There are no sports.
With no end in sight to worldwide COVID-19-induced shutdowns, sports fans are getting desperate. Reruns of old games on ESPN just aren’t quite cutting it, and with a complete fall season looking less likely every day, the future of college football is more uncertain than ever.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Luckily, we at The Daily have obtained access to highly-advanced, state-of-the-art college football simulation technology. By inserting a compact disc into a PlayStation 3 system, we have the ability to peek into the future of the sport, witnessing and actively participating in the long-secret rituals of recruiting, conference realignment and even the games themselves.
If you haven’t caught on, I’m playing NCAA 14 and writing about it.
The premise of this experiment is simple: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has suddenly retired and been replaced by first-year head coach Stanford Lipsey — a Michigan graduate himself. Lipsey’s coaching philosophy features a 3-4 on defense and a mix of the spread-option and “throw it to Nico Collins” on offense. Thanks to a team of dedicated fans at Operation Sports, Lipsey will inherit the real-life roster of the 2020 Wolverines.
Well, almost. Because the Operation Sports team has not yet finished its roster for the upcoming season, I started the dynasty with the rosters from 2019 and simmed through the first season. This, of course, means that all real-life true freshmen have been replaced by recruits generated by the game, along with a few other minor inconsistencies.
The first is actually good news for Michigan fans. The fictional Wolverines put up a strong 11-2 record in 2019, including a win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl (yes, even when there are no sports, Michigan still somehow ended up playing Florida in the postseason). The Wolverines’ two losses came at the hands of No. 3 Ohio State, and, uh, Maryland.
Elsewhere across the country, things have gotten even weirder. After a disastrous 4-8 campaign, Auburn fired Gus Malzahn and replaced him with Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot. Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa, Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to retire after going 8-5, the Tide’s worst record since 2007. He was replaced by Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz, who led the Bulldogs to a surprising 12-2 campaign in 2019.
Oh, and Rich Rodriguez is the head coach at Middle Tennessee State. Not sure how that happened.
There will also be a few changes in the schedule for the fictional Wolverines. Just like in real life, Michigan will open the season at Washington, followed by home games against Ball State and Arkansas State. But because the game is from 2013, there also has to be a fourth non-conference game. To make everyone as unhappy as possible, I filled that slot with Navy. In conference play, the Wolverines will face all Big Ten East teams, with crossover games against Northwestern and Iowa.
Let’s get to it. This week, we have a sneak preview of what’s to come, with the first game of the season in the books.
Game 1: No. 5 Michigan at No. 4 Washington
To answer the question on everybody’s mind: redshirt junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey won the starting job. With the quick feet and accurate arm needed to thrive in the spread-option/throw it to Nico system, he racked up 279 yards and 3 touchdowns on 19-for-31 passing. As the offensive philosophy would imply, senior wide receiver Nico Collins was his favorite target. He pulled in five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns, helping lead Michigan to a 34-18 win.
But unfortunately for McCaffrey, redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton — his main competition for the starting job — got a few snaps late in the game. He completed his only pass attempt for 35 yards and a touchdown, earning a QB rating of 724, well over McCaffrey’s 162.3. Expect to hear a little grumbling from the always-patient Wolverine faithful.
For now though, that grumbling is irrelevant. Stanford Lipsey took an impossible test — a top-five road matchup in his first game — and passed it with flying colors. Now, he’s got a couple matchups against weaker opponents to get young players some experience before Big Ten play comes around.
I think it’s going to be a fun season.