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An ISU-Centric review of NCAA Football 2012

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So the latest iteration of the College Football video game series, NCAA Football 12, has been  out for about a week. If you want reviews about the game itself, you can find a whole bunch of them here at metacritic. (Spoiler: Mostly middling to positive, no huge changes.) However, none of these reviews can give you what we offer today: A completely Cyclone-centric analysis of Dynasty mode.

 *We're not Special*

In an attempt to help universities show off their pre-game traditions, EA Sports has started putting it pre-game cutscenes that one would normally see before a game - Chief Osceola (Florida State) planting his spear at mid-field, Notre Dame tapping the "Play like a Champion today" sign, Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner, etc. Sadly, no such pre-game tradition exists yet for Iowa State. The cannon fired after touchdowns is included (Thanks, Alpha Sigma Phi) and some generic audience chants provide ISU-centric content.

Virtual Jack Trice is true enough to it's real life counterpart, getting details like the hill-side seating areas and the "opposing fans" sections in the correct places. (Although, to be fair, this is nothing new from any of the previous 4 iterations, and would only serve as a glaring error if they were wrong.) The giant scoreboard going up over the Jacobson building doesn't exist here either, although it will be interesting to see in the game next year. The players run in from the correct corner of the field, and most of the other little details are done well.

The biggest and most noticeable issue is with the stadium PA announcer. (Not the ESPN guys, the announcer you hear behind them in the stands.) Every so often after a nice run, you hear him say "Another Iowa.... first down!"

*No Respect*

Iowa State remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the Big XII, holding down a solid 2-star prestige ranking as a school (on a scale of 6.) ISU's highest rated player doesn't top 90 on the skill set (Jake Knott, 88 overall) and with the changes to conference play, it may be a few years before average players are able to have some sustained success and 4-star players are recruitable. 

*Changes to Conference Play*

When the conference re-alignment happened after last season, the Big XII lost two teams and, as a result, divisions and the championship game were no longer. This has fundamental changes on the nature of how seasons are played and how easily championships can be won.

One of the benefits of playing in the Big XII as a lowly team like Iowa State was that if you could win a weak north division, you could scrape into the Big XII championship and get to the fiesta bowl in your first year. Now having to play every other Big XII team once in a round-robin fashion, suddenly the KSU game at the end of the season still has an impact. Rather than having the north division already in the bag, suddenly a win becomes very important to keep from giving away the conference title to one-loss Oklahoma. (Or worse, a two-loss Baylor. This actually happened in my second season.)

One small complaint with the scheduling, however. For several years now, Iowa State has played their final game on the 14th week of the season, leaving a bye week during what most consider "rivalry week." In terms of recruiting in the game, this meant that Iowa State always had at least one late-season date for recruits to visit on. With our Kansas State rivalry being moved to that last weekend, that always-open Bye week is now gone. During season 2 of the dynasty I played, the automatic conference scheduler had ISU playing 5 straight away games to end the season, meaning that no recruits could visit campus after Week 10. Makes recruiting a hell of a lot harder, so watch what sort of recruiting goals you're signing up for in Dynasty mode.

*Concussions are serious business.*

Not so much an Iowa State issue, but notable nonetheless.

A few games into my first season, Hammerschmidt catches a pass over the middle and gets absolutely drilled. As he's rolling around on the ground, the predictable "injury" message comes up. Looks like he's got a concussion. Alright, no problem, I can bench him and move on, right?

Not yet, I can't. Not until Kirk spends the better part of a minute telling us just how serious concussions are, why it's important to come out of the game if one is suspected, and (this is a direct quote) "For any younger fans out there, it's very important if you experience warning signs like dizziness or blurred vision, that you tell your coach and make sure you take yourself out of the game."

By the time he finishes his spiel, it's three plays later and I've got another reciever laid out with a concussion. And then he starts all over again, with the same exact quote. Repeating yourself... sign of a concussion, perhaps?

Look, I get it. Making sure that football stays safe is very important to the health and well-being of both the players and the game itself. Still, a minute long lecture seems out of place considering most people complete long touchdown drives in the time it takes for the soundbite to play through. It's just that the ham-handedness of it all rivals a "Just Say No" TV ad delivered by Nancy Reagan and Porky Pig.

*Final Verdict*

There's not much update from last year's version, although the coach carousel does add some nice flavor. (Even if it's likely most players will just stick with their favorite team through dynasty mode anyway.) Probably not worth it if you already have NCAA 11 unless you're a hardcore college football fan. If you do pick it up, make sure to download the updated/named rosters to get the full effect.