NCAA Football Goes Code Blue

We already knew EA Sports’ NCAA Football franchise was code blue; now it is officially done unless you believe in reincarnation or some other form pagan-like rituals:

Shortly after Electronic Arts announced it would stop producing a college football game beginning next year, the video game company — together with Collegiate Licensing Company, which holds the licensing rights to the trademarks to the majority of the colleges and universities — filed papers to the U.S. District Court in Northern California that it had settled its case brought by former players.

This once proud franchise had grown stale in recent years, so while a part of me is sad to see it go, the gamer in me thinks the series needs a break and hopefully a reimaging in the not too distance future.


FIFA 14 Legacy Edition – Reinventing Roster Updates (Vita)

Apparently FIFA 14 Legacy Edition is just that, a Legacy Edition to last year’s FIFA 13, which was nothing more than a roster update of the original FIFA Soccer which was released when the Vita launched way back when, circa Valentine’s Day 2012.

At least EA had the balls to let us know this one was nothing more than some updated kits and roster revisions; so glad I waited and didn’t preorder.

Rather sad really; I wanted a solid soccer game for my Vita, but held off on the original FIFA Soccer (metacritic rating of 79% out of 45 critic reviews). I thought that maybe EA was rushed, and would do a better version next year. Obviously I was mistaken.

EA treated FIFA 13 (metacritic score of 57% out of 9 critic reviews) even more poorly than FIFA Soccer by not even bothering to offer some hit of an update.

And so FIFA 14 Legacy Edition enters the fray; too bad it will make a ton of cash off of unsuspecting consumers. Maybe I will eventually pick up one of the three Vita FIFAs on the cheap, but for now, I am moving on to other endeavors.


Falcons Complacency Continues

As I wrote last week, the Falcons have fallen into a very disturbing pattern of starting strong, and then going uncomfortably numb. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC has the same assessment:

The Falcons continued their pattern of strong starts blowing leads. In this one, they blew leads of 10-0 and 20-10.

The 27-23 loss to the Dolphins hurts because this is a game the Falcons clearly had control of and should have won. Except the coaches don’t seem to understand that you have to play to win the game, don’t play for field goals.

F — Special teams: Harry Douglas can’t let the punt hit the ground and then he can’t fumble after getting crushed after picking it up. The Dolphins went in to tie the game after having a short field. Also, kicker Matt Bryant could have change the dynamics of the final drive by making the 35-yard field with under 5 minutes to play. The depleted Falcons need a boost from the special teams and didn’t receive it.

D — Coaches: The coaches had the players believing that “next man” hullabaloo. The offense came out straight hardcore and the defense was attacking the pocket. But someone has to be accountable for not sustaining the massive early flow and for the not coming up with the correct call to stop the Dolphins’ march to victory on three third downs.

If ATL was playing for a TD on that final drive, Matt Bryant would never have been called upon to try to give ATL a six point lead. The game would have been out of reach, but this has been typical of the Falcons. They play it too damn close to the vest.

Next up, the Falcons look for their season to implode against New England. A 1-3 start may be too much to overcome …


Nanny, Nanny, Boo the NFL

Earlier this week, FOXBusiness posted a great article by Steve Tobak – “Will Nanny rules Break the NFL?” This is a fun read, and while Tobak may not be correct on all points, he is insightful enough to point out that the NFL may be endangering their brand by trying to protect its owners.

Daddy, what’s a kickoff return? In 2011 NFL owners voted to move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, apparently to reduce the number of kickoff returns that result in injuries. But kickoff returns are exciting. Fun. I miss them. It’s the same thing with parents not letting their kids go out and play because they might hurt themselves. It’s nuts.

A lot of things the NFL is doing with rules right now are nuts, but for this season; I’m still a five seat season ticket holder. Not sure how long that will last. Besides the ever changing game rules, there is that looming new stadium in ATL, which will no doubt result in PSLs, which will certainly price me out of the game.


Commonsense Prevails

I doubt I will be pulling some NAPA knowhow anytime soon, but I sure do respect NAPA for taking a stance (it’s always about the money) on the shenanigans pulled by Michael Waltrip racing at Richmond.

A statement from sponsor NAPA on Thursday read: “After thorough consideration, NAPA has made the difficult decision to end its sponsorship arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing effective December 31, 2013.

“NAPA believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.”

Team co-owner Michael Waltrip insisted that his team was not immoral following the penalties.

Keep on believing that Michael Waltrip … it doesn’t change the fact that your team was caught cheating, and trying to screw over Jeff Gordon, which was not really appreciated by Gordon’s fans.


Falcons Pattern of Content

I probably should have titled this one ‘Falcons IR Report’ but more on that in a minute. For now we will focus on everything negative about the Falcons 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Dating back to last year’s playoff, the Falcons find themselves in a pattern of building a lead, only to throttle things back and either hold on for a win, or cave in for a defeat. Seahawks, 49’ers, Saints and now the Rams. It amazes me that the Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 lead only to let the Rams crawl back into the game after the Falcons offense went almost 23 minutes into the second half without a score. Just plain ridiculous.

While I love winning more than losing, and would certainly not call for Coach Mike Smith’s head, at some point you have to say that the team has taken on the nice guy mentality of their head coach. As an example, right before the half, the Falcons were moving for another score. With the game at 21-3, the Falcons could have made a statement by going for a TD. Instead, on second or third down (I forget which) and 14 seconds left and no timeouts, the Falcons opted for a field goal to put the game at 24-3.

No matter what, Coach Smith will get second guessed. Go for the field goal, and armchair QBs (cough … writing this article … cough) criticize for not going for a TD. If the Falcons when for a TD, and Ryan was sacked or turned the ball over, everyone is up in arms for not putting the ‘safe’ three points on the board. When in the Dome, I would rather try to get the TD and fail, instead of sitting back, accepting the field goal, and then going scoreless for 23 minutes. Championship teams have a finishing mentality; the Falcons are still not able to close out games.

The AJC had some pretty harsh grades for the Falcons running backs and o-line; of course I agree with the assessment.

F – Running backs: The running backs rushed 16 times for 36 yards for a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. “We ran the ball six times in the first half; we weren’t very successful at it,” Smith said. “The way the team tried to defend us is going to dictate how we are going to attack them.”

F — Offensive Line: The line didn’t protect Ryan again and didn’t open many holes in the run game. He was sacked twice and hit on eight other plays. They are getting Ryan hit on nearly 25 percent of every pass attempt. Against the Saints he was sacked or hit on 9 of 38 (25.7 percent) drop backs and 10 of 43 (23.2 percent) against the Rams.

The lack of finishing knowhow and the F grades really weren’t the low points. That honor belongs to the IR report. The Falcons suffered a rash of injuries; losing Jackson and Ewing seemed to put the Falcons off balance, ultimately abandoning all attempts at a rushing attack:

Here’s how long the injured players lasted against the Rams — Fullback Bradie Ewing played two snaps, running back Steven Jackson played nine snaps, cornerback Asante Samuel played seven snaps, Weatherspoon played 31 snaps and linebacker Kroy Biermann played 30 snaps.

Unfortunately Ewing and Biermann were lost for the season. For Ewing, it was the second season ending injury in as many seasons. The loss of Ewing will be a blow to the Falcons plans to have some semblance of a ground game; Ewing is a tough blocker and can catch out of the backfield. Losing Biermann is going to be a bitter pill to swallow; ATL could ill afford to lose anyone on an already suspect defense. The d-line has been woefully inadequate, and now it will fall to the depths of being downright pathetic.

If the Ewing and Biermann announcements weren’t bad enough, Sean Weatherspoon will be out until week 11, which may be the one blow to the defense that is too difficult to overcome.

Up next; the Dolphins in Miami. Go Falcons!


NASCAR Pushes Chase To 13 – Gordon Makes The Chase

So now what? NASCAR has decided all the shenanigans at Richmond last weekend completely hosed Jeff Gordon out of the Chase. So Gordon is in, but not at the expense of Logono or any other driver. Instead, we now have the Chase + 1, and JJ is none too pleased:

“Of course I am very happy that Jeff’s in the Chase,” Johnson said. “In my opinion, though, I think there should be 12 cars. One in, one out should be the deal. It’s not. There’s a lot of things to consider. It’s been an interesting week to say the least.

“As a competitor, one of the 12 in the Chase that was in the Chase, you just changed the odds and the ratio tremendously adding a 13th car. I feel Jeff should be in, so I guess the 22 [Logano] would be on the outside looking if they removed one. That’s a good team. They won the championship last year with the 22 car, and Joey is doing a great job and earning a lot of points. It changes the dynamic of the Chase quite a bit with 13 cars.”

I actually agree with JJ, but I am of course happy Gordon has made the Chase. The problem with NASCAR continues to be the subjective way rules are or are not applied depending on which direction the wind is blowing. If the NASCAR brass had any balls, this off season they would throw out the current rule book, and re-write things in such a way as to avoid what just occurred last weekend at Richmond.

A good starting point would be to keep the current Top 10 + 2 Wild Card format, but the actual point system should be revised. Give bonus points for wins once the Chase starts; that makes sense. For the Top 10, give them bonus points as well, similar to a F1 style race finish (i.e. 25 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, etc.). This would prevent Bowyer style “itch scratching” because there would be too many bonus points at risk. This format change would also make the regular season relevant (similar to the pre Chase days) while still awarding for wins and consistency.

A lot of people, myself including, were really turned off by the WWE style antics that occurred during the Richmond race, and the circus style rules changing that occurred afterwards. NASCAR can say what they want, but there was enough evidence to doc Bowyer enough points to knock him out of the Chase, which would have put Gordon in without resorting to an unlucky #13 format.

If anything, maybe bad press is good press, which will result in a positive ratings increase due to the interest around booing Bowyer, but the other risk NASCAR runs is that they will alienate their fans due to NASCAR’s seat of their pants rules enforcement. I for one am a little bit jaded.


NASCAR Pushes Limits …

“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying …” and of course everyone also knows that “It ain’t cheating unless you get caught.”

Well guess what? Michael Waltrip Racing not only blatantly cheated, attempting to manipulate the outcome of the final Chase standings, but they were caught. Punishments ensued, but as Ed Hinton pointed out, Jeff Gordon was still hosed in the process.

“Gordon also lost enormously to the spin, lost a Chase berth via the point standings, to Joey Logano, by a single point. Now questions have arisen whether Logano’s Penske team might have gotten help in track position from another Ford team, Front Row, and David Gilliland, at Gordon’s expense. NASCAR continues to investigate.”

While I do agree with Mr. Hinton, I will also point out that Jeff Gordon put himself in this position by not being able to win a race leading up to the Chase.

Ryan Newman makes it on point penalties applied to Martin Truex, but what about Jeff Gordon? He was in a position to make the Chase (by 2 points if I am not mistaken) at the time Bowyer decided to “scratch his itch.”

When asked about his team allegedly talking in code during the race, Bowyer said that he had poison oak all over his arm from cutting down a tree last week. His crew chief had inquired about his arm right before the spin, at one point saying, “I bet it’s hot in there. Itch it.”

NASCAR could prove only one action — radio communication between Norris and Vickers in which a confused Vickers was told to pit as the field went green with three laps to go. The request was made in an effort to give Joey Logano position on the track to pass Jeff Gordon in the standings and knock Gordon out of the Chase so that Truex could gain the wild card.

But it is all good; at least we know that Michael Waltrip Racing is not immoral:

“We’re not immoral, we’re not irresponsible. Decisions were made just based on circumstances. As we look back, we would’ve been smarter and done things differently.”

I guess smarter means not getting caught. Oh well, I’m done with NASCAR for this year.


Madden 25 – Saying No … Maybe Wait and See

I cannot recall the last time that I didn’t purchase the yearly Madden roster update; I’m certain it has been forever and a day! Two weeks and a day into the release of the 25th anniversary release of Madden, I feel no remorse for not shelling out a few duckets to EA Sports; not even a twinge of doubt or uncertainty about missing out on a new football game.

A few years ago (back in 2009 to be exact) I famously decided to pass on NCAA Football 10. Surprisingly it was actually a difficult decision. Not to trivialize people with serious addictions, but purchasing the annual EA Sports franchise updates is an illness. I survived, which probably allowed me to enjoy NCAA Football 12 and to a lesser extent, NCAA Football 13.

In my opinion NCAA Football 13 was only marginally more interesting than the previous year’s update, so once again I decided to sit on the sidelines. I cannot imagine that EA Sports went all out making their newest PS3 version of NCAA Football compelling when they could be working their way out of various lawsuits.

Not to digress too much, but enough is pretty much enough, which has carried over into Madden. I may look towards a PS4 Madden 25 purchase, but that is still in the air. As it stands now, I can still play last year’s Madden 13 and be perfectly content. For now … until the PS4 Madden itch kicks in …


Falcons Fall To 0-3. Does The Preseason Matter?

The Falcons looked downright awful last night against the Titians, who will not be doing much of anything this year in the AFC South. On the flip side, there have been a handful of pendants that are picking the Falcons to win the NFC South; Super Bowl or bust!

The Falcons Super Bowl aspirations will come to a screeching halt if the Falcons makeshift o-line doesn’t marginally improve. Giving up 5+ sacks a game is a good way to send Matt Ryan to the sidelines.

The concerns about the starting offensive line aren’t going to go away. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked five times.

My predictions for the 2013 season: Before it is all said and done, Matt Ryan will end up missing some time if the o-line is not sorted out in a hurry.

The reason question is does the preseason matter? If I’m not mistaken, last year the Falcons went 1-3 in the preseason, had a 13-3 regular season, and came within 10 yards (and a defensive collapse) of making the Super Bowl.

The general thinking going into the regular season is that the Falcons offense will be unstoppable, which will compensate for an underwhelming defense. Great theory if the o-line can keep Ryan injury free.


U.S. Delivers Under Pressure, 1-nil Over Jamaica

The U.S. deserved more, playing a brilliant first half, mostly in the back third of Jamaica’s “play for a tie” defensive strategy. It all went wrong for Jamaica in the second half when Gomez blistered in a set ball piece from 28 yards outside of the box.

As much as I enjoyed the first half, I equally disliked the timid play of the U.S. in the second once they secured the 1-0 lead. Instead of keeping up the attack, maybe with a smaller push from the backs, just to be safe, the U.S. looked discombobulated, and unsure of how to proceed. I wish we stayed with an attacking style mentality and attempted to get a knockout goal, which would have put the U.S. at the top of the table.

In the end, the U.S. was after 3 points, but against a better team, I think the second half uncertainty would have been costly.

At this point for the U.S., things are pretty straight forward. Win their next two matches, and advance to the knockout round.

Seeking its seventh straight World Cup appearance, the U.S. plays at virtually eliminated Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12, then completes the semis four days later against Guatemala at Kansas City, Kan.

One would have to think the A&B match is a given 3 points for the USMNT, but in CONCACAF qualifying, the U.S. should take nothing for granted, and should push as hard as possible to move up the goal differential chart. When Team USA hosts Guatemala, hopefully the confines in KC will be as good to the U.S. as Crew Stadium!

Columbus Crew Stadium is an unimposing structure on the downtown periphery of the city, yet the USMNT keep coming here, and it is not hard to see why. The U.S. are now 6-0-3 in Columbus Crew Stadium, outscoring opponents 13-1. From “The Star-Spangled Banner” onward, the atmosphere was unrelentingly rowdy and occasionally emotional. From the 9th minute to the 11th, the 23,881 in attendance stood on their feet and cheered in remembrance of 9/11. The U.S. team responded in kind. In the crucial first 15 minutes that set the tone for the rest of the game, the stats were 80 percent possession and 100 percent adrenaline.

So now we wait 30 days, keep our eyes on the health of the squad as they play their club matches, hopefully sharpening up for the final stretch into the round of six.

Go U.S.A!!!


UGA Opens Can Of Jarvis Jones Whoopass On Mazzo

Missouri, welcome to the SEC and “old man football!” I’m still not sure what old man football really is, but after UGA handed the newest SEC Tigers a second half thrashing to the tune of 32 points, 24 of which were unanswered as UGA pulled ahead for the first time with under a minute to play in the third quarter, Mizzo will be licking their wounds most of the week.

To be fair, Mizzo acquitted themselves well, thwarting the Dawgs for much of the night. They just didn’t have an answer for Jarvis. The fans were equally into it, and it really looked like a great atmosphere. Much like Texas A&M, the other new SEC team, Missouri learned that the second half is where “old man” (or smash mouth) football wins and loses games.

UGA was the only Top 10 team to play on the road, so with many pundits predicting the Bulldogs as the top ranked team most likely to lose, may the Dawgs will move up in the standings this week instead of dropping as it did after a lackluster win in its opener against Buffalo.

Looking back on the week one win over Buffalo may tell a different story. Maybe the Dawgs where just running some vanilla stuff in anticipation of last night’s showdown? Maybe the Buffalo game was a wakeup call? I’m not really sure, but Georgia was clearly ready to stop Missouri’s Franklin from beating them on the ground. In the air was another matter as Franklin ranked up buckets of yards, but not enough to overcome Missouri’s first SEC opponent.

I really don’t want to hear about what would happen if Mizzo didn’t suffer o-line injuries. What would have happened if the Dawgs didn’t have to suspend four defensive starters? That one is just not playing with me.

This tidbit from the ajc really sums things up:

“I think we showed people we can play,” Jones said. “In the first half, they threw a variety of punches at us, they showed us everything they had. In the second half we were more comfortable. And we made plays.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers unraveled. It started with their head coach, Gary Pinkel. He called for a fake punt early in the fourth quarter when Georgia led only 24-20. Some might call that the element of surprise. In reality, it was an awful message to send his players. It was like telling them, “We can’t win this playing normal football.” There is nothing wrong with calling a fake plant, but not at that point of the game.

The game was already turning in the Dawgs favor, but I agree that this was a great momentum boost, paving the way for the Dawgs to start off the season 2-0 (1-0 SEC).

Go Dawgs!


U.S. Flat In WC Qualifier Loss To Jamaica

I never thought I would see the day where Team U.S.A. was defeated due to poor set play. While the first goal was sort of a fluke, as a perfectly placed ball went under the would-be blocking wall, the second goal was a “what in the world just happened” moment.

Taking nothing away from the Jamaica strikers; they took full advantage of their two chances. It is just a bit of a shame that a team that once had some pride in capitalizing on their on set plays, and not giving an once when the tables are turned, just went down the table three points to Jamaica.

“Jamaica deserved that win. They were hungrier and they were more determined,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We have to fix it now.”

“We have to do to do a better job with concentration,” American goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “To give away six, seven free kicks in that area is not good enough.”

“We need to figure out a way, whether it’s more width, whether it’s more crosses, whether it’s just doing a better job of keeping the ball,” Dempsey said.

“Next game we have to limit the mistakes and create more chances,” Edu said. “We are disappointed but we still have more games to play.”

You think? Party line quotes. We just had our asses handed to us, so what us is there to say except how does the U.S. fall to Jamaica for the first time ever? After wasting a strong Gomez effort, which resulted in a Dempsey goal inside of the 1′ mark (~30 seconds into the match), I felt good about coming away with at least a point, alas, I went to bet sick at what transpired on the Kingston pitch.

Granted, the U.S. was without Bradley and Donnovan, but where was the depth at midfield? I say it every time I write about U.S. soccer – our defense will be the death of this team.

Time to move on and regroup; September 11 Tuesday night home game against Jamaica, hosted by the Crew. I never thought I would see the day where the U.S. was down 3 points in the table, equal with Guatemala.

In another “I can’t believe it moment” – the U.S. Soccer Federation didn’t bother to try to ensure broadcasting rights for U.S. away games were picked up by a channel that a least allowed a few soccer fans to watch the match. beIN Sports is not exactly a household name. Instead I went to google and found an internet broadcast – no idea if European site Front Row Sports is on the up and up, but it did allow me to watch the miserable loss to Jamaica.

There were multiple streams available, and after settling on a decent one, the only real issue I had was trying to quickly close down any “adult” oriented ads before my 10-year old saw them. For much of the first half, it was very touch and go!


Madden 13

Times have changed. Many moons ago I would have written a few pre anticipating Madden release articles, and of course the obligatory “it’s shipped!” an “it’s out of delivery!” and a “Madden has arrived” articles. Then I would have put in a few games and posted some early impressions.

First of all, Madden 13 (PS3) arrived late in the day; in fact I was out at the soccer fields coaching my 10 year-old son’s team when UPS or FedEx (I didn’t bother to check which one; yet again another sign of the times) threw the package along with the Ratchet & Clank Collection on the front door.

For now I decided to pass on the Vita game. I’m sure I will enjoy it, but honestly there is only a limited amount of time I have for gaming, much less playing football games. Case in point, I’m actually putting NCAA 13 up on eBay this weekend. I figure the Vita version can wait.

I sent a few minutes with Madden Ultimate Team (MUT), which is sort of my hidden passion, which I try to avoid as much as possible so I do not inadvertently throw chunks of money at virtual football cards. Unless I am missing something, it looks like EA has decided to start your team anew. I had a couple of rookie cards carry over from MUT 12 based on preordering Madden 13. And I have 5 rewards packs. I was too tired to see if my coins carried over, and I didn’t open the packs because I know my boys would like to see what cards I received.

I jumped back to the main menu and I played one quick game; first impressions were that graphics look much better and the new physics engine was convincing.

For anyone interested, I setup a calvertgames community (search calvertgames or CG). Feel free to join. I’m not really much of an online gamer which means I will probably not push for the Platinum this year, but at least wanted to create a community for my boys and their friends.

More to come later; just in time for Labor Day weekend.