NCAA Football 2004 Walkthrough

It’s time for college football! This walkthrough covers all editions of NCAA Football 2004 with a special chapter on the PlayStation 2's exclusive online multiplayer mode. Look inside for detailed team stats, tips on building your dynasty, offensive and defensive strategies, and more.

By Doug Radcliffe
Design by Katie Bush

It’s fall. It’s Saturday. It’s time for college football! EA Sports delivers its yearly edition of NCAA Football 2004 with new features, teams, game modes, and plays. This game guide covers all editions with a special chapter on the PlayStation 2’s exclusive online multiplayer mode.

This GameSpot Game Guide to NCAA Football 2004 includes:

  • Team Stats: Dynasty stats and rankings for all 117 teams, plus additional stats for the division I-AA squads.
  • The Top 25: A focus on the Top 25 with stats for the key offensive skill positions, last year’s history, and a team analysis.
  • Building a Dynasty: Look here for tips on building your dynasty, surviving a season, and recruiting next year’s stars.
  • Offensive Gameplan: This section focuses on offensive strategy with tips on improving your running game, passing attack, and option plays.
  • Defensive Gameplan: This section focuses on defensive formations, position movements, play-calling, and controlling defenders.
  • Online Strategies: Tips specifically for the PlayStation 2’s online play mode.
  • Secrets: Want to celebrate a hard-earned touchdown? Look here!

Chapter 1 - Team Stats

The following chart reveals the overall, offense, defense, special teams, and prestige ratings for all 117 college football teams. These ratings were gathered from a fresh dynasty.

RANKTEAMCONFERENCEOVERALLOFFENSEDEFENSESPECIAL TEAMSTEAM PRESTIGE
#1Ohio State BuckeyesBig 10AA-A-A+6 stars
#2Oklahoma SoonersBig 12AB+A+B+6 stars
#3Miami HurricanesBig EastAAAB6 stars
#4Texas LonghornsBig 12A-A-B+A6 stars
#5Kansas State WildcatsBig 12B+A-B+B+4 stars
#6Auburn TigersSECBB+B+C+4 stars
#7Virginia Tech HokiesBig EastA-B+B+A-5 stars
#8Georgia BulldogsSECB+B+BB+5 stars
#9USC TrojansPac-10B+B+B+B+5 stars
#10Michigan WolverinesBig 10BB+BC+6 stars
#11North Carolina State WolfpackACCBB+BB-4 stars
#12Pittsburgh PanthersBig EastB+B+BA-4 stars
#13Florida State SeminolesACCB+B+B+B+6 stars
#14Washington HuskiesPac-10BB+B-B-5 stars
#15Maryland TerrapinsACCB+B+B+B+4 stars
#16LSU TigersSECBB+BB5 stars
#17Tennessee VolunteersSECB+B+B+B6 stars
#18Virginia CavaliersACCBB+B-B-4 stars
#19Florida GatorsSECB+B+BB+5 stars
#20Notre Dame Fighting IrishIA IndependentsB+B+B+A6 stars
#21Arizona State Sun DevilsPac-10BBB-C+4 stars
#22Alabama Crimson TideSECBBB+B-4 stars
#23Purdue BoilermakersBig 10BB-BC+4 stars
#24Texas A&M AggiesBig 12BBB-B+5 stars
#25Wisconsin BadgersBig 10BB+B-B-4 stars
#26Penn State Nittany LionsBig 10BBB-B5 stars
#27Arkansas RazorbacksSECBBB+B-3 stars
#28Colorado BuffaloesBig 12B-B-B-B-4 stars
#29Oregon State BeaversPac-10B+B+BB+4 stars
#30Oklahoma State CowboysBig 12BBC+B+3 stars
#31Nebraska CornhuskersBig 12BBBB5 stars
#32Missouri TigersBig 12B-BC+C+3 stars
#33Iowa HawkeyesBig 10B+BB+A4 stars
#34Oregon DucksPac-10BBB-B-5 stars
#35Colorado State RamsMountain WestBBBA-3 stars
#36Ole Miss RebelsSECBB+B-B+4 stars
#37Minnesota Golden GophersBig 10B-B+C+C3 stars
#38Georgia Tech Yellow JacketsACCB-B-B-C+4 stars
#39West Virginia MountaineersBig EastBBB-B3 stars
#40Southern Miss Golden EaglesC-USAB-C+BC+3 stars
#41Boston College EaglesBig EastBBB-B-3 stars
#42Clemson TigersACCBB-B-B+4 stars
#43UCLA BruinsPac-10BBB+B4 stars
#44Texas Tech Red RaidersBig 12C+B-CC+3 stars
#45Fresno State BulldogsWACBBB-B+3 stars
#46Washington State CougarsPac-10B+BBA4 stars
#47South Carolina GamecocksSECB-B-B-B4 stars
#48Syracuse OrangemenBig EastB-B-C+C+4 stars
#49Hawaii WarriorsWACB-B-B-B3 stars
#50Illinois Fighting IlliniBig 10B-B-C+B4 stars
#51Miami (OH) RedhawksMACC+B-CB-2 stars
#52TCU Horned FrogsC-USAB-B-C+B3 stars
#53Marshall Thundering HerdMACB-B+C+C+3 stars
#54Iowa State CyclonesBig 12B-B-B-B+3 stars
#55BYU CougarsMountain WestC+CC+B3 stars
#56New Mexico LobosMountain WestB-B-C+C2 stars
#57Boise State BroncosWACB-B-B-B-2 stars
#58Tulane Green WaveC-USACC+C-D+2 stars
#59North Texas EaglesSun BeltC+CB-B-1 star
#60Arizona WildcatsPac-10C+C+C+B-3 stars
#61Air Force FalconsMountain WestB-B-B-B2 stars
#62Mississippi State BulldogsSECB-B-B-A3 stars
#63Michigan State SpartansBig 10C+C+CC+4 stars
#64Kentucky WildcatsSECC+B-CB-3 stars
#65Northern Illinois HuskiesMACB-B-C+B+2 stars
#66North Carolina Tar HeelsACCC+C+C+B-3 stars
#67Utah UtesMountain WestC+C+B-C3 stars
#68Wake Forest Demon DeaconsACCC+B-C+C+2 stars
#69USF BullsC-USAC+C+C+C+2 stars
#70Cincinnati BearcatsC-USAB-B-B-C+2 stars
#71Cal Golden BearsPac-10C+B-C+C3 stars
#72Louisville CardinalsC-USAB-B-B-B-3 stars
#73UCF Golden KnightsMACB-B-B-C+2 stars
#74Bowling Green FalconsMACC+C+C+C2 stars
#75Stanford CardinalPac-10B-B-B-B-4 stars
#76Northwestern WildcatsBig 10B-B-C+C+3 stars
#77Duke Blue DevilsACCCC-C+C2 stars
#78Memphis TigersC-USACCCC2 stars
#79Louisiana Tech BulldogsWACC+B-CB+2 stars
#80UConn Huskies1A IndependentsC+C+C+C1 star
#81Toledo RocketsMACC+B-B-C2 stars
#82ECU PiratesC-USAC+B-C+C+2 stars
#83Vanderbilt CommodoresSECCC-CC+2 stars
#84Mew Mexico State AggiesSun BeltCC+CC+1 star
#85UNLV RebelsMountain WestB-B-B-B-2 stars
#86Rice OwlsWAVD+D+D+C1 star
#87Western Michigan BroncosMACCCC+C+2 stars
#88Indiana HoosiersBig 10B-B-C+B-2 stars
#89San Diego State AztecsMountain WestB-C+B-C+2 stars
#90San Jose State SpartansWACC-C-C-C-1 star
#91Temple OwlsBig EastCCCC+2 stars
#92Baylor BearsBig 12CCCC-2 stars
#93Kansas JayhawksBig 12CCC+B-2 stars
#94Nevada Wolf PackWAVC+B-C+C+2 stars
#95Troy State Trojans1A IndependentsCCCC+1 star
#96Rutgers Scarlet KnightsBig EastC-C-CC+2 stars
#97UAB BlazersC-USAC+C+C+C+2 stars
#98Ohio BobcatsMACCC-CC1 star
#99Mid Tenn State Blue RaidersSun BeltC+CC+B1 star
#100Ball State CardinalsMACCC-C+B2 stars
#101Arkansas State IndiansSun BeltCCC+C+1 star
#102Wyoming CowboysMountain WestCCC-B-2 stars
#103Akron ZipsMACC+B-C+C2 stars
#104Utah State AggiesSun BeltCCC+C-1 star
#105Houston CougarsC-USACC+CC+2 stars
#106UL Lafayette Ragin’ CajunsSun BeltCCCC1 star
#107UL Monroe IndiansSun BeltCCC+C-1 star
#108Navy Midshipmen1A IndependentsC-C-C-C1 star
#109Idaho VandalsSun BeltCCC-B-1 star
#110Central Michigan ChippewasMACCCC-C+1 star
#111SMU MustangsWACC-C-CC2 stars
#112Kent State Golden FlashesMACCCCC1 star
#113UTEP MinersWACC-D+CC1 star
#114Eastern Michigan EaglesMACCCC-B-1 star
#115Tulsa Golden HurricaneWAVCCCC1 star
#116Army Black KnightsC-USAC-C-C-C1 star
#117Buffalo BullsMACCC-C+C+1 star

Team Stats - cont.

The following table reveals even more team stats! These are the team stats for the division I-AA teams, which can be added to your Dynasty mode (they must replace one of the 117 teams listed in the previous table). If you’re up for a challenge, these are definitely the teams to pick! All of these teams have low ratings and just 1 star prestige (which means recruiting will be very tough).

TEAMCONFERENCEOVERALLOFFENSEDEFENSESPECIAL TEAMSTEAM PRESTIGE
Alabama A&M BulldogsSWACD+D+D+C1 star
Alabama State HornetsSWACD+DD+C1 star
Alcorn State BravesSWACD+D+D+D+1 star
Appalachian State MountaineersSouthernC-C-C-C+1 star
Ark Pine-Bluff Golden LionsSWACD+D+D+C+1 star
Bethune-Cookman WildcatsMEACDD+DD1 star
Brown BearsIvy LeagueDD-D+C-1 star
Chattanooga MocsSouthernD+C-D+B-1 star
Columbia LionsIvy LeagueDDD+C1 star
Cornell Big RedIvy LeagueDDD+D1 star
Dartmouth Big GreenIvy LeagueDDD+C1 star
Delaware Blue HensAtlantic 10C-CC-C-1 star
Delaware State HornetsMEACDD+D+D1 star
E Washington EaglesBig SkyC-C-C-C1 star
East Tenn State BuccaneersSouthernC-D+CC+1 star
Elon PhoenixSouthernD+DCC1 star
Florida A&M RattlersMEACD+C-DC1 star
Furman PaladinsSouthernC-C-C-B-1 star
Georgia Southern EaglesSouthernCCCC1 star
Grambling State TigersSWACD+DD+C-1 star
Hampton PiratesMEACDD+D+D+1 star
Harvard CrimsonIvy LeagueD+D+C-C1 star
Hofstra PrideAtlantic 10D+D+D+C-1 star
Howard BisonMEACD+D-C-C-1 star
Idaho State BengalsBig SkyC-C-C-C1 star
Illinois State RedbirdsGatewayD+C-D+C1 star
Indiana State SycamoresGatewayD+D+D+C-1 star
Jackson State TigersSWACDD+D+D1 star
James Madison DukesAtlantic 10C-C-C-C1 star
Maine Black BearsAtlantic 10C-C-C-C-1 star
Miss Valley State Delta DevilsSWACDD+D+D-1 star
Montana GrizzliesBig SkyCC+CC+1 star
Montana State BobcatsBig SkyD+D+C-C-1 star
Morgan State BearsMEACDD+D+D1 star
N Carolina A&T AggiesMEACDDDC-1 star
New Hampshire WildcatsAtlantic 10D+D+D+C1 star
Norfolk State SpartansMEACD-D-D+C-1 star
Northeastern HuskiesAtlantic 10C-D+C-C1 star
Northern Arizona LumberjacksBig SkyD+D+D+C1 star
Northern Iowa PanthersGatewayCC-CC+1 star
Penn QuakersIvy LeagueD+D+D+C1 star
Portland State VikingsBig SkyC-CCD+1 star
Prairie View A&M PanthersSWACDD-D+C-1 star
Princeton TigersIvy LeagueD+D+D+C-1 star
Rhode Island RamsAtlantic 10C-C-D+B-1 star
Richmond SpidersAtlantic 10C-CC-C-1 star
S Carolina State BulldogsMEACDDD+D+1 star
Sacramento State HornetsBig SkyC-C-CC-1 star
Southern JaguarsSWACDD+D+D1 star
Southern Illinois SalukisGatewayD+D+C-C1 star
SW Missouri St. BearsGatewayD+C-D+D+1 star
Texas Southern TigersSWACDDD+C-1 star
The Citadel BulldogsSouthernC-C-D+C+1 star
UMass MinutemenAtlantic 10D+C-D+C-1 star
Villanova WildcatsAtlantic 10D+D+D+D1 star
Weber State WildcatsBig SkyD+D+D+C-1 star
Western Carolina CatamountsSouthernCCCC1 star
Western Illinois LeathernecksGatewayD+D+C-C-1 star
Western Kentucky HilltoppersGatewayC-C-C-C+1 star
William and Mary TribeAtlantic 10CCCB-1 star
Wofford TerriersSouthernC-C-C-C-1 star
Yale BulldogsIvy LeagueC-C-C-C1 star
Youngstown State PenguinsGatewayCC+C-C+1 star

Chapter 2 - The Top 25

This section provides team breakdowns of the top 25 college football teams, as rated by NCAA Football 2004. Each breakdown includes statistics for the core offensive positions (starting QB, HB, WRs, and TE), 2002 on the field statistics, and analysis.

Each position player is rated in several different categories. The following list reveals the statistic and description. Note that some of the statistics from the game were removed in these tables, namely the tackle and kicking statistics as they don’t apply to these positions.

  • Overall (OVR) - The overall rating for the player.
  • Speed (SPD) - How fast the player can run.
  • Strength (STR) - The player’s strength, which affects his ability to break tackles.
  • Awareness (AWR) - A player’s ability to react and adjust.
  • Agility (AGI) - The player’s agility, enhancing his ability to switch directions.
  • Acceleration (ACC) - How fast a player reaches full speed. Great for sprinting through open holes in your line.
  • Catch (CTH) - How well the player can catch. A higher rating means less drops.
  • Carry (CAR) - How well the player holds onto the football. A higher rating means the less chance of a fumble.
  • Jump (JMP): The player’s ability to jump, such as for grabbing high passes.
  • Break Tackles (BTK): The player’s ability to break tackles.
  • Throw Power (THP): How far a player can throw the ball.
  • Throw Accuracy (THA): How accurate a player throws.
  • Pass Block (PBK): How well a player pass blocks.
  • Run Block (RBK): How well a player run blocks.
  • Stamina (STA): The player’s stamina level. The higher the rating, the more the player can be in the game before he becomes fatigued.
  • Injury (INJ): The likelihood of an injury. The higher the rating, the less likely a player will get injured.

Also, in the statistics for each team, note that all teams possess goal line and Hail Mary offensive formations in their playbooks.

#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJJMP
QB #168965538565634065715782853636938271
HB #139590746585926377709037374446897570
WR #129494538590949160875236363636908887
WR #88095487085867563886336363645845688
TE #888266748464686874706536366572798870

2002 record: 14-0, National Champions
Conference: Big Ten, T-1st
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 173.2 yards per game (31st in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 191.3 yards per game (92nd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Big, Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, I Form-Slot, I Form-Twins, Pro Form-Normal, Shotgun-5 Wide, Strong-Normal, Weak-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 243.1 yards allowed per game (95th in nation) 2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 77.7 yards allowed per game (3rd in nation)

The Buckeyes are coming off a 2002 National Championship season with an upset of the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl and they’re coming back strong--all eleven starters on offense return. This team is stocked with talent and ready for another run at the title. There are many seniors, which could put dynasty players in a pinch filling those holes after the upcoming season. The Buckeyes are led on offense by solid, but not extraordinary, quarterback. But it’s an explosive wide receiver and a standout sophomore and Heisman candidate at halfback that are the primary weapons. HB #13 and WR #12 are your stars here. Get them the ball early and often. On defense, be wary of the long ball. The secondary was an Achilles’ heel last year and things aren’t much better with low rated safeties.

#2 - Oklahoma Sooners

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1885635080636240546049858336368245
HB #4088915855889165736072363639428085
WR #8186894770889084558854373739377587
WR #985904572858787507854373742427584
TE #8975726467667770697068363649649089

2002 Record: 12-2
Conference: Big 12 (1st in South)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 202.0 yards per game (68th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 190.6 yards per game (32nd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Spread, Ace-Trips, I Form-Tight, I Form-Y-Trips, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Bunch, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Y-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 185.3 yards allowed per game (25th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 107.9 yards allowed per game (14th in nation)

The #2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners have a punishing defense.

The Sooners are led by a defensive-minded coach and it certainly shows on this year’s squad. While Ohio State and Miami may have their firepower on offense, the Sooners are stacked on defense (seven out of eleven starters rated over 90 with most of the others around 89). Maintain a solid ball control offense with an equal dose of runs and passes; the Sooners possess a balanced mix of key offensive players but lack a single standout threat. This mix is clearly revealed in the Sooners’ playbook: a helping of Ace and I Form formations for controlling the line of scrimmage with the running game then a string of Shotgun formations (which shows the Sooners’ offensive roots in the Gators’ scheme) for the aerial show.

#3 - Miami Hurricanes

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #787564576555740556847898736369085
HB #3292936564889362744882373740509070
WR #989904583919086638445363637409285
WR #386904775888781658566363638389090
TE #8197896891879093728775373756639793

2002 Record: 12-1
Conference: Big East (1st)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 284.2 yards per game (16th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 181.6 yards per game (40th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Bunch, Ace-Slot, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Normal, I Form-Tight, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-Y-Trips, Strong-Normal
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 119.7 yards per game (1st in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 165.3 yards per game (72nd in nation)

The Miami Hurricane vs. Ohio State Buckeye national championship game is rightfully one of NCAA Football 2004’s classic games. It was one of the most exciting--and controversial (particularly to Miami fans)--games of all-time. Though Miami lost the title and several significant starters, the Hurricanes are still back in the hunt and will contend again for the top college prize. Miami is about speed. It’s one of the fastest teams (sort their roster by speed to see a lot of 90s) on both offense and defense. Though their QB is untested (it’s his first year as starter), he’s still solidly rated. Miami is also one of the few teams with a major standout at tight end. Don’t neglect him in your offensive gameplan! Steadily feed your opponent’s defense with Miami’s top-rated RB then hit the TE with play action passes. Look for other ways of getting him the ball. Choose passes where he’s an option and look for him in one-on-one coverage.

#4 - Texas Longhorns

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #584614669605840475549888436368580
HB #3292906565879065777280363642399085
WR #499954890919593649062363636459293
WR #8290914082879090578543394036369085
TE #8088756991727584666765363662678878

2002 Record: 11-2
Conference: Big 12 (2nd in South)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 250.1 yards per game (34th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 135.5 yards per game (74th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Empty, Ace-Slot, Ace-Spread, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Normal, I Form-Slot, No Back, Strong-Normal, Strong-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 165.2 yards allowed per game (8th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 142.5 yards allowed per game (47th in nation)

The Longhorns are looking to improve on their 2002 success with a run at the national title. A quick glance at their offensive starters reveals a lot of high numbers. Let’s start with arguably the best receiver in the country; Texas’ WR #4 is an extremely fast deep threat with stellar abilities. Look for opportunities to match him up one-on-one and test your opponent’s defense on the deep ball. The Longhorns’ running game is no slouch either with a solid running back to keep your opponents’ defenses honest and away from double-teaming your star receiver. A solid, but not outstanding, first-time starter quarterback and an above average tight-end round out the primary offensive stars.

#5 - Kansas State Wildcats

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #394825287808240707863818436369588
HB #4392966070899566756071363636399085
WR #581924275848875528645363638428584
WR #980854475859175508352363636478079
TE #8887707484667475706066363669758285

2002 Record: 11-2
Conference: Big 12 (2nd in North)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 158.9 yards per game (100th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 264.1 yards per game (5th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Slot, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Tight, I Form-Y-Trips, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-Split, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-Y-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 179.5 yards allowed per game (20th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 69.5 yards allowed per game (2nd in nation)

The Kansas State Wildcats return two key starters on offense: an explosive quarterback and an extremely quick running back. This tandem can run a potent option running game. HB #43 has enough speed and acceleration to turn the corner on most defenses and scamper down the sideline for big gain after big gain. And the QB #3 also possesses quickness should you decide to hit the hole and turn him up field. Satisfactory, but not game breaking, receivers and an above average tight-end round out the core of the offense. The Wildcats have a very strong defense to complement their offense. Use a mix of run and option run to maintain a ball control offense and keep the ball away from your opponent.

#6 - Auburn Tigers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1784655073666940566864857936368584
HB #2492886675859165744981373750469070
WR #283904565859181528555373740458887
WR #182894665868980558452373737378886
TE #869656765626869654964373750557080

2002 Record: 9-4
Conference: SEC (T-2nd in West)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 183.8 yards per game (81st in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 203.7 yards per game (25th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Y-Trips, Ace-Normal, I Form-Normal, I Form-Y-Trips, I Form-Tight, Shotgun-Ace Twins, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 186.5 yards allowed per game (26th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 141.7 yards allowed per game (46th in nation)

Fans of the Auburn Tigers have high expectations for their team this season. After a respectable finish last year, the Tigers are seeking an SEC title and a run at the national championship. The Tigers have a lot of depth with all four halfbacks rated over 80 overall and in the speed department. Thus you don’t lose much talent should you incur an injury or need to sub in a halfback because of fatigue. A balanced group of receivers provide plenty of downfield opportunities in Auburn’s four shotgun passing formations. A highly rated set of linebackers will help stop the run and keep pressure off Auburn’s weaker secondary.

#7 - Virginia Tech Hokies

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #386675074676837575258858237379085
HB #2594926875889362755180373742489085
WR #1990915580889086668956363636439089
WR #1272844562848072597446363636398275
TE #8672646970646564656062363655657877

2002 Record: 10-4
Conference: Big East (T-4th)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 159.2 yards per game (99th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 212.4 yards per game (19th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Big, Ace-Normal, Ace-Trips, I Form-Normal, I Form-Tight, I Form-Twins, I Form-Y-Trips, Shotgun-Split, Shotgun-Y-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 213.6 yards allowed per game (56th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 121.4 yards allowed per game (29th in nation)

The Virginia Tech Hokies have a good one-two tandem at quarterback.

The Hokies are primarily a running team, mixing in the option and quarterback scrambles with standard handoffs to their highly rated HB #25. And a solid running game should open the play-action passes to the speedy WR #19 and an above average tight-end. For a change of pace, sub in the Hokes’ backup freshman quarterback (QB #5); he happens to be the younger brother of an NFL star QB (hint: he's on the cover of another EA football game). QB #5 is faster than the Hokies' default starter and could provide a much needed spark, should you fall behind.

#8 - Georgia Bulldogs

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1490555379585840606351898936369088
HB #3183905054878967657961363650428778
WR #8290934977909089508550373741429084
WR #2583885577848679489051373744428077
TE #8989747288757479706870363664708490

2002 Record: 13-1
Conference: SEC (1st)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 245.4 yards per game (39th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 139.6 yards per game (67th in nation)
Offensive Formations: I Form-Normal, I Form-Slot, I Form-Tight, Power I, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-Split, Shotgun-Trips, Weak-Slot
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 189.5 yards allowed per game (31st in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 114.0 yards allowed per game (19th in nation)

The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off an excellent season capped by an SEC championship title, wrestled away from perennial SEC powerhouses Tennessee and Florida. The Bulldogs have two solid quarterbacks, so you lose very little should your starter get injured. Plus, switching in the backup might be a nice chance of pace to keep your opponent off balance. The default starter is more of a pocket passer while the backup possesses a higher speed rating, ideal for quarterback draw plays. WR #82 and TE #89 are serious passing threats and a nicely rated set of five HBs (all rated over 80) provide depth and the ability to sub in without losing much in the way of talent.

#9 - USC Trojans

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1078534968535555425555857737378280
HB #3486945553929465657562373740408782
WR #196975375949791629552363636369192
WR #8388884681878986628557363636418785
TE #8183717084687275676063363661678287

2002 Record: 11-2
Conference: Pac-10 (T-1st)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 306.8 yards per game (8th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 142.5 yards per game (65th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Bunch, Ace-Empty, Ace-Slot, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Trips, Pro Form-Normal, Shotgun-Bunch, Strong-Slot, Weak-Normal
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 201.8 yards allowed per game (42nd in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 83.2 yards allowed per game (6th in nation)

Study the statistics and it doesn’t take long to find the one question mark on the Trojan’s offense: the quarterback. But it’s not a surprise: the Trojans lost their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to the National Football League. Don’t be hesitant to experiment with the Trojans’ other available quarterbacks; for instance, the default second-string quarterback has the same overall rating (78) but slightly higher throwing power and throwing accuracy. Don’t put all the pressure on your offense’s single question mark: get the ball to your stars, especially WR #1.

#10 - Michigan Wolverines

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1688535683525540616041898536368790
HB #2390827278828661736582404050488787
WR #192925478929288559052363636429288
WR #979865172838473568752363636428085
TE #8865725554707270605252373745528280

2002 Record: 10-3
Conference: Big 10 (3rd)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 232.8 yards per game (44th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 148.4 yards per game (59th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Bunch, Ace-Slot, Ace-Trips, I Form-Tight, I Form-Normal, Pro Form-Normal, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Twins, Weak-Slot
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 224.5 yards allowed per game (69th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 123.2 yards allowed per game (31st in nation)

The Wolverines are led by a senior quarterback coming off a good season; he’s a quality pocket passer but don’t expect much mobility with speed and acceleration ratings in the 50s. The starting HB #23 and WR #1 are your primary offensive stars; the ratings drop off fairly quickly after these two standouts. A topnotch cornerback leads the defense. He can be left in single coverage on nearly all opposing starting wide receivers, which allows the weaker strong safety to assist elsewhere or cheat up to the line to help stop an opponent’s running game.

#11 - North Carolina State Wolfpack

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1795525291504840566840879736369584
HB #4490896465879070727176373740409082
WR #8290925080879287648950363636449287
WR #582904175858880488542373740458782
TE #8172776045747873657458363654618483

2002 Record: 11-3
Conference: ACC (4th)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 247.7 yards per game (35th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 144.1 yards per game (62nd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Y-Twins, I Form-Tight, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Ace Twins, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-Y-Trips, Strong-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 175.5 yards allowed per game (15th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 125.3 yards allowed per game (32nd in nation)

With a highly rated, Heisman-candidate starting quarterback, the Wolfpack are ready to contend for the ACC title and, perhaps, even make a run for the big prize. North Carolina State can put the pressure on opponent’s defenses with a good mix of the run and pass--they certainly aren’t afraid to air it out with a playbook consisting of five shotgun formations. A decent all-around secondary should give the Wolfpack much needed defensive support, particularly when they head to Florida State to battle their new rival, perhaps with the conference title on the line.

#12 - Pittsburgh Panthers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1289705477706945537050878436369485
HB #2588856874808660746579363640368587
WR #195945177929593559447363636369692
WR #8572824964778371528554373739398066
TE #8390816891778282686870363658658594

2002 Record: 9-4
Conference: Big East (3rd)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 215.1 yards per game (59th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 143.1 yards per game (64th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, Ace-Spread, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twins, Pro Form-Normal, Shotgun-Bunch, Shotgun-Spread
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 178.5 yards allowed per game (18th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 117.5 yards allowed per game (24th in nation)

The Pittsburgh Panthers have risen from near obscurity to be a significant player in the Big East conference, recently dominated by Miami and Virginia Tech. Your two powerhouses on offense are an extremely quick WR #1 and a highly-rated TE #83, great for combining an aggressive deep ball strike with short dump offs for more ball control. A quality, but not outstanding, halfback should be enough to keep the opposing defense from targeting your wide out and tight-end on each and every play. Keep games close with Pitt’s well-rounded defense, which could be tough against explosive conference opponents, the Hurricanes and Hokies.

#13 - Florida State Seminoles

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1688685474626852466551898436369084
HB #691857473828758757192363645428965
WR #184944270909478518544373738398481
WR #2184915165889180509149373737399287
TE #3866666355626464666164363648588084

2002 Record: 9-5
Conference: ACC (1st)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 211.1 yards per game (26th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 187.0 yards per game (35th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Twins, I Form-Normal, I Form-Slot, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 235.2 yards allowed per game (85th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 130.8 yards allowed per game (36th in nation)

The Florida State Seminoles look to continue their dominance of the ACC.

The Seminoles are coming off a tough year by posting their worst overall record in a long time--yet the team still won its conference and played in a major bowl game. But with the emergence of North Carolina State, it’s doubtful the Seminoles will be able to repeat last year’s performance and still maintain ACC dominance. Florida State’s junior quarterback has a decent rating, despite a lot of inconsistent play during the previous season, but the true star is a bruising starting halfback (92 rating in breaking tackles!). He should keep opposing defenses up to the line, which will give the Seminoles’ two wideout burners (94 and 91 speed) plenty of holes to exploit. Defensive concerns are the two starting safeties, which could get torched in man-on-man coverage with top notch receivers.

#14 - Washington Huskies

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #394465386475851606545969136369085
HB #2484856668808465707272363638398380
WR #197975682929792659455373737419592
WR #1081914568889078588445363645378880
TE #8264626455646565557057363650557880

2002 Record: 7-6
Conference: Pac-10 (7th)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 346.2 yards per game (4th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 74.5 yards per game (113th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Empty, Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, Ace-Twins, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Normal, No Back, Strong-Twins, Weak-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 259.5 yards allowed per game (105th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 97.7 yards allowed per game (11th in nation)

A survey of 2002 statistics reveals the Huskies’ problems: an anemic running game and a porous passing defense. Player statistics don’t seem to improve these weaknesses too much. The Huskies will still excel in the passing attack, led by a highly rated starting quarterback and a game-breaking WR #1, with an overall 97 rating, 97 speed, and 97 acceleration (and many more 90s to go along with those!). The Huskies’ cornerbacks are decent but poorly rated safeties will put a lot of pressure on controlling the opposing team’s aerial assault.

#15 - Maryland Terrapins

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #784614779636340607048798336368882
HB #190895880878871727972363645468967
WR #480895470848577648159706436368682
WR #3479934469929073586855697436367178
TE #8283727185707275746265363658668588

2002 Record: 11-3
Conference: ACC (T-2nd)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 190.6 yards per game (75th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 198.8 yards per game (28th in nation)
Offensive Formations: I Form-Normal, I Form-Slot, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-Bunch, Shotgun-Split, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Trips, Weak-Y-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 210.1 yards allowed per game (52nd in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 128.6 yards allowed per game (34th in nation)

The Maryland Terrapins hope to contend for their conference title but will have to do so by winning road games against favorites North Carolina State and Florida State. That's not an easy task, but the Terrapins are returning a lot of talent, particularly on defense, which features several nicely rated standouts. The core offensive starters are balanced but lack a true game-breaking threat. The Terrapins’ playbook--with five shotgun formations--encourages a wide open offense. WR #34 is your deep threat, despite the poor overall rating, while other receivers and the tight-end should focus on a short passing game.

#16 - Louisiana State Tigers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1884685573706740625859798436368770
HB #1085876563848859705070373749428475
WR #1491915082909189508745373737389287
WR #987974872899481608456373737368884
TE #4766607164586865675960363648567274

2002 Record: 8-5
Conference: SEC (T-2nd in West)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 153.1 yards per game (102nd in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 196.9 yards per game (29th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Empty, Ace-Slot, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Ace, Shotgun-Split, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 152.7 yards allowed per game (2nd in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 134.1 yards allowed per game (40th in nation)

The LSU Tigers are looking to improve on last season’s second place finish in the western half of the SEC. The Tigers feature an above average quarterback but not a superstar. A couple stellar wide outs (WR #9 with 97 speed) provide a legitimate passing threat while a trio of halfbacks (all above 80s in overall rating) can aid in the running game; don’t be hesitant to experiment with the second string halfback, who has better speed and acceleration but lacks the strength and tackle breaking ability of the starter.

#17 - Tennessee Volunteers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #790494984505140555744918936368975
HB #2187906666878765705770373737409072
WR #8184914671909083508541363640417470
WR #1082904570928978508242383936408585
TE #8368558052525354363655363670757679

2002 Record: 8-5
Conference: SEC (3rd in East)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 202.7 yards per game (67th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 150.5 yards per game (55th in nation)
Offensive Formations: I Form-Normal, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Trips, Strong-Normal, Strong-Twins, Weak-Normal, Weak-Slot, Weak-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 156.2 yards allowed per game (4th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 128.6 yards allowed per game (33rd in nation)

Tennessee seeks to regain its normal perch at the top of the SEC, now seemingly controlled by the highly touted Georgia Bulldogs. The Volunteers’ stingy defense lost eight starters but appear to have retooled nicely; their statistics are mostly solid with a free safety at a 90 overall rating. The offensive starters have decent ratings, but the team does lack a game-breaking star. Still, with depth at halfback, the Vols can shuffle in fresh players as necessary and shouldn’t too hurt by a fluke injury to the starter.

#18 - Virginia Cavaliers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #792535488535240565045869236368988
HB #3387886660878865707972373740458685
WR #8077754179767880558259363636468279
WR #3776865067818175498250363640438584
TE #8987776878778084657264363658668590

2002 Record: 9-5
Conference: ACC (2nd)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 230.1 yards per game (48th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 126.9 yards per game (82nd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Big, Ace-Bunch, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, Ace-Y-Twins, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-Ace Twins, Strong-Normal, Strong-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 215.7 yards allowed per game (59th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 208.9 yards allowed per game (108th in nation)

Cavalier fans have a lot to be excited about: the team is coming off a second place finish in the ACC, a year where they managed four upsets over ranked teams, and have a legitimate Heisman candidate with their starting senior quarterback. A good set of halfbacks provide needed depth to get through a tough ACC schedule (road games at North Carolina State and Maryland) but it’s the mediocre rated wideouts that could pose the biggest offensive hurdle. Utilize your tight-end in your offense to help open up passing lanes for the wide receivers. And be wary of the deep ball on defense; the Cavalier safeties will definitely need coverage help.

#19 - Florida Gators

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1082725263707170545548848136368785
HB #3387846574808566727774363644458485
WR #2384904674889082518446373737378872
WR #283884774908977658552363636408685
TE #8487747287747878687470373757658593

2002 Record: 8-5
Conference: SEC (2nd in East)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 270.7 yards per game (20th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 136.2 yards per game (73rd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, No Back, Shotgun-2B Slot, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Bunch, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-Y-Trips, Strong-Slot
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 162.4 yards allowed per game (7th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 163.2 yards allowed per game (68th in nation)

The Florida Gators, hoping to improve on last year’s 8-5 record, have a tough schedule in an even tougher conference.

The Florida Gators are coming off a tough year. They had lost their long-time head coach to the NFL and the new coach inherited a lot of pressure to continue the winning tradition in Gainesville. It was an inconsistent season with big wins against Georgia and Tennessee but horrible losses to conference opponent LSU and bitter rival Florida State. But the Gators are rated solidly. Their top two quarterbacks are virtually interchangeable with nearly identical statistics; their top two halfbacks both have decent, if not spectacular ratings. The Gators’ deep receiving corps has a couple standouts, primarily #23. The Gators utilize a heavily pass-oriented playbook that includes seven primary pass formations. Use draws from the shotgun formations to keep the opponents’ defenses honest and work the play-action pass to hit the Gator receivers on deep post and crossing routes.

#20 - Notre Dame Fighting Irish

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #787745477727040617162828236369075
HB #487846768848662725873373754468786
WR #2182925558889279509050373738398282
WR #8081885372828581498248363636518480
TE #1482687084707272647065363662688085

2002 Record: 10-3
Conference: IA Independents
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 174.2 yards per game (91st in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 139.4 yards per game (68th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Slot, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, Ace-Y-Twins, I Form-Tight, Power I, Shotgun-Spread, Strong-Twins, Weak-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 204.8 yards allowed per game (46th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 95.2 yards allowed per game (10th in nation)

The popular Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off a successful season and look to improve on their 10-3 record from 2002. A scan of their offensive and defensive ratings reveals a well-rated group on offense, though no standout weapons, and an above average, improved defensive squad. Couple these strengths with a nicely varied playbook and the Fighting Irish can be an unpredictable and contending team. Mix in runs, options, and short passes to keep your opponent guessing.

#21 - Arizona State Sun Devils

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1694535083575645555148949236369085
HB #3283934860849262705158373753518480
WR #1881874574858880588044363636518785
WR #975883766878577506546363636368068
TE #8362606055626464646558363648558075

2002 Record: 8-6
Conference: Pac-10 (3rd)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 303.9 yards per game (9th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 89.0 yards per game (111th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Y-Trips, I Form-Tight, No Back, Pro Form-Normal, Strong-Slot, Weak-Normal
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 244.3 yards allowed per game (96th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 119.4 yards allowed per game (27th in nation)

The Sun Devils boast an accurate deep ball passer in QB #16; with an overall rating of 94 and a 94 in throwing power and 92 in throwing accuracy, he’s a potent weapon. The other offensive skill positions are solid, but not up to the same caliber. The starting halfback has good speed and acceleration but not much power and the two starting wide outs are better used as possession receivers and not deep ball threats.

#22 - Alabama Crimson Tide

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1286584770576040575250908636369290
HB #2187875470858965727373373740457880
WR #276854570818372608662363636487675
WR #8471814759828068608563363636497066
TE #3167606655546265726058363655658085

2002 Record: 10-3
Conference: SEC (1st in West)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 190.2 yards per game (77th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 213.2 yards per game (18th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Empty, Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, Ace-Spread, Ace-Trips, Ace-Y-Trips, I Form-Slot, No Back, Shotgun-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 177.2 yards allowed per game (17th in nation)
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 80.2 yards allowed per game (4th in nation)

The Crimson Tide have had a tumultuous off-season and look to rebound. Although the team lost some defensive stars that helped them become one of the top squads in the nation, this year’s ratings are still fairly solid across the board. A steady quarterback and a serviceable running back lead the offense. Wide receivers are a question mark with just five available and all rated below 80 overall.

#23 - Purdue Boilermakers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1884524873525237474249888437378484
HB #2583906565839257654765373747508980
WR #8286874678868688508050363644479082
WR #2182843677848488487545363645378784
TE #4364606555606554664565444558628085

2002 Record: 7-6
Conference: Big 10 (T-5th)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 255.7 yards per game (31st in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 196.5 yards per game (30th in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Bunch, Ace-Empty, Ace-Spread, Ace-Y-Twins, I Form-Tight, No Back, Shotgun-5 Wide, Shotgun-Bunch, Shotgun-Spread
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 201.0 yards allowed per game (40th in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 116.2 yards allowed per game (23rd in nation)

The Boilermakers compete in a tough conference (which includes the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes) and have a tough schedule with road games at Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State. But Purdue does have solid skill position players on offense with a fast senior halfback and a couple of quality starting wide receivers to utilize in the Boilermaker’s heavy one-back (Ace) and shotgun formation playbook.

#24 - Texas A&M Aggies

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1686775060757945617152908437379085
HB #187906363858962704573373738408877
WR #285924275889283508348363636428978
WR #584884672858686558449373737448183
TE #9861526355505862606060363655597569

2002 Record: 6-6
Conference: Big 12 (5th in South)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 268.0 yards per game (21st in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 118.2 yards per game (92nd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, Ace-Spread, I Form-Tight, I Form-Twins, Shotgun-Ace, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-Spread, Shotgun-Y-Trips
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 207.5 yards allowed per game (51st in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 130.9 yards allowed per game (37th in nation)

The Aggies have two 86 overall rated quarterbacks: the starter is much faster than the backup and should be used by players that prefer the option or a more mobile passer. The backup features similar stats in throwing power and accuracy but simply lacks the speed and acceleration of the default starter. A good halfback and a fast WR #2 should also keep opposing defenses guessing.

#25 - Wisconsin Badgers

POSITIONOVRSPDSTRAWRAGIACCCTHCARJMPBTKTHPTHAPBKRBKSTAINJ
QB #1984604578576036587156848036368080
HB #2893975877909762734472373738399578
WR #393905392889092569062363636489060
WR #984924869859080549444363636408585
TE #8568636558606164647057363655677979

The Wisconsin Badgers have one of the fastest running backs in the game.

2002 Record: 8-6
Conference: Big 10 (T-8th)
2002 Offensive Passing Stats: 164.5 yards per game (96th in nation)
2002 Offensive Rushing Stats: 190.2 yards per game (33rd in nation)
Offensive Formations: Ace-Normal, Ace-Slot, Ace-Twins, Ace-Y-Twins, I Form-Normal, Strong-Normal, Strong-Tight, Strong-Twins, Weak-Twins
2002 Defensive Passing Stats: 224.2 yards allowed per game (67in in nation)
2002 Defensive Rushing Stats: 148.7 yards allowed per game (51st in nation)

The Badgers have a great running back (97 speed, 97 acceleration) and a solid receiving corp. The lack of a shotgun formation in the playbook should keep most players focused on the running game first, which isn’t a bad idea. HB #28 is one of the best rated halfbacks in the game and should have coaches thinking run first, pass second. Get the running game off to a good start and use the play-action pass to work the Badgers’ two speedy wide outs into the scheme.

Chapter 3 - Building a Dynasty

NCAA Football 2004’s dynasty mode allows you to take control of a team over multiple seasons. You’ll have to maintain good relations with your fans (who will likely want your coach’s neck after any tough losses to a hated rival!) and keep your team’s prestige up (or increase it, as the case may be) in order to attract the best recruits to fill those holes in your offense and defense created by graduating seniors and skilled underclassmen who choose to leave early for big money in the National Football League.

But before you go off recruiting, you must first survive your first season as head coach. Naturally, you should use the offensive and defensive tips later in this guide to mold your team into a contender. It’s a long season and to win your conference and qualify for a bowl game, you must keep star players healthy. Running up the score is certainly fun but you wouldn’t want to risk the health of your star running back. Sub out players with the game in hand to avoid catastrophic, season-ending injuries that can turn a promising season into a disaster.

After, hopefully, a successful season, it’s time to enter the off-season. Depending on the season’s results, your prestige may have risen or dropped. This will have a large impact on your recruiting success. Schools with higher prestige ratings naturally attract the best recruits. That doesn’t mean that a lower prestige can’t get a quality player. But don’t expect a school with a 3-star prestige rating to attract the best blue chip athletes!

Prestige is a huge factor in future recruits. You’ll have little trouble attracting blue chip athletes with a 6-star prestige rating!

Once you’ve entered the off-season, check all the award winners and stats you wish then head into the off-season schedule. The first task is to learn which of your big name stars have decided to forgo their education for the National Football League--or perhaps they simply graduated! Go into step one, which moves into a list of which players are leaving the school. It also includes their overall statistics. If you wish, you can cycle through other teams to see how they fared or sort your lists by position.

Continue on to recruiting when you’re finished. Those players will be removed from your team’s roster. Next you’re taken to the recruiting central screen. Select the team overview to see your current roster, grades, and needs. Obviously it’s most important to fill your needs with as much talent as possible but it’s also important to get talent for future seasons at positions that are likely to have holes in the coming year.

Now you can check the recruiting reports to see specific recruits from each state, all recruits, and just those recruits that have listed your school in their top three choices. When you select a recruit, you’re presented with several choices on how to handle the recruit. The first four options cost points and you only have a certain amount of points to allocate to recruiting so it’s important to spend them wisely. The number of points required for each option depends on how far away you attempt to recruit from your home state (for instance, if you’re in Florida it will cost a lot of points to recruit a California athlete). The amount of points you have depends on your team and coach’s prestige. The second option is the pitch: how are you going to sell your school to the recruit? You can say how great the program is and pitch its prestige, talk up the location, promise playing time, or emphasize your coaching style.

Recruiting Tips

It’s time to recruit! Here are some tips on succeeding during the recruiting weeks:

  • You will have the most success recruiting in your home state and in neighboring states (typically states that house other teams in your conference). Far out-of-state prospects require a lot of points to woo to your school. There are usually equal prospects closer to home. Look for them! After you’ve heavily recruited in-state and neighboring states, then use remaining points for that far out-of-state recruit you can’t live without. But don’t do it too early or you may find yourself wishing you had those extra points to convince some in-state recruits to choose your school over your in-state rival. Remember that it could cost a high number of points each week to get that out-of-state recruit. It adds up quickly and can drain your program.
  • Interest level plays a huge role on a recruit’s commitment chances. If he lists your school in his top three, then there’s a good chance he’ll come to your program. But if he lists a top prestige school or a school in his home state (if he’s an out-of-state prospect) above your school, then it may cost a lot of points to get him and may not be worth the effort if there are comparable candidates elsewhere.
  • If you’re a 5 or 6-star prestige level school then you will pretty much have the run of the table. Be aggressive in your recruiting. There will be plenty of prospects interested in your program (especially if you’re coming off a good season) and they can be more easily convinced that your school should be their top selection. Use the program prestige pitch since it’s one of your school’s strongest assets.
  • The playtime and coaching strategy pitch are ideal against wide receivers and quarterbacks if you are a pass-oriented (66%+) team and ideal against running backs if you are a ruin-oriented (66%+) team. But trying to pitch playtime to a running back in your passing offense won’t be very effective.
  • If you’re really interested in a particular prospect but he doesn’t list your school as one of his top three, then check out his top three and try to gauge what he’s interested in. If he lists three powerhouses (such as three 6-star prestige schools), then unless you’re also a 6-star prestige school then there’s probably little chance of getting the recruit. But if he lists smaller schools, perhaps location is more important to him than the school’s prestige?
  • You current roster seems to matter to a recruit. For instance, if you have a trio of sophomore or freshmen running backs on roster, convincing that running back recruit to give your school a chance might be more difficult than if you have a couple senior running backs ready to graduate. In the latter case, the prospect will be more convinced he’ll be the starter the following year instead of having to compete for playing time against your crowded roster.
  • The location pitch seems more effective if the prospect lists your school but not another school in your same state--especially if that program has more prestige than your school.
  • Don’t feel the need to get all blue chip prospects if you aren’t a 6-star prestige school. Four-star players are much more likely to commit to your school than blue chips (with a lot less convincing) and will still have stellar stats by the time they’re on the field.
  • The recruiting challenge will be much greater if you’ve chosen a 1-star or 2-star prestige school in dynasty mode. Your targets should be 2 or 3 star prospects. You’ll have some interests and should get as many as you possible can to commit. Interested prospects will be your first list. Then find any with high interest but perhaps didn’t list your school in the top three (a green interest bar). Location is a good pitch as a small school, then playing time specifically for needs, and coaching style for specific position players (quarterbacks and wide outs for passing teams and running backs and full backs for running teams). The prestige pitch is usually avoided as a low prestige school, especially if the recruit lists any schools with high prestige.

Chapter 4 - Offensive Gameplan

There’s a saying that defense wins championships, but we say offense looks more exciting! As any good defensive coach would say, an effective offense boils down to unpredictability and good play calling. You want to give your offense the best chance to move the ball against what your opponent has lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

In NCAA Football 2004, teams have their own playbooks. The playbooks consist of several formations and each formation is made up of similar plays. This section covers the basics of offensive play calling and provides tips on improving your running game and passing attack.

Know Your Team’s Strengths...and Weaknesses

This should be a given to any football gaming veteran. A team like Florida has an overabundance of shotgun formations for a reason: it’s their strength. Sure they have a decent running back but they have the personnel (or at least they hope they do) for a wide open air attack.

Or take Kansas State for instance with a fast quarterback and a dominant running back. Don’t select the #5 ranked Wildcats and pass every single down if you hope to win consistently against tough opponents. As Keyshawn Johnson of the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs once said (changed slightly), "Get your stars the dang ball!" If you’ve got a receiver rated 99, use him. And if you’re in an online game, make sure your opponent thinks you’re going to use him so you can open up big plays on the other side of the field.

Mix It Up

If you pass on every single down, your opponent is simply going to sit back in a nickel or dime defense and, likely, eventually pick one off. Your goal is to remain unpredictable. Don’t always run the ball on 1st and 10. Don’t always pass the ball on 3rd and long. Select a traditional running formation, like I Form, and select a pass play instead. Or choose a shotgun formation and run a quarterback draw or an option to the right or left.

A good offensive coach keeps the defense off balance with an unpredictable mix of runs and passes.

If you’re constantly dropping back and hurling deep balls, your opponent is going to catch on. It may take one 80-yard touchdown for your opponent to learn his lesson but it won’t be long before your receivers are covered like blankets or your quarterback is flat on his back with a linebacker on top of him. Never running the ball means your opponent needs no linebackers to hold the line.

Prepare Your Audibles and Hot Routes

Even if you’re mixing it up, your opponent may have called the perfect defense for your play selection. Know your audibles and call one that takes your opponent’s defensive call to task. Likewise, hot routes can be invaluable. Did you survey the defense and see a corner creeping up toward the line in preparation for a blitz? Call a hot route on that receiver to do a quick out or slant and hit him where the defender has vacated his position.

Trick Plays

NCAA Football 2004 includes a lot of opportunities for the trick play. Call a WR reverse pass and toss it back to the quarterback! He’s often open (though can also get injured easily from a crushing hit). Don’t neglect plays like WR sweeps, which aren’t trick plays but help mix up your offense and help keep it unpredictable. Then there’s of course the popular halfback option pass. Either run around the end on a sweep or toss the ball downfield.

You can also lateral the ball while you’re running down field. You just broke a run and are about to be tackled but there’s a linemen following your running back hoping to make a key block. You can lateral the ball to him! It’s a huge risk and isn’t recommended unless you need a game-breaking play to turn the game around.

The Onside Kick

You just scored a touchdown but still trail late in the game. Time to bust out the onside kick and hope your team manages to recover the ball. It’s definitely a crapshoot. There’s no perfect way to do the onside kick, but here are some pointers to increase your odds of making a successful recover. Obviously you must call the onside recover kickoff team. This puts a different squad on the field than the standard kickoff. In fact, you may want to customize it further. Do mass subs on the formation and put in your best catch, carry, speed, and acceleration players on the team if they aren’t already. Move the kick angle all the way down to the field then pull it up just a notch. Move it all the way to the left or right depending on where your onside kick squad is located then move it back the other way just slightly. For power, you can let it go all the way up and down, which will occasionally provide a good kick or try to stop it with low power.

Presnap Reads

When a quarterback approaches the line of scrimmage, he surveys the defense and, if he reads the defense well, knows exactly what’s in store for the offensive play. He’ll know if it’s zone or man-to-man, who’s probably blitzing, and which receiver might be lined up for a deep ball opportunity. Here are some tips on reading defenses effectively.

1) Put a receiver in motion. If he’s followed across the field by a defender, the defensive play includes man-to-man coverage, at least with the corner backs. If the safeties remain deep, they’re likely in zone. Look for shorter routes to exploit the man-to-man defenders.

2) If both safeties remain deep, chucking a deep ball will be a very risky proposition. The safeties will be in zone and will assist other defenders when a receiver enters their zone. Now you’re double-covered (or worse), which is a low percentage play. Sure, you can make the completion from time to time, but you could also be intercepted. You’re better off going for a short pass than taking a big risk on the bomb.

Deep safeties mean the deep ball will be well-covered. It’s a low percentage pass and a high percentage interception.

3) Your opponent called a 4-3 defense and you have three receivers lined up on the field. One of his linebackers just shifted over in front of your slot receiver. You now have a huge mismatch, receiver versus linebacker. The receiver should have little trouble outrunning the burly linebacker if you hot route him to a streak pattern. Exploit these mismatches!

4) A safety has moved up closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s no longer zone and he’s man-on-man. If the receiver on that side is already covered, then he’s likely assuming the responsibility of one of the linebackers (such as man on the tight-end or running back). This means the linebacker is blitzing! Expect it and counter it by moving the opposite way in the pocket or calling a hot route.

5) Your opponent has called a line audible and pinched them inside to close down the inside run. Call an audible to an outside run or just audible to a pass. Likewise, when the linebackers move up to the line, expect the blitz and avoid running up the middle. If the safeties move up to the line, time to make him pay with a deep ball. If you don’t have one called, use the hot route on your fastest receiver.

The Running Game

The running game requires patience. You just simply are unlikely to bust off big runs play after play. You might lose a yard here and there but if you stick with it, you’re just as likely to bust off a 20 yard gain. A solid running game is usually one that follows the play design. If the play is designed to go off the tackle then your offensive linemen are assigned to block accordingly. Therefore, use that hole created by your linemen instead of looking for your own path.

Now, of course blocking does break down. Your opponent may have called a linebacker blitz there that you weren’t expecting and now the hole is quickly filled. You must be able to make quick decisions and adjustments. Above all else, get positive yardage. Defenders are unforgiving. The more time you spent dancing in the backfield, the sooner the linebackers and defensive backs are going to be crowding the line of scrimmage leaving you no where to run.

Passing and running attacks go hand in hand. Improving your running game means passing effectively as well. This will keep defenders back and off the line of scrimmage to protect against the deep threat. Then again, a running game will open up the passing game as your opponent will stack the line hoping to stop your run and now you’ve tossed one over the top of the stack for a big gain.

Don’t neglect your special moves on your running game but don’t necessarily abuse them either. It’s not necessary to jam on the sprint button immediately. Look for the hole then hit the hole with the sprint button. If you sprint to the line you may get there before the hole opens and you’ll just run into bodies and get nowhere. The juke buttons are also effective in dodging a defender but don’t use it if you have the open field. The juke slows you down and could give a pursuer a chance to make a diving tackle. The stiff arm is a good power move that could help you break a tackle.

Run away from blitzes if possible. Perhaps your opponent continually blitzes from one side. Choose running plays on the opposite side. Or audible to a running play on that side. Call audibles that use the same formation you just called. That way your players won’t move--a telltale sign of a called audible (though the quarterback signals, which is also an indicator). Your opponent may remain in the same vulnerable defense or try to audible, at which point you can hike and run against a scrambled defense. Also, check your favorite team’s linemen statistics. If the right side of the line is the higher rated side, you’re likely to have more success running behind those linemen then you are on the other side.

The Option

The option can be a powerful offense when run efficiently. If you want to practice the option, give Kansas State a try. The Wildcats have a fast quarterback and a fast running back--a lethal combination for sure. Your goal on an option play is to make the defender commit. Make him either commit to your quarterback or protect the running back’s lane. If the defender goes for the quarterback, pitch it to the running back; if the defender tries to contain the running back, run inside with the quarterback.

Triple option plays provide three choices: hand off to the fullback, pitch the running back, or keep it with the quarterback.

Survey the defense carefully after selecting an option play. The more linebackers, particularly those on the outer edge of the linemen, the harder your outside option run will be. Blitzing can also significantly hamper your option game, particularly corner or nickel blitzes from the outside. Mix up some straight quarterback draws to keep your opponent from protecting the outsides. Or call an option to the fullback for an inside run. On these option plays (usually called triple option), hold down the hike button to hand off to the fullback.

Option passing can also be a blast when run effectively. One of the biggest concerns is your quarterback’s drop back animation. When you activate the passing window, your quarterback sets his feet, which makes him backpedal slightly. If there’s a blitzing defender coming from that direction, the time wasted on backpedaling could be just enough for the defender to wrap his arms around your quarterback for an easy sack. Don’t open the passing windows too quickly. If you have a fast quarterback, stay in running mode until you have enough time to set your feet and throw. If you don’t have enough time, then you shouldn’t pass.

The Passing Attack

A deep post pattern hit in stride is a beautiful thing. There’s no doubt a power running game is fun to watch but an aerial shootout with wideouts nearing 200 yards receiving is high entertainment. This section provides some tips on opening up those passing lanes and finding better success in your team’s passing attack.

Switch to the quarterback’s running mode to sprint out on a rollout.

  • Matchups are extremely important in the passing game. It’s essentially your guy up against his guy. If your guy is better than his guy, you win the match-up. For example, you’re one-on-one on the outside with a receiver at 97 speed but the defender only possesses 85 speed. You’re going to win that match-up in single coverage. But matchups go deeper than that. If you call a three wide receiver formation and your opponent is in a 4-3 defense, then he could have a linebacker matched up with one of your receivers. If the linebacker moves over toward your receiver, then he’s got man coverage on that receiver until the safeties pick up your target deep. Thus, you have a great match-up here in hitting that receiver on a short crossing route or out pattern. Use a hot route if necessary!
  • A good passing attack is also about passing lanes. You want a clear lane from quarterback to receiver. If the lane isn’t clear, you risk an interception (at least if the defenders are paying attention!). If you aren’t under heavy pressure, you can wait for the lane to open. For instance, a receiver on a deep crossing route. There’s a defender between your position and the receiver at the moment. But look to where the receiver is going; there’s no help on that side. When the receiver crosses the first defender’s position, he’s entering a free passing lane. Once he’s beyond the defender, toss the ball and hit him in stride.
  • Interceptions are startlingly easy to throw if you aren’t careful. Throwing into double coverage has a very low completion percentage rate and a much greater chance of interception. Avoid deep passes into more than single-coverage. If the defenders are in a zone, be very careful when waiting for your throwing lane. Defenders will sit in their zone if no receivers are around. You may be watching a receiver get open and not notice that middle linebacker sitting in the middle of his zone just waiting for the ball.
  • When you have a one-on-one match-up on a deep ball, go for it. There’s little reason not to throw the ball. Odds are in your favor for the most part. You can let the CPU controlled receiver do all the work or select the receiver get him to the ball.
  • The pump fake can be effective in some situations but it also takes time, which could give blitzing defenders the necessary time to sack your quarterback. A pump fake can fake out a blitzing defender (he’ll jump in the air trying to block the pass) and even confuse a defensive back slightly. If you have the time in the pocket, give it a try. If you need to pass quickly, avoid.
  • Don’t forget that you can switch your quarterback to running mode and back to passing whenever necessary. For instance, if you want to do a rollout pass, don’t do so with the passing windows open. Your quarterback will be slow in his throwing stance! Switch to run mode and sprint to the outside. Then reopen the passing windows and strike!
  • If you see your receivers getting caught up at the line when trying to run their routes, put them in motion then hike the ball.
  • Your quarterback will throw more accurately when he’s able to plant his feet. But this takes up valuable time. It’s much quicker to throw on the run. But the downfall is that he won’t throw as accurately, especially on deeper tosses or out patterns thrown hard. It’s a snap decision. If you have the time, try to steady your quarterback before throwing. But if you’re fleeing blitzing defenders then do whatever you need to do to get the ball downfield.
  • Don’t forget the "Throw the Ball Away" button! You can’t do so while in the pocket but if you’re outside the tackles, you can toss the ball into the stands without penalty. This is much better than taking a sack! 2nd and 10 is a lot easier to convert than 2nd and 21.
  • Screen passes to the running back and wide receivers are great for countering a pass rush. Just backpedal against the blitz and toss to the running back or receiver when he’s through the line and has blockers in front.
  • Don’t forget you can gun the ball by holding down the pass button or lob it by tapping it. Gunned balls on out patterns (sideline patterns) are usually overthrown, especially if you’re on the run when you let the ball fly. If you’re wide open, consider the lob. With little risk of interception, your receiver will have extra time to reach the ball.
  • You want your playmakers to get the ball as often as possible but astute defensive coaches will double-team those high rated receivers to prevent from getting burned. This will open up the passing lanes for your other receivers and tight-end. The tight-end can be a potent weapon in certain situations (and certain teams, just look at Miami’s tight-end!), particularly when you need to dump the ball off quickly because of an incoming blitz.
  • Play-action passes (which are plays with PA in the name) are powerful in this year’s version of NCAA! It truly fakes a handoff which can confuse defenders (and really catch human opponents off guard). Set up the play-action with several running plays. Be careful when calling play-action against a heavy blitz. The play-action animation causes hesitation on your quarterback’s backpedaling, which could give the blitzing defenders time to record a sack.

Chapter 5 - Defensive Gameplan

A popular football mantra is "Defense wins championships." And the saying holds true in NCAA Football 2004. A steady, unpredictable defensive coach that makes sound play calls can keep the opposing team out of scoring range and always give the offense the ability to stay in the game.

In NCAA Football 2004, all teams have the same defensive formations and plays. Of course, each team has different personnel. The defensive squad on Oklahoma is far superior to the defensive players on Wisconsin, for instance. The key is to play to your defense’s strengths.

Study your team’s defensive statistics to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

When you decide on a team, check their defensive starters and survey their statistics. If you have a highly rated group of linebackers but poorly rated safeties then you will be stronger against the run than the pass. But if your cornerbacks and safeties are superior to your linebackers then your pass defense should be better than your run defense. You will need to adjust your play calls and your audibles to compensate for your lack of talent.

This section will go over the defensive formations and provide suggestions on when to utilize each one. It will also cover how to adjust your position players before the ball is snapped as a way of anticipating what your opponent has planned. Specific defensive calls are also touched upon as well as how to best control your player in run stopping or pass defense scenarios.

Position Movements

NCAA Football 2004 allows you to move your three primary defensive positions before the ball is snapped. The three are your linemen, your linebackers, and your coverage (cornerbacks and safeties). By repositioning these players, you can better structure your defense to stop the run, protect against the deep ball, jam a tight-end off the line of scrimmage, or a variety of all of these. Here are the specific button combinations to move your line, linebackers, and coverage and the reason to do each.

PRESSTHEN PRESSMOVESCOMMENTS
L1 on PS2, L on X-Box and GamecubeLeftLinemen shift to the leftIf you’re anticipating a run to the left, moving a lineman in front of a tight-end to jam, or opening a space for a blitzing linebacker.
L1 on PS2, L on X-Box and GamecubeRightLinemen shift to the rightIf you’re anticipating a run to the right, moving a lineman in front of a tight-end to jam, or opening a space for a blitzing linebacker.
L1 on PS2, L on X-Box and GamecubeDownLinemen close togetherIf you’re anticipating a run up the middle or freeing up the end for an outside blitzer.
L1 on PS2, L on X-Box and GamecubeUpLinemen spread apartIf you’re anticipating an outside run or opening the middle for a blitzing linebacker.
R1 on PS2, R on X-Box and GamecubeLeftLinebackers shift to the leftIf you’re anticipating an outside run to the left or want to open a lane for a blitzing linebacker.
R1 on PS2, R on X-Box and GamecubeRightLinebackers shift to the rightIf you’re anticipating an outside run to the left or want to open a lane for a blitzing linebacker.
R1 on PS2, R on X-Box and GamecubeDownLinebackers approach the line of scrimmageIf you’re anticipating a run and want to fill gaps or want faster blitz pressure on the quarterback.
R1 on PS2, R on X-Box and GamecubeUpLinebackers spread apartIf you’re protecting against the outside run or opening a lane for an outside blitz.
Triangle on PS2, Y on the X-Box and Gamecube DownCornerbacks and safeties move closer to the line of scrimmageCornerbacks will be close to their coverage assignments in man-on-man and safeties move to the line to provide run support. Good against runs or short passes but very vulnerable to a deep ball.
Triangle on PS2, Y on the X-Box and GamecubeUpCornerbacks and safeties move back off the line of scrimmage even furtherCornerbacks will move back off their receivers and safeties move back further. Good if you’re anticipating a deep ball but more vulnerable to the run and very vulnerable to certain short passes and crossing routes.

Decoding a Defensive Play


There are certain important defensive concepts to grasp before understanding the ins and outs of each defensive formation.

When you are cycling through specific defensive plays looking for your favorite, you will notice a few symbols, colors, and arrows near each player. Each of these reveals a particular action that the defensive player will perform. These are:

1) If a player has an arrow moving toward the bottom of the screen (or toward the line of scrimmage and offensive team), this indicates that the defensive player is blitzing the quarterback. He’s forgoing any pass coverage or run stopping duties and attempting to put pressure on the quarterback.

2) If a player is colored red, he’s in man-to-man coverage with a specific offensive player. If all players are red, then all players are in man-to-man, which means each defensive player will be responsible for a particular offensive player. If the offense has more receivers than you have man-on-man defenders, then the offense will have a wide open passing opportunity.

Defensive plays utilizing zone have the yellow circles near each player.

3) If a player has a yellow circle around him (or if a line connects him to a yellow circle), then that player is in zone coverage, which means the player is responsible for a particular area of the field. If an offensive player moves into that area, then the defender covers him but once he moves out of that area, the defender returns to the coverage zone and another defender picks up the offensive player.

4) If a player is colored blue, he’s a spy, which means he’s in charge of following the quarterback’s movements. This is to counter a rollout or, primarily, an option pass or run play.

One important tool on defense is the coach’s camera (R2 on PS2 and R on X-Box and Gamecube). Press and hold this button on defense to show the defensive assignments. It will look similar to the defensive play section but it will also show man-on-man defensive assignments. For instance, you’ve chosen the middle linebacker to control. Hit the coach’s camera button to see specifically who the middle linebacker is to cover. Note that if the offense uses motion before the snap that the man-on-man assignments can change. Check the coach’s camera again should an offensive player go into motion. The coach’s camera can help you decide who to select on defense. For instance, you wouldn’t want to select a defender assigned to cover a receiver and then blitz with that same defender! You’ll leave a receiver wide open!

Defensive Formations

Each team has the same seven defensive formations. To a football novice, the names of each formation would certainly appear confusing but once you know what each name indicates, the strengths and weaknesses of each formation become much clearer. Keep in mind that all suggestions provided here are just that, suggestions. You may find instances where goal line works against the pass and dime doesn’t. There are numerous variables to take into account. The best you can do is to prepare your defense to anticipate a play and adjust accordingly.

The 4-4 defense is a good call against an option play.

  • Goal Line: Perhaps the most obviously named defensive formation, goal line is usually reserved for the goal line or in short yardage situations. For instance, if your opponent needs just one yard to convert for a first down or is on your two yard line looking to punch it in for a touchdown. Use goal line when you are nearly 99% sure your opponent plans to run the ball and has selected a run formation, such as the offensive goal line formation or any "tight" formation (for example, a formation that contains two tight-ends and no more than two wide receivers). Of course nothing is ever a given; there are pass plays from the goal line formation. Move up your coverage and linebackers to the line of scrimmage. Adjust your linebackers to plug the holes between lineman for the best possible chance of stopping an inside run. If you feel your opponent may pass, call a goal line with zone coverage in the secondary. Goal line is best avoided in obvious passing situations, however, particularly against an offense that lines up more than two wide receivers.
  • 3-4: The numbers in this defense refer to the number of down linemen (defensive tackles and ends), the 3, and linebackers, the 4. The additional linebackers provide greater mobility along the line, particularly against the short passing game as the linebackers can disrupt the passing lanes. It’s more effective against outside runs then inside runs (depending on your linebacker placement) but certainly wouldn’t be a top choice as a run stopping defense. Though effective against short passes, be wary when the offense has three or more receivers: you don’t want a linebacker up against your opponent’s quick receiver on a deep ball!
  • 4-3: Just like the 3-4, the title of this defense refers to the number of down linemen and linebackers; in this case, it’s four down linemen and three linebackers. This is a very flexible defense as the four linemen can generate a pass rush if your linemen are better rated than your opponent’s offensive linemen. The additional lineman helps clog the middle running lanes but the lack of an extra linebacker can make this defense weaker against outside runs and option plays. Avoid in obvious passing situations where your opponent chose a spread or shotgun formation with more than two receivers.
  • 4-4: This is also called the "Stack" defense; it uses four linemen and four linebackers. This is a solid run stopping defense for both inside and outside runs and should prove effective against an option opponent. But you only have one safety deep so it’s vulnerable to the deep pass. Blitzing from this formation is quite powerful as long as you’re catching your opponent off guard. If he’s prepared, a screen pass or quick slant could turn into a big gain.
  • 5-2: Five down linemen close the run lanes, two linebackers cover the short pass, and the four defensive backs follow their coverage assignments. Good against the inside run but susceptible to option and outside runs unless your team has good defensive ends. Like the previous defenses, beware when using against the pass. In fact, don’t!
  • Nickel: The nickel is a base pass defense against a three wide receiver offensive formation. It’s called the nickel because instead of the typical four defensive backs, this defense uses five. Therefore against a three receiver set, you could have three cornerbacks matched up against all three receivers and still have two deep safeties for zone help. Or against a four wide receiver set, one safety up to assist the corners. The subtraction of a linebacker makes this defense weaker against the run and option runs.
  • Dime: While the name might suggest this defense uses ten defensive backs, it in fact uses six. This is the "the offensive is going to pass for sure!" defense. Situations like 3rd and 15 or the Hail Mary are ideal for the dime defense. Six defensive backs can cover four receiver sets man-to-man with corners on each receiver with safety help and five receiver sets with one safety up and the other in zone. As you might suspect, the dime is weak against runs, option runs, and quarterback scrambles.

Defensive Application

So you know the position movements and defensive formations but need some more pointers on applying both selections to a smart defensive play selection. There isn’t one impenetrable wall-like defense. There are far too many factors to consider one formation or one defensive play the best in the game. It’s all about adjusting to your opponent.

In some ways the computer-controlled team is more unpredictable than a human opponent when it comes to football games! Human players have tendencies. Does he run consistently on 1st and 10? Does he ever run the ball at all? Does he favor a particular receiver? Does he call the same play over and over again? It’s important to watch for these things and adjust accordingly. This section reveals additional tips on defensive play selection and making those adjustments.

Watch out for the deep ball when everyone’s on man-on-man coverage.

  • Use the position movements to anticipate your opponent’s play call. You just called a 3-4 defense and are convinced the call is an option play to the right. Shift your linebackers to the right to better control the outside lanes. Or perhaps you called a nickel defense and think your opponent actually plans to run the ball. Shift your coverage up to the line. The safeties move toward the line of scrimmage and will be in better position to plug the gaps.
  • Shifting player movements can also free up blitzing defenders or get them closer to the line. For instance, your two middle linebackers in a 3-4 are blitzing. Open your linemen using the L1 and up combination then use the R1 and down combination to shift your linebackers to the line.
  • When you call a man-on-man defense, you’re saying that your cornerbacks can match up stride for stride against your opponent’s receivers. If you’re not certain, know the stats! If your corner has a speed of 80 but his receiver has a speed of 97, you will not be able to keep up on a deep pass pattern. Call a defense that doubles that receiver or use one that keeps the safeties in zone coverage for deep help.
  • Zone defense allows your defenders to cover areas of the field but it does produce holes and can be ripped apart by a short to medium passing game if the offense has effective play calling. For instance, your opponent calls a curl pattern that happens to lie in between two of your defenders. He’ll be wide open and catch the ball easily. He’ll be tackled quickly but you can’t simply give up dinks and dunks all the way down the field. Put pressure on the quarterback with blitzes and guard these holes in your zone. The good thing about zone is that you usually have players in passing lanes and in NCAA Football 2004, players are quite adept at snagging an interception.
  • Zone defenses cover the deep ball fairly well (particularly inside and straight patterns) but seem susceptible to corner routes where the receiver runs a straight pattern then a 45-degree angle away from the center of the field (and away from your other defenders). The deep safeties seem to leave a hole here so watch for these routes.
  • You don’t see much option play in the NFL, so it can be a challenge for long-time Madden players to adjust to the offensive scheme. Your goal when defending against the option is containment. You want to have containment on the quarterback and on the outside run as well (certainly not possible on each and every play). If the running back is free on the outside, you may want to stick close and force the quarterback inside. If you go for the quarterback and he makes the pitch, the running back could have an open sideline to dance all the way down into the end zone. Think containment first then tackle. Don’t haphazardly dive. Keep your defender moving sideways and either force the quarterback inside toward your other defenders or force the running back far on the outside to either stumble out of bounds, smash into your open arms, or turn inside to your other defenders.
  • Use defenses with the word "Spy" in them against option opponents. And when you call the Spy defense, if you do control the linebacker assigned to spy, make sure you follow the quarterback! Or simply control another defender and allow the spy to follow the quarterback.

Controlling Your Defender

You’ve made extremely effective defensive formation selections but if you make a mistake when controlling your defender, your opponent could still make a long run or complete a big pass. Here are some tips on controlling your defender to prevent the big play.

  • When going in for a tackle, avoid the dive button. Instead, move your defender using the sprint button toward where your opponent is moving, not where he currently stands. Essentially you’re trying to cut him off, not go where he was just a second ago! Choose an attack angle that will meet the ball carrier as soon as possible. Naturally, watch out for a spin move or juke. Strike the ball carrier to wrap him up. This is a better choice than going for a dive, which is more easily avoided by a quick controller movement, spin, or juke.
  • If the ball carrier is moving into a hole created by the offensive linemen, go into the hole. He’ll be forced to go through your body or take another route, which gives the other defenders more time to break free of their blocks and reach the ball carrier.
  • Your opponent has just tossed a deep pass on you. Your defender is stride for stride. What should you do? Don’t go for the hit or the interception, it’s best to go for the swat. Select the defender and press the swat key to swat the ball down. This is generally more effective than trying for a risky interception, which, if missed, could lead to an easy touchdown. If you miss the swat and he still catches the ball, you can still get the tackle.
  • If the ball is headed toward a zone defender, select him and press the jump button to go for the interception.
  • If you play as a lineman to try and get pressure on the quarterback, don’t forget the swim moves, which will be even more effective against an offensive lineman that aren’t as strong as the defensive lineman you are controlling.

Chapter 6 - Online Strategies

Surprise, surprise. Your online opponent picked the top rated team in the game!

The PlayStation 2 version of NCAA Football 2004 includes online play (if you also own the Sony network adapter). Online play is certainly exciting. It keeps track of your record, scoring, and even how many times you disconnected from a game (shame on you!). This section offers some additional tips on maintaining your sanity while competing on the online gridiron.

  • Expect to face many top 5 teams when you’re playing online. Whether they are your opponent’s favorite teams are not, the fact is these teams are highly rated, quite powerful, and a popular choice in the online crowd (particularly if you’re choosing random match-up games). You’ll face your share of Miami, Oklahoma, Texas, and, of course, Ohio State. But there are those that venture out of the top 5 and choose their favorite squad, even brave enough to venture down into the top 50. So when you want to bring your alma mater UCF to the online gridiron, don’t be surprised when Ohio State fan manhandles you. The online community definitely respects your selection, however!
  • With that said, know the top teams and know their tendencies. Oklahoma is a powerhouse on defense; Miami is extremely fast and most Hurricanes favor the deep ball; and Texas’ WR #4 is ungodly. It’s wise to know what you’re up against and form a gameplan accordingly. Running against Oklahoma will be extremely tough so start mixing in the short passes to loosen the Sooners’ defense and hopefully open up the running game. Start calling nickel against Miami when the shotgun formations are called. And by all means, cover WR #4 if you're playing Texas!
  • It pays to be unpredictable when facing a human opponent. Call a run offensive formation but pass. Call a shotgun formation but choose a draw play to the running back instead. Watch what defensive formation your opponent selects. If he just chose a dime, he expects you to pass. Throw a run at him. When he chooses a 4-4, he’s very well blitzing or at worst looking to stuff your run or option. Choose a quick pass or a screen to burn that blitz.
  • Prepare your audibles before playing online. You just called a run but your opponent has moved up the safeties and linebackers anticipating your call. This would be a great time for an audible! Select some of your favorite plays for your audibles. Try and have some for specific situations, such as a quick slant to burn a blitz, a deep ball when you spot a one-on-one match-up or a run play for when the defense is playing off anticipating the pass.

Call a hot route to counter an incoming blitz or if you spot a mismatch.

  • Hot routes are another important tool for online play. Say you just called a play where your two left receivers go deep. But your opponent’s corners are playing off. Wouldn’t it be great if one of those receivers ran a short out pattern? With hot routes they can! Call a hot route and press the receiver’s button followed by a directional key (which is toward the sidelines for a quick out). Check the game’s manual for more information on hot routes.
  • Mismatches are important on offense. Look for opportunities to line up one of your receivers against your opponent’s linebacker. When you see one of his linebackers shift over to coverage, you know the receiver has the advantage. Look for him!
  • At the time of this writing, if the connection is lost during the game, you don’t want to quit. Continue to play against the computer if you care about your online record. If you quit, it goes toward your disconnection rate. You don’t want other online players thinking you quit on games do you?
  • The hurry up offense can capitalize on a poor defensive call. As an example: your opponent just called a 4-4 formation and a heavy blitz against your deep pass. You end up sacked. But you know your play has the advantage against that defense. Call a hurry up to get back to the line and run the play. Toss the ball quickly to the open man before the blitz reaches your quarterback! Look for wise online opponents to audible out of their defense, however.
  • Don’t neglect the offensive and defensive tips throughout this game guide. They are as applicable online as they are against the computer.
  • If you didn’t enjoy playing with a particular online opponent or if he quit on your game, check your "User Information" when in a lobby. It tracks your last 10 games. You can note the user id of the other player and then steer clear of him and his games!

Chapter 7 - Secrets

This chapter reveals a collection of secrets in NCAA Football 2004. There are many pennants to unlock and secrets to find; this section covers many of them but there are more to be found than just those listed here.

Touchdown Celebrations

Just scored a hard fought touchdown and feel like celebrating? Press the following button combinations when the word "Touchdown" appears after a score to perform the corresponding celebration. Be warned, however. Touchdown celebrations are frowned upon in college football! In fact, you may receive a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty!

On the PlayStation 2:

L2 + Square: The player spikes the ball, points to the crowd then beats his chest.
L2 + Triangle: The player bows to the crowd.
L2 + Circle: The player spikes the ball then shrugs his shoulder.
L2 + X: The player does Heisman Trophy pose (Desmond Howard anyone?).
R2 + Square: The player dunks the football on the goal post.
R2 + Triangle: The player punches the ball toward the crowd.
R2 + Circle: The player kicks the balls into the crowd.
R2 + X: The player throws the ball to the crowd.

On the Gamecube:

L + B: The player spikes the ball, points to the crowd then beats his chest.
L + Y: The player bows to the crowd.
L + X: The player spikes the ball then shrugs his shoulder.
L + A: The player does Heisman Trophy pose (Desmond Howard anyone?).
R + B: The player dunks the football on the goal post.
R + Y: The player punches the ball toward the crowd.
R + X: The player kicks the balls into the crowd.
R + A: The player throws the ball to the crowd.

On the X-Box:

L + X: The player spikes the ball, points to the crowd then beats his chest.
L + Y: The player bows to the crowd.
L + B: The player spikes the ball then shrugs his shoulder.
L + A: The player does Heisman Trophy pose (Desmond Howard anyone?).
R + X: The player dunks the football on the goal post.
R + Y: The player punches the ball toward the crowd.
R + B: The player kicks the balls into the crowd.
R + A: The player throws the ball to the crowd.

EA Sports Bio Rewards

Check your EA Sports Bio for your rewards.

As you play NCAA Football 2004 and achieve certain accomplishments (winning a bowl game, beating a top 25 team, defeating a rival, etc), your EA Sports Bio level goes up. At certain levels, you’re given a reward. Here are the EA Sports Bio rewards up to level 18.

Level 2 - Awards the "Butter Fingers" Pennant
Level 4 - Unlocks the Rose Bowl stadium
Level 8 - Unlocks the Orange Bowl stadium
Level 12 - Unlocks the Fiesta Bowl stadium
Level 18 - Unlocks the 2002 All-American Team

Pride Stickers

Certain teams have "pride stickers." These are the small stickers you may have seen adorn some college players’ helmets. They are awarded for certain accomplishments, such as scoring TDs or making an interception. Not all teams use pride stickers. If you happen to play a team with pride stickers, you might be awarded some! Check next to the player’s name to see how many pride stickers you have accumulated.

Here are the list of teams that use pride stickers: Akron, Arizona, Clemson, Colorado, ECU, FSU, Georgia, Hawaii, Houston, Louisville, Missouri, NCST, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Temple, UCF, UConn, Utah

Online Rosters

Tired of seeing WR #8 and QB #16 all the time and prefer to use the real college names? There are several roster resources available on the Internet. Perhaps the best one is at http://www.ps2rosters.com. Over 200 hours was put into the rosters, which also include unique looks for particular players and squads. Go check it out if you’re looking to add to your NCAA Football 2004 experience!

Rivalry Trophies

NCAA Football 2004 includes rivalry games. These are specific match-ups that feature unique game names and some even award trophies that appear in your "My NCAA" trophy room. The rivalry games listed below are those that include trophies. Other rivalry games can be found in the "Rivalry Games" selection from the Game Modes menu.

TEAM #1TEAM #2RIVALRY GAMETROPHY NAME
Alabama Crimson TideAuburn TigersIron BowlODK-Foy Sportsmanship Trophy
Arizona WildcatsArizona St. Sun DevilsBig GameTerritorial Cup
Arkansas RazorbacksLSU TigersBattle for the Golden BootGolden Boot
Army Black KnightsNavy MidshipmenArmy-Navy GameCommander-in-Chief Trophy
Boston College EaglesNotre Dame Fighting IrishBattle for the Ireland TrophyIreland Trophy
Bowling Green FalconsToledo RocketsBattle of I-75Peace Pipe
Cal Golden BearsStanford CardinalBig GameStanford Axe
Cincinnati BearcatsMiami (OH) RedhawksBattle for the Victory BellVictory Bell
Clemson TigersNorth Carolina State WolfpackTextile BowlTextile Bowl Trophy
Colorado St. RamsWyomingBorder WarBronze Boot
Houston CougarsRice OwlsBattle for the Administaff Bayou BucketAdministaff Bayou Bucket
Illinois Fighting IlliniNorthwestern WildcatsBattle for the Sweet Sioux TomahawkSweet Sioux Tomahawk
Illinois Fighting IlliniOhio State BuckeyesBattle for the IllibackIlliback
Illinois Fighting IlliniPurdue BoilermakersBattle for the Purdue CannonPurdue Cannon
Indiana HoosiersPurdue BoilermakersBattle for the Old Oaken BucketOld Oaken Bucket
Indiana HoosiersMichigan State SpartansBattle for the Old Brass SpittoonOld Brass Spittoon
Iowa HawkeyesIowa State CyclonesBattle for the Cy-Hawk TrophyCy-Hawk Trophy
Iowa HawkeyesMinnesota Golden GophersBattle for the Floyd of RosedaleFloyd of Rosedale
Iowa State CyclonesMissouri TigersBattle for the Telephone TrophyTelephone Trophy
Kansas JayhawksMissouri TigersBorder WarMarching Drum
Kansas JayhawksKansas State WildcatsBattle for the Governor’s CupGovernor’s Cup
Marshall Thundering HerdOhio BobcatsBattle for the BellThe Bell
Michigan WolverinesMichigan State SpartansBattle for Paul Bunyan’s TrophyPaul Bunyan’s Trophy
Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden GophersBattle for the Little Brown JugLittle Brown Jug
Michigan State SpartansNotre Dame Fighting IrishBattle for the MegaphoneMegaphone
Minnesota Golden GophersWisconsin BadgersBattle for Paul Bunyan’s AxePaul Bunyan’s Axe
Minnesota Golden GophersPenn State Nittany LionsBattle for the Governor’s Victory BellGovernor’s Victory Bell
Mississippi State BulldogsOle Miss RebelsEgg BowlGolden Egg Trophy
Missouri TigersNebraska CornhuskersBattle for the Missouri-Nebraska BellMissouri-Nebraska Bell
New Mexico LobosNew Mexico State AggiesBattle of I-25Maloot Trophy
New Mexico State AggesUTEP MinersBattle of I-10Silver Spade
Notre Dame Fighting IrishUSC TrojansBattle for the Jeweled ShillelaghJeweled Shillelagh
Notre Dame Fighting IrishPurdue BoilermakersBattle for the Shillelagh TrophyShillelagh Trophy
Oklahoma SoonersTexas LonghornsRed River ShootoutGolden Hat
UCLA BruinsUSC TrojansBattle for the Victory BellVictory Bell
Virginia CavaliersVirginia Tech HokiesBattle for the Commonwealth CupCommonwealth Cup
Virginia Tech HokiesWest Virginia MountaineersBattle for the Black Diamond TrophyBlack Diamond Trophy
Washington HuskiesWashington State CougarsApple CupApple Cup

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