Don’t Hate the Player: NCAA ’13 Preview of Northwestern vs. Nebraska

WNUR Sports Social Media Director Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger) simulates Saturday’s game between the Northwestern University Wildcats and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers with the assistance of NCAA Football ’13.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In my mind, this weekly column would serve as a fairly accurate, entertaining way to predict the winners of big college football games every week. When I started the simulation back in August, the rosters and settings were as accurate as possible. As the season has rolled on, plenty of things have happened that few would have predicted, things that my simulation couldn’t hope to capture. Northwestern’s Venric Mark? He’s a wide receiver with a 68 Overall rating. The best example of craziness, though, is the new #1 team in this week’s poll. After cruising to wins in their first 7 simulated games, the throne belongs to the Arkansas Razorbacks. In other words, take these predictions with a grain of salt.

As always, I’ll use NCAA Football 13’s SuperSim function under default settings to determine the winner of Northwestern’s weekly game. Then, I’ll look at what else is happening in the simulated season. You’ll notice that the rankings don’t always match up with real life. This is a result of my simulated 2012 season running independently from real life.

Key Players on Northwestern:

SS Ibraheim Campbell (Soph): 88 Overall, 93 tackling

LB David Nwabusi (SR): 87 Overall, 92 tackling

QB Kain Colter (JR): 87 Overall, 85 agility

Key players on Nebraska:

HB Rex Burkhead (SR): 91 Overall, will miss game due to injury

SS Daimion Stafford (SR): 88 Overall, 92 tackling

QB Taylor Martinez (JR): 88 Overall, 85 elusiveness


NU [5-2 (3-0)]: Overall: B, Offense: B, Defense: B-

Neb: [4-2 (1-1)]: Overall: A-, Offense: B+, Defense: B+

Northwestern Game Recap

The ‘Cats came back to Evanston to play the first ranked team on their schedule this season. The #21 Huskers were favored, but would be without their star running back, Rex Burkhead, who injured his wrist earlier in the simulated season. His backup, sophomore Ameer Abdullah, carries a solid 80 Overall rating, which pales in comparison to Burkhead’s 91. Abdullah got plenty of touches early in the game, with considerable rain and cold weather making it hard to throw the football. Nebraska scored first on a short field goal. The ‘Cats also had an injury issue at the running back position: usual starter Treyvon Green was out for the game, so Mike Trumpy got most of the snaps at HB.

The aforementioned rain made long passes riskier than usual, so Northwestern tried a medium-length pass to Demetrius Fields on a second-and-23 late in the first quarter. Fields broke a couple of tackles and sprinted to the end zone for an 88-yard TD. The ‘Cats would hold that 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Nebraska continued to move the ball down the field and into the red zone. This time, though, when it came to 4th-and-goal, the Huskers went for it and came up inches short. Northwestern gained one first down, but then fumbled on the punt, giving Nebraska the ball on the NU 4 yard line. The Huskers ran a speed option to the left, but Chi Chi Ariguzo intercepted the pitch and returned it for a touchdown. After 3 momentum swings in a matter of minutes, the ‘Cats now held a 14-3 lead. That mark held until halftime. Nebraska outgained the ‘Cats in the first half and held Northwestern to 0 rushing yards in the first half. Each team committed one turnover, but Nebraska’s led directly to points for the home team.

The Wildcats started the second half determined to get the running game started. On his third carry of the half, Mike Trumpy broke free for a 33-yard TD. 21-3, Northwestern. Nebraska dominated time of possession in the third quarter, but added just a field goal. Despite having more than twice as much time of possession as Northwestern, Nebraska trailed 21-6 at the start of the final quarter.

Both teams’ drives early in the fourth quarter came up empty, but Nebraska was able to score on a 26-yard pass with 2:42 left in the game. They went for two and converted, cutting the ‘Cats lead to 7. Northwestern went three-and-out on the ensuing possession. Nebraska would start the game’s most important drive on their own 19 with 1:55 left and the chance to tie or take the lead late in the game. On the second pass attempt of the drive, sophomore defensive back Daniel Jones jumped the route and returned the interception for Northwestern’s second defensive TD of the game. This essentially ended the game, and the ‘Cats walked away with a 28-14 win.

Final Thoughts

Northwestern improved to 4-0 in league play by beating Nebraska by two touchdowns. If this happened in real life, it couldn’t get much sweeter. Since this is a video game, crazy things can and do happen. In this case, Northwestern scored two touchdowns on defense, which ended up being the margin of victory. Although Nebraska gained 140 more yards of offense, they committed two more turnovers than the ‘Cats. In a video game or in real life, it’s hard to win when that happens.

Big Games This Week

#4 Florida State @ #17 Miami: Miami wins, 41-19

#5 Michigan State @ #19 Michigan: Michigan State wins, 23-17

#8 Kansas State @ #9 West Virginia: Kansas State wins, 42-28

Baylor @ #3 Texas: Baylor wins, 24-14

#22 South Carolina @ Florida: South Carolina wins, 24-3

Around the Big Ten

The Big Ten in this simulation couldn’t be much more different than real life. A National Championship contender has emerged from the Big Ten: the Michigan State Spartans. With a road win at #19 Michigan, the Spartans improved to 8-0. In other ranked conference action, #13 Wisconsin easily dispatched Minnesota, 27-9.  Ohio State defended their home turf against a struggling Purdue team, 34-21. Purdue fell to 0-3 in conference. Indiana completed a perfect nonconference season with a win over Navy. The Hoosiers are 4-3 (0-3). Finally, in a perfect example of the upside-down nature of this simulation, Iowa improved to 6-1 with a bloweou win over Penn State, which fell to 0-3 in conference.

Heisman Top 5:

Knile Davis, HB, Arkansas

Malcolm Brown, HB, Texas

EJ Manuel, QB, Florida St.

De’Anthony Thomas, HB, Oregon

Marcus Lattimore, HB, South Carolina

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