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

WNUR Sports Social Media Director Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger) simulates Saturday’s match-up between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Iowa Hawkeyes using NCAA Football ’13. You might want to look away, Wildcat fans.

We’re two-thirds of the way through Northwestern’s season. A great chance to step back and look at how well this simulation has fared compared to real life. At first glance, the records match up. The virtual ‘Cats are 6-2, just like real life. Unfortunately for the credibility of my simulation, the virtual losses came to Vanderbilt and BC. In other words, this column has correctly predicted the winner 50% of the time. While I aim to be more entertaining than a coin toss, I’m hardly more accurate. Perhaps the best take-away message is that the real-life ‘Cats are 2-0 when the simulation predicts a loss. Keep that in mind as you enjoy this week’s predictions.

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 Iowa:

MLB James Morris (JR): 90 Overall, 85 speed

QB James Vandenberg (SR): 90 Overall, 87 throw power

WR Keenan Davis (SR): 89 Overall, 90 juke move


NU [6-2 (4-0)]: Overall: B, Offense: B, Defense: B-

Iowa: [6-1 (2-1)]: Overall: B+, Offense: B+, Defense: B

Northwestern Game Recap

The rain-soaked first quarter saw both offenses playing inconsistently. Both defenses held strong on third downs, as the first five third down attempts were stopped. Iowa had the game’s first scoring chance but missed a 31-yard field goal. With the momentum on their side, the ‘Cats came out with a no-huddle offense, moving the ball with short passes. The first quarter ended with no score and Northwestern moving the ball into Iowa territory.

The first play of the second quarter was a sack on Kain Colter, and the ‘Cats punted shortly thereafter. Iowa’s drive got into the red zone again, and led to a touchdown this time. A 13-yard TD pass gave Iowa a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Northwestern’s ensuing drive featured a fumble on the second play. Iowa recovered at the NU 33. They needed only 3 plays and 2 Northwestern penalties to score another passing touchdown. 14-0 Hawkeyes. Northwestern’s ensuing drive went three-and-out, and Iowa added one more short passing TD to take a 21-0 halftime lead.

Northwestern would get the ball to start the second half, but they had been completely dominated in the first half. James Vandenberg had already racked up 159 passing yards and three TDs in the first half, outgaining Northwestern’s 94 offensive yards by himself. The ‘Cats also committed twice as many first-half penalties as the Hawkeyes. If this was going to become a close game, Northwestern would have to improve everything.

Northwestern’s offense started to roll in the third quarter as longer pass plays were called and completed. Once Northwestern had crossed midfield, the O-line committed two holding penalties and the O couldn’t recover. A long field goal attempt by Jeff Budzien missed and the ‘Cats remained at 0. Iowa replied with an efficient drive that ended in a field goal. 24-0, Iowa. Northwestern then went three-and-out, and Iowa’s ensuing drive featured multiple passes over 20 yards. The Hawkeyes scored again, on Vandenberg’s fourth TD pass, making the score 31-0.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Iowa put in the second string offense, and they also had no problem moving the ball against Northwestern’s starting D. A short rushing TD gave Iowa a 38-0 lead. Northwestern’s offense couldn’t muster a first down in the fourth quarter. Iowa ran out the clock for the blowout win.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to imagine a team failing to show up as much as the virtual ‘Cats failed this week. Putting aside the fact that the game’s developers made Iowa better than they are in real life, Northwestern’s offense simply never got started. The ‘Cats earned a meager 10 first downs and 166 yards of offense. Their struggles were magnified on third down, where they were one for ten. Combine that with seven penalties costing sixty yards, and Northwestern put on a show of how to lose a football game.

Big Games This Week

#10 Cincinnati @ Louisville: Louisville wins, 29-26

Ole Miss @ #1 Arkansas: Arkansas wins, 41-24

#3 Michigan State @ #11 Wisconsin: Michigan State wins, 20-16

Colorado @ #5 Oregon: Colorado wins, 28-24

Florida vs. #2 Georgia: Florida wins, 27-17

Notre Dame @ #7 Oklahoma: Oklahoma wins, 29-26

Around the Big Ten

The rematch of last year’s Big Ten championship game went the opposite way, with #3 Michigan State remaining undefeated with a win at Wisconsin. In other ranked action, Nebraska knocked off #22 Michigan in overtime. The Big Ten’s “Ineligi-bowl” was all Penn State; they blew out Ohio State. Purdue got their first conference win at Minnesota. Indiana also notched their first conference win at Illinois.

Heisman Top 5:

Knile Davis, HB, Arkansas

Malcolm Brown, HB, Texas

De’Anthony Thomas, HB, Oregon

EJ Manuel, QB, Florida St.

Marcus Lattimore, HB, South Carolina

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