College football fans spent much of the last week debating the ratings given to the (digital approximations of the) top players in EA Sports' NCAA Football 14 video game, following the release of some of those ratings Thursday.
Similarities between the popular game franchise's built-in football rosters and actual team rosters have been evident for years. In 2009, former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller sued the NCAA and EA Sports for appropriating player likenesses, alleging that "virtually every real-life Division I football or basketball player in the NCAA has a corresponding player in Electronic Arts' games with the same jersey number, and virtually identical height, weight, build, and home state." O'Bannon lawyers are citing at least 54 physical traits the games tend to model after actual players, accordng to Jon Solomon.
The NCAA and EA have repeatedly denied these claims. June 20, by the way, is a very big legal day for the NCAA and EA.
SB Nation compared the uniform number of the top player on each NCAA 14 team to his real-life counterpart and, unsurprisingly, found widespread similarities.
- Of the 126 players surveyed, 124 play the same position as the real-life doppelganger.
- 122 players have an identical height to that listed on the real-life program's official roster.
- Just 80 have an identical weight, but 115 are within 10 pounds of the actual player's listed weight.
- All 126 video game characters have the same home state as corresponding real-life players, though not a single game character is from the same hometown.
- In all, 78 of 126 players have an identical height, weight, position, and home state as the current real-life player wearing the same jersey number.
Much of the total discrepancy is due to a different jersey number on UTEP quarterback Blaire Sullivan. EA Sports has listed "QB #2" as the Miners' top player. Sullivan, who has been named as UTEP's starter next season, wears #10. The EA version shares a home state and height with Sullivan, though there is a 10-pound weight difference.
The only other position discrepancy is actually an issue of classification: Western Michigan defender Johnnie Simon, who plays the linebacker/free safety hybrid position in the Broncos' 4-2-5 defense, is a free safety in NCAA 14 and a linebacker on Western Michigan's roster.
Of the similarities between actual players and their video counterparts, the home states are frequently the most similar. Florida is not a particularly lucrative recruiting area for Cal, for obvious geographic reasons. California punter Cole Leininger is one of just three Golden Bears from Florida, but Cal's punter on NCAA 14, "P #16," also hails from Florida. Auburn punter Steven Clark and Auburn "P #6" call Missouri home, despite Auburn's location in Alabama. Army's "MLB #6" hails from Wisconsin, just as Army middle linebacker #6 Geoffrey Bacon. In all, 74 of the 126 top players are playing for programs outside their home states, and all 74 NCAA 14 counterparts hail from the same states, including Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan (Arizona hometown), Buffalo running back Branden Oliver (Florida), and Colorado State's Shaq Bell (also Florida).
Most discrepancies are in player weight. Oddly, many of the widest discrepancies are for the most famous players. EA's version of the nation's top defensive player, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, is 18 pounds lighter than the actual Clowney. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is just five pounds different than A&M "QB #2", but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is 22 pounds off his video game counterpart. Only Akron halfback Jawon Chisholm has a wider weight discrepancy from his EA character.