It’s Video Game Week here at SB Nation, and unfortunately for fans of college athletics, the only titles available to play are the franchises of old that have since been discontinued because of dumb NCAA rules. The NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball games were some of the most fun sports games of the era, but because they relied on the likeness of real athletes who aren’t allowed to receive compensation, they were forced to be taken off the shelves.
While the general unrest surrounding student-athlete compensation continues to mount, we are on the verge of more relaxed name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. The association is opening up to the idea (mostly by force) of its athletes making money off brand endorsements and autograph sales — something that should have been allowed from the beginning of time. However, as I wrote a few weeks back, this doesn’t exactly open up the door for a new NCAA video game.
The last edition of the NCAA Football title was released in 2013 (titled NCAA Football 14, as most sports titles are numbered a year ahead) while the last NCAA Basketball title came in 2009 (NCAA Basketball 10). As an attempt to work around the NIL issues, EA created players that looked awfully similar to those on the roster for each program around the country, but they were referred to only by their jersey number. For example, Ohio State’s QB at the time was simply No. 5, and shockingly he looked and played just like a man by the name of Braxton Miller — who, get this, wore No. 5.
Speaking of Miller, he was appropriately the highest-rated player on that season’s Ohio State roster. Coming in as a 96 overall, good for the seventh-highest rating of any player in the game, Miller was just ahead of LB Ryan Shazier (93), LG Andrew Norwell (92) and WR Devin Smith (91). That 2013 roster in the final edition of the game, which finished 10-2 in real life that season, was pretty stacked, and also included players like Bradley Roby (91), Philly Brown (90), Corey Linsley (90) and Carlos Hyde (89).
At the helm, Miller was absolutely electric, as his high speed and acceleration made him nearly impossible to guard out of the backfield. Which brings me to the overall point of this article: If the game was still around today, which recent Buckeyes would be the most fun to play with? Which Ohio State players would create nightmare matchups on either the gridiron or the hardwood?
For starters, it’s important to note that defense was not exactly a point of emphasis in the NCAA Football franchise. When playing against a friend, games could routinely end up with both teams scoring in the 50s or 60s. Defensive line was especially poor, so while guys like Chase Young and the Bosa brothers would all likely be 99 overalls or at least close to it, their impact would not be felt nearly as much as the guys on the offensive side of the ball. With that being said, it would obviously still be nice to have guys like Jeff Okudah and Denzel Ward running around out there as high 90s rather than a few 70 overall corners.
However, when it comes to players you would actually be playing with a majority of the time, we have to look to the offense. And if you’re looking for the most likely 99 overalls on Ohio State’s offense the past few years, Justin Fields and Ezekiel Elliott come to mind.
Fields would more or less be an even better version of Miller. While likely not as fast as Miller, Fields’ passing accuracy and arm strength numbers would be far higher, and that combined with his running prowess would be impossible to stop for any defense. Zeke probably wouldn't have the speed numbers of some other running backs around the country, but his ability to break tackles and make clean cuts would be incredibly valuable for keeping the ball moving down the field. The same could be said for J.K. Dobbins, who would likely be rated somewhere in the mid-90s.
Speed was the name of the game in the NCAA Football franchise, and so looking past the 99 overall guys, the next best thing are the guys with 99 speed. Parris Campbell and Curtis Samuel come to mind here as two receivers who would have some of the highest speed ratings of recent Buckeyes. If you could get the ball into either of their hands, you’d have a pretty good shot at breaking one for a touchdown. Jameson Williams is another guy who could work his way into that category, but we’ll have to see a bit more from him this season before making that claim — although the speed is definitely there.
But what about on the hardwood? In NCAA Basketball, as is the case in really any basketball video game, playing as the big men is significantly less fun. Nobody wants to stand in the post and rebound and hit layups. You want the guys who can fly around the court, drill threes and throw down flashy dunks.
Ohio State hasn’t had all too many eccentric dunkers to play with in recent years outside of Sam Thompson in 2014, but he wasn’t all that great of a shooter and so his in-game abilities would be limited. However, you do have some guys who could really shoot the rock in the past few seasons in Columbus, and so your best bet would be to grab either D’Angelo Russell or Duane Washington Jr.
Russell would obviously be Ohio State’s highest overall player in the game in the past five years. He only played one season with the Buckeyes, but he was a great example of a player who could do it all. His dribble moves and shooting ratings would both be rated very high, and he would be a threat to score from anywhere on the court. Washington would be your go-to three-point man, and would be one of those guys who just never miss once they get hot.
There are obviously a ton of fun and interesting players to discuss when trying to predict who would give opposing defenses fits in the video game world. Which football or basketball Buckeyes over the past few years do you think would have lit it up virtually? Let us know in the comments!