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The Last EA Sports NCAA 14 Review Keeps It Real

Salt and I talk about what we liked most about this year's edition of EA Sports NCAA Football 14, the last edition involving the NCAA!

Playing NCAA 14 on Freshman/Varsity - We're All Nick Saban
Playing NCAA 14 on Freshman/Varsity - We're All Nick Saban

So, to start us off, Salt, what'd you like most about this year's game?

Salt Creek: As I've said before, I play the game on freshman difficulty, and yet despite that, the game still makes it challenging for a 60-ranked team like say Georgia State to beat a 99-ranked team like Alabama. (That being said, GSU still scored more than LSU did in 2011.) I've been playing dynasty and I must say, the recruiting system in 2013 takes a lot less time and effort. Being on freshman level, I was able to somehow recruit a FIVE STAR QB to Georgia State. (Which means my fantasy team is better than Nebraska at recruiting.)

Their attention to the option playbook was a nice update as well. As a lifelong Navy fan, having access to the Veer makes me happy. One of my favorite games ever is Brian Kelly's first season at ND when he came into halftime with the stunning realization that he had to defend against Navy's veer. Upon successfully doing so, Navy proceeded to use other plays in the playbook. It was a beautiful thing and now NCAA CFB 14 lets me relive this dream every day.

How about you Jon? What do you think of the new physics engine? I personally enjoy the improved control over the running game.

Jon: I finally picked up the game this past Saturday, so I haven't spent tons of time with it yet. I still haven't fully figured out recruiting in dynasty mode as I'm only on my first season in dynasty as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, running the Air Raid offense.

I've tried some of the new option plays, and, man, I suck, mostly, although after playing as Navy, it's really tempting to coach them as a dynasty team to see if I can master their offense. (Note: if you're wondering why I don't play as Nebraska, it's because it's too easy in dynasty. I typically play Nebraska as my school in Road To Glory.)

The new running game is so much better. Graphics are better, and you don't get the frustration of having your running back get stuck churning his legs behind your offensive line near as much as previous versions.

Salt Creek: Personally I love the stumbling for extra yards. It just feels so real. And you can actually dodge tackles in 2014. Love it.

Oh, I never play as Nebraska either. It's nothing about them being too easy but really, any school rated 5 or 6 does get to be too easy really fast on Dynasty. Well, as long as the playbook fits the team. In NCAA 2012, I tried to get Texas A&M to use the Nebraska offense and man, that was a mistake. Johnny Manziel's successor? He's a terrible scrambler.

Anyways, the reason I don't play with Nebraska though is because I'm pretty darn terrible some days. My go-to play is FOUR VERTICALS, for Pete's sake. Rather than suffer the heartbreak of Nebraska losing due to my own braindead mistakes, I prefer to try and elevate the teams whose best players are kickers and punters. There's something satisfying about elevating a team like Eastern Michigan to winning four BCS titles and then leaving them for a SEC school.

In 2014, I've chosen Georgia State and our first season netted us a Sun Belt championship and a loss to Rice in our bowl game. Man, that was awkward. I mean, Rice. And that gets to something I think is really great about NCAA - it is really, really difficult, even on freshman level, to punch above your weight every week. GSU somehow beat Georgia IN ATHENS in overtime, but we never had that luck again during the season. (By the way, Alabama is really, really good.) And no matter what your level of difficulty, I don't think the game will take any pity on a QB rated below 80. One time I ran a screen and well, I think my QB threw it MAYBE two yards? It was Cody Hawkins-eque, I swear. (Oh and my receivers? NILES PAUL. ALL OF THEM. HANDS HANDS HANDS HANDS.)

If I have one gripe, I find the interface a little bit clunky. I'm a huge Microsoft guy and I love Windows 8 and Windows Phone, but the square grid interface thing, it really doesn't work for this game. I'm assuming one can use the Kinect to navigate it - I haven't tried since being one of the lucky few whose original white XBOX 360 hasn't met a hot demise I don't have a spare port to plug the Kinect into. This means I haven't had a chance to try and use the audio controls in game but seeing how I tend to get animated during games, I worry that I might accidentally audible. I'm sure with the XBOX One version that may roll out in the future, the Kinect integration will be more meaningful, but as it stands, it seems unnecessary. Then again, if I ever try it, maybe I'll find I like it.

There are some random bugs that pop up. One of my favorite is when my team punts and our next drive we get scolded by Kirk Herbstreit for going for it on fourth down. I mean, I know Kirk was a Buckeye and Jim Tressel perfected the "PUNTING IS WINNING" game plan, but I'm not going to punt on third down. This isn't the CFL, Kirk. LAY OFF.

There's one last new element we haven't discussed - the RPG-like elements to the coaching dynasty. At first it was annoying to watch the head coach and defensive coach allocate points in stupid things but then I realized that it all makes sense. It's those little disagreements that make coaching work! I have the option to leave the team if I decide the direction of recruiting isn't to my liking.

Well, in theory. The Coaching Carousel has some subtle changes from 2012 so I sort of accidentally skipped it. I honestly was hoping to move to a team with a little more talent but I guess I'll have to settle for my FIVE STAR QB. I did catch that Frank Beamer retired and Butch Jones got fired. Yes, that Butch Jones, who just got hired at Tennessee. I didn't see any other changes since, like I said, I accidentally skipped it. I do enjoy that portion of Dynasty immensely, especially once the named rosters are released into the wild by groups like Operation Sports. In my 2012 game, Nick Saban ended up at UNLV.

Things like that. Anyways, your thoughts on the RPG elements and the immersion of the game?

Jon: OMG. I completely missed the idea that there are other coaches on the staff allocating points. Really? Shit. I keep wondering why I'm 500 points ahead with some defensive tackle and the week after I'm 1,500 points behind. Maybe I should watch a tutorial or something. (WHAT ME FOLLOW DIRECTIONS? NO, HONEY I CAN FIGURE OUT HOW THIS IKEA BOOKSHELF GOES TOGETHER, I JUST NEED MORE BEER.)

The boxy Windows 8-like interface: No.

Kinect: Haven't used it. I play late at night, and I don't need the rest of my family wondering whom I'm talking to any more than they already do.

Immersion: I don't really pay attention to how stadiums look, or uniforms or hardly what anyone says in the game (wasn't there supposed to be a half time show or something?). I only care about the game play and so far, it's been pretty awesome.

Overall it's a great game, and as we find out today, the last "EA Sports NCAA" game, EVAH.

How's that for KEEPING IT REAL!!!!??????

Salt Creek: The only thing missing is ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MODE. Get on that, EA. "Keep your school in the black through student fees, state subsidies, ticket price hikes and donations! Hire and fire coaches for no reason at all! Expand your stadium to unsustainable new heights! Join new conferences, trash old rivals, all in the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar!"

The pre-order bonus? TOM. OSBORNE.