new old day buddy. I’m going to be honest… I’m kind of glad we’re here. It’s not that I didn’t love spending way too much time on Yelp, searching for the most idiotic answers I could, it’s just that it starts to make you question society for taking a good chunk of their time to go on Yelp, find the establishment they just attended, decide what type of star-ranking they would give their experience and then proceed to write paragraphs and paragraphs of absolute nonsense.

I still can’t get over the fact that someone was honestly pissed that Wig and Pen WASN’T British enough. It’s that type of insanity that just drains the soul.

Anyways, that’s all over (for now) and we have a clean slate and an unlimited amount of words to push the limits of our lovely editor’s patience with. So, with that said, what do we have on the agenda today? I just request that we get weird.

Editors note: I lost my patience after the first gif.

JPinIC: You question society for the endless paragraphs they waste on Yelp and I’m sure every Friday our editors and readers alike question our hopeless existence wasting paragraph after paragraph on complete nonsense. But here we are nonetheless. And given our newfound freedom, I was hoping to pick your brain a bit on a topic near and dear to just about everyone’s heart: NCAA Football, the game. It met its untimely death in 2014 thanks to former UCLA hoopyball player Ed O’Bannon (see, UCLA is the root of all evil).

A few weeks ago, while we were debating eating establishments, the twitterverse was discussing potential cover boys for what would’ve been the cover of NCAA 18. I wanted to be in that debate, Jerry. I needed to be in that debate. So, better late than never, right? Who ya got here? Who is on YOUR cover of a hypothetical NCAA 18?

Hello Jerry: Man, throwing me right to the wolves… I LOVE IT!

For obvious reasons my head went straight to Akrum Wadley. This is not my pick. But it is at the same time. What I’m saying is, do you remember when NCAA Football was still real and people would make fake covers and distribute them out on message boards and Twitter. I used to print those out and place them into the plastic front.. While Wadley isn’t my definite, unbiased choice, he’d be my personal, choose your own adventure choice. Make sense?

Editors Note: You bet your ass I printed out an NCAA ‘11 cover with Adrian Clayborn on it.

Now, to answer this question correctly, I had to do a little research. Did you know the cover featured 12 Quarterbacks, five running backs/fullbacks (shouts to Owen Schmitt), five wide receivers and 4 defensive players?

So, with that in mind, I probably want a QB or RB that was dominant last year, extremely popular in all regions of the country while he played, and who would offer some swag when we start doing pub for the game itself (i.e. fun sound bites, photos well and extremely passionate about video games). Oh, and said player can’t be in school anymore because that would be bad and we don’t want anything bad involved with this fake recreation of EA Sports NCAA Football. If you want Lamar Jackson on your cover, print it out and slide it in… like the olden days when your dad still had a printer at your house.

When you take all of that into consideration, that leaves you (in my most humble opinion), Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, James Conner or Deshaun Watson.

McCaffrey wasn’t as fun last season (I know, he was hurt) and was part of the “I’m not playing in a meaningless bowl game” crew that my midwestern roots will never allow me to support. He’s out. Same can be said for Fournette (although, I’d love a cover of him and Coach O doing football together). Cook had a lot of off the field issues and I’m guessing the powers that be at EA wouldn’t want to have to answer questions about that. James Conner was and will forever be a good story. He’s got the look. He’s got the swag. He’s got the stats. But lets be honest, he’s not the best choice. He’d be good for a regional cover, you know, for like a re-release or “Target Pre-order exclusive” in the Pittsburgh area.

That leaves us with Deshaun Watson. This is the only choice. He’s charismatic. The front of the cover could be him doing his bow and arrow celebration. He might have been the most entertaining quarterback in all of college football from start to finish. He was a champion.

That’s the guy you crown as your NCAA cover boy. No question. No debate.

JPinIC: I have nothing to add. End of post.

But seriously, the answer is Watson and it isn’t close. Like at all. Given the parameters of a former player, rather than current (I don’t want my hypotheticals to be too far out there, man - if we are doing this, we are doing this under the rules and regulations as set forth at the time of death for this game in 2014), the options are pretty limited. NCAA covers always featured dynamic players, typically QB, RB and sometimes WR. In this case, you hit the nail on the head with your assessment of RBs. The only thing I would point out on Conner is as great of a story as he was and as much as I enjoyed watching him run, dynamic isn’t exactly how I would characterize him. He was a bruiser, yo. He could move for his size, but he wasn’t avoiding contact the way I want my NCAA cover boys to.

Hello Jerry: Tell that to Shaun Alexander and Mark Ingram.

JPinIC: You could make a small case for someone like McCaffery, but as you said those injuries really hurt him (see what I did there). And you could make an even smaller case for a guy like Corey Davis of Western Michigan. But let’s be honest, ain’t nobody excited to see some MAC school player on the cover.

Watson, on the other hand, is marketable everywhere. Not only was he dynamic as hell, he played in back-to-back title games and knocked off everyone’s favorite (or close to) team to hate in Alabama. He is the right answer and he is the only answer.

All those reasons are why it’s no contest Wadley is the guy from Iowa most likely to end up on a cover, though the arrival of James Butler could change that if he lives up to the hype. Maybe hypothetical NCAA 19 could have the first ever double feature with Wadley and Butler?

But digging into the archives, who you got as the most likely player in (i’m narrowing this to recent due to our audience) school history to be on a cover?

Hello Jerry: Well, based on what I said above, the answer has to be Jake Christensen…

I keed, I keed.

Here is the short list of guys I could talk myself into: DJK (But for real, there was maybe one other player during my time at Iowa that I loved watching on a game to game basis more. Granted, part of the fun was wondering if he got slammed into the dog house by the coaching staff from the shenanigans I saw him take part in the Friday night before, but hey, we all have our demons), Shonn Greene (that’s the guy I loved more), Bob Sanders (too old?), Chad Greenway (linebackers… meh), Desmond King (solid choice), Dallas Clark, or one of the many offensive lineman Iowa has put into the league (maybe all of them together even, like a through the years photo segment).

But after thinking on those guys for a long, long time, I don’t think our cover boy is in that list. It’s a good list. Some say, it’s the best list. But, if you’re going to do an EA Sports NCAA Football school by school cover (They could easily do this by the way. Sell them online for like $8 more. We’d buy it.), there is only one single man you can put on there. He is Iowa. He is the master of all Hawkeyes. He’s unkillable. He’s came. He’s saw. He’s conquered. And he’s signed another multi-million dollar long term deal to do it all over again. He’s a man that doesn’t sleep, because that would take away from his time to football. He’s a man whose blood might actually be Starbucks coffee. He’s a four time Big Ten coach of the year, a Big Ten champion and a hall of famer.

It’s forever and always Kirk Ferentz in his Iowa Santa Hat.

JPinIC: I like where your head’s at, Jer. I mean, I’m a sucker for Santa anything. You know as well as anyone (except maybe my wife) that my one goal in this short life I have is to become Clark W. Griswold incarnate. So I seriously have to commend you on your choice.

But it’s still wrong. You were damn close with Shonn Greene. I mean sweet Jesus that dude was fun to watch. He ran around people. He ran past people. He ran through people. It was pure joy watching him. But I think you growing up in Illinois, hidden in the shadows of a Bears fandom and Fighting Illini obscurity, has obstructed your view of the clear choice in all this. I think perhaps had you been brought into this great Hawkeye family a few years earlier you’d clearly see your mistake. But I can forgive you. You probably weren’t following Iowa as closely as some of us as a mere middle schooler in the bustling metropolis of Plainfield. So you don’t have some of the highlights of one Brad Branks etched into your memory quite the way a native Iowan might.

I mean, you wanna talk about a dynamic playmaker? I’m just gonna drop this here:

I mean, the dude is as close as we may ever come to a Heisman while I’m alive. He was unreal. You could make a case that Drew Tate could be in the discussion as he was also dynamic. And if you’re going even further back than Banks, Tim Dwight was obviously electric as a Hawkeye. But Brad Banks was a complete stud on a team that damn near made it to a national championship game. He is the only correct answer that doesn’t involve a Santa hat in my opinion.

But thinking about all these guys has me pondering something else (shocker, my mind has wandered off topic slightly): what sort of rating would you give a guy like Banks? What about Shonn Greene? Wadley? Dare I ask what sort of a rating you give either of the potential starting QBs in 2018 or worse, the WRs? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Hello Jerry: First of all, there is no Brad Banks without Santa Ferentz. Soooooo, please don’t EVER diss the institution of Ferentz that we all know deep down we love oh so very much.

As far as rankings go, I’m probably not the one to ask. I’m just going to be honest with you, I was the kid that would go in, hike up all of my favorite players ratings to 99’s before ultimately controlling Iowa to like three straight national titles before I got bored and started it all over again.

It’s a problem I know I have and I’m trying to fight through. But, you know what they say, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. And there is. Hell, I just made my own version of Mitch Trubisky on Madden recently and I’ve already led him to a Rookie of the Year award and a Super Bowl MVP. He’s a 92 (I just didn’t feel right making him better than Tom Brady).

With that said, I’ll leave the rankings up to you my man. You seem like a message board ratings guy. Someone that took them very seriously. So seriously that when one of your favorite players was slighted, you acted like Joel Embiid did to his ratings:

Joel Embiid discussing The Process behind his #NBA2K18 rating @joelembiid

A post shared by NBA 2K (@nba2k) on

JPinIC: You were that guy. Jerry. I thought we knew each other, man. And all this time, you were the guy propping up your player ratings. Next you’re going to tell me you started dynasty mode with freaking Bama or something. Ugh.

And yes, yes I did take rankings seriously. I absolutely went online to find the roster downloads each year that included full player names and rating adjustments to more accurately reflect the player likenesses our pal O’Bannon worked so hard to take away from us. You know why? Because I played NCAA to be as close to the real deal as possible. If I wanted freak athletes doing things that defy the laws of physics, I had NBA Jam on the SNES in the other room.

Now, as I said, I didn’t typically make my own edits because who has time to do stuff like that when you have to spew 4000 words on random internet topics? But if I were assigning ratings, Banks is seriously getting something like a 97. I know Brady is a 96 in Madden (so I assume Peyton Manning had at least a 98 before he retired), but my recollection was always that the folks at EA Sports played a little more fast and loose with their ratings in NCAA than in Madden. So yeah, I’ll go Banks in college higher than Brady in the NFL.

On the current roster, I don’t think any of the WRs are higher than maybe a 75. None of them have experience except Matt VandeBerg so their AWR rating (awareness for those of you who had girlfriends in high school) is like a 40 and when you get one of those the rest doesn’t matter much. Smith is probably hovering around 75 based on his physical traits. Maybe you could talk me into MVB being a little higher, like an 80, because he does have the high awareness and good hands, but Iowa fans are going to over-rate his speed and agility and the EA Sports folks won’t (hypothetically).

Similar thoughts at QB, where that AWR means a lot. I think Stanley is the clear guy in NCAA though because he does have game experience and slightly better physical traits. Paging Kirk Ferentz, just buy the made up video game if you want your answer to the QBTBD issue!

And at RB, we find the answer to why I would still win the Big Ten with no problems playing as Iowa (in rookie mode, because what am I, some kind of lunatic who wants to lose all the time?). I think Wadley and Butler both probably have ratings into the mid-90s. Very good speed, elite agility, great hands. Only thing potentially missing is power, but we all know you’re just running sweeps and tosses into the wide side of the field with them. Maybe you get crazy and let one of your mediocre QBs throw an angle route to them, but otherwise you can just steamroll people by running outside.

It’s not as good as having a truly mobile QB (Deshaun Watson would seriously wreck people in this hypothetical game), but having a pair of RBs like Wadley and Butler is about all you can ask for in NCAA. Let’s hope Brian Ferentz was a fan of the franchise.

Damnit I miss NCAA Football Jer. And Brad Banks.

Hello Jerry: You played on Rookie. You gave Brad Banks a fake higher rating than Tom freaking Brady’s fake rating? I’m absolutely appalled.

You have no reason to ever judge my rating spike-a-palooza ever again. You. Played. On. Rookie.

Noob.

Also, I miss it too. Can we just pay whoever we need to pay to just have the video game back already? I mean come on already.