It’s week 10 of the 2029 college football season.
Your favorite team and mine, the Iowa Hawkeyes, are 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country heading into a road matchup at 5-2 Northwestern. Iowa wins the game easily, 28-13, but it’s closer than the week before, a 56-3 romp. Redshirt senior quarterback Ryan Cook struggled on the road, going 8/12 for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns, but threw a pair of interceptions.
Regardless, it’s another notch in the win column for head coach Matt Cabel, who was a controversial hire following Kirk Ferentz’s surprising retirement after his 7-6 2011 campaign, due to the fact that he had literally zero playing or coaching experience. However, one 84-game win streak, 13 national championships, an incredible 236-9 record, and 17 seasons later, it’s safe to say that it was the best decision the program could have made in this alternate reality.
After BoilerHawk’s great post earlier this week about hypothetical conference and team names in a new version of NCAA Football, I figured it might be time to admit to my guilty pleasure of, to this day, playing the penultimate entry into the acclaimed NCAA Football video game series and pay homage to virtually taking my favorite team to heights unachievable by any program in real life.
I’m going to be vulnerable with you here.
I’d love to tell you that in an act of desperation during this quarantine, I dug through my stack of video games, found NCAA 13, featuring 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, smiled to myself and thought ‘This will be a great way to pass some time during quarantine!’
That would be a lie.
The truth is, ever since finding a used copy of the game for something like $1.83 at a Goodwill while shopping for a White Elephant gift around the holidays a few years ago, I’ve put more hours than I’d like to admit into bringing a baker’s dozen national championships to Iowa City. But at this point, now more than ever, I find the game as much of a balm on the stresses of every day fandom (and now, every day life) as much as a source of entertainment.
When I bought this game, I think back in the winter of 2017, I truly hadn’t played any entry into the series in many years, and I’d looked into buying ‘14, but found it way too expensive online, so the Goodwill price point was a dream come true. I started my dynasty on All-American difficult (second only to Heisman difficulty) and haven’t changed it since.
Judge me all you want for that, but at this point, it’s part of the appeal. So is the fact that I can probably recite nearly every line of dialogue from Kirk Herbstreit, Brad Nessler and Erin Andrews in any situation. It’s cathartic after a long day working where the thought of doing anything productive is too much to handle, or when one of my actual sports teams loses badly, to fire up the old Xbox 360, mute the TV and put on a podcast or some music, and zone out while pummeling Iowa State 81-3 (an actual score from one of my seasons. It was a lot of fun).
But especially now, in the midst of this pandemic, it’s nice to go to something familiar. To know that I’ll turn on the game and see that the BCS is still determining who plays in the National Championship (more often than not, it’s the Iowa Hawkeyes vs. some team they pummel). It’s nice to see Tostitos still sponsoring the Fiesta Bowl, and know that even if my quarterback does throw three or more interceptions, he’s also probably thrown four or five touchdowns to go with them, because Four Verticals is an unbeatable cheat code, and after winning 13 national championships, I get all the good virtual recruits like ‘Rich House,’ an actual randomly simulated name of my starting running back.
Now, is this all extremely stupid and embarrassing to admit to the internet? Absolutely! But also, is this game somewhat filling the enormous void that is the lack of sports in my life right now in addition to being the aforementioned balm on reality? Also yes!
So judge me all you want (particularly for not playing on Heisman difficulty level — I really need to change that). Keep putting countless Play all the Call of Duty or Fortnite or whatever your game of choice is — I won’t judge. I’ll just be here, beating the shit out of virtual cellar dwelling Iowa State, and every other Iowa rival, year after virtual year.
It’s just oddly cathartic, okay!?