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What Would Utah Football Rate if NCAA Football 18 Existed?

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NCAA Football: Foster Farms Bowl-Indiana vs Utah Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

July used to be an exciting time for sports related video games because EA Sports always used to release NCAA Football games. However, with former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, EA Sports quit releasing the games after NCAA Football 14 in July of 2013. Fans of college football and the games would always argue if the ratings were correct or not after the games were released. However, this fun exhibition in irrationality that kept fans going in the long summer droughts dried up after 2013. So, why are we even talking about NCAA Football ratings since sadly no the game did not come out again? Well, because our colleague Jason Kirk of SBNation wrote an article about hypothetical team rankings, and we thought it would generate some fun discussion about hypothetical rankings from a nonexistent video game.

Below is Jason Kirk’s rankings table:

Possible NCAA Football 18 Team Rankings

Team Conference Overall Offense Defense
Team Conference Overall Offense Defense
Alabama SEC 94 91 96
Ohio State Big Ten 93 92 93
Florida State ACC 91 90 92
USC Pac-12 90 93 87
Clemson ACC 89 86 92
LSU SEC 89 88 89
Penn State Big Ten 89 92 86
Auburn SEC 88 89 87
Louisville ACC 88 90 85
Michigan Big Ten 88 85 90
Oklahoma Big 12 88 96 80
Washington Pac-12 88 91 84
Wisconsin Big Ten 88 85 90
Georgia SEC 87 86 87
Stanford Pac-12 87 85 88
Florida SEC 86 81 91
Miami ACC 86 83 88
Notre Dame Independents 86 87 84
Oklahoma State Big 12 86 95 77
NC State ACC 85 82 87
Texas Big 12 85 89 80
Texas A&M SEC 85 86 83
Oregon Pac-12 84 93 75
TCU Big 12 84 87 81
Tennessee SEC 84 87 80
Baylor Big 12 83 85 81
UCLA Pac-12 83 85 81
Virginia Tech ACC 83 78 88
Arkansas SEC 82 86 77
Boise State MWC 82 88 76
Georgia Tech ACC 82 84 80
Minnesota Big Ten 82 79 84
Mississippi State SEC 82 88 75
Northwestern Big Ten 82 81 83
Ole Miss SEC 82 88 76
Pitt ACC 82 89 74
South Carolina SEC 82 81 82
USF AAC 82 89 75
Indiana Big Ten 81 76 86
Iowa Big Ten 81 74 87
Kentucky SEC 81 85 76
North Carolina ACC 81 82 80
Oregon State Pac-12 81 83 78
Utah Pac-12 81 84 77
Washington State Pac-12 81 86 75
West Virginia Big 12 81 86 75
Arizona State Pac-12 80 87 72
BYU Independents 80 76 83
Cal Pac-12 80 86 74
Colorado Pac-12 80 83 76
Colorado State MWC 80 87 72
Houston AAC 80 78 81
Kansas State Big 12 80 84 76
Missouri SEC 80 87 72
Nebraska Big Ten 80 76 84
San Diego State MWC 80 80 79
WKU C-USA 80 84 75
Appalachian State Sun Belt 79 79 79
Duke ACC 79 81 77
Iowa State Big 12 79 86 72
Memphis AAC 79 86 71
Michigan State Big Ten 79 79 79
Syracuse ACC 79 86 72
Temple AAC 79 76 81
Texas Tech Big 12 79 92 65
Toledo MAC 79 88 70
Tulsa AAC 79 84 73
Vanderbilt SEC 79 79 79
Wake Forest ACC 79 75 82
Arizona Pac-12 78 82 73
Cincinnati AAC 78 76 79
Navy AAC 78 83 73
Virginia ACC 78 77 78
Maryland Big Ten 77 75 79
Utah State MWC 77 78 75
Boston College ACC 76 67 84
Troy Sun Belt 76 78 74
UCF AAC 76 74 78
Wyoming MWC 76 79 72
Arkansas State Sun Belt 75 73 76
Illinois Big Ten 75 73 76
Louisiana Tech C-USA 75 83 67
NIU MAC 75 77 72
Purdue Big Ten 75 77 73
SMU AAC 75 80 70
Southern Miss C-USA 75 77 72
WMU MAC 75 73 77
Ball State MAC 74 79 69
Bowling Green MAC 74 78 69
CMU MAC 74 75 72
East Carolina AAC 74 77 70
EMU MAC 74 80 67
FAU C-USA 74 83 64
Kansas Big 12 74 78 69
Miami (OH) MAC 74 74 74
MTSU C-USA 74 84 64
Old Dominion C-USA 74 76 71
Rutgers Big Ten 74 69 78
Tulane AAC 74 69 78
UTSA C-USA 74 75 72
Army Independents 73 71 74
FIU C-USA 73 76 69
Georgia Southern Sun Belt 73 71 75
Marshall C-USA 73 71 74
New Mexico MWC 73 84 61
Fresno State MWC 72 73 70
Hawaii MWC 72 78 66
Nevada MWC 72 74 69
North Texas C-USA 72 72 71
Ohio MAC 72 68 76
San Jose State MWC 72 73 71
South Alabama Sun Belt 72 71 72
UL Lafayette Sun Belt 72 67 76
UMass Independents 72 73 70
Air Force MWC 71 77 65
Georgia State Sun Belt 71 68 74
Idaho Sun Belt 71 75 66
Rice C-USA 71 73 68
UNLV MWC 71 79 63
Akron MAC 70 74 65
Kent State MAC 70 68 72
New Mexico State Sun Belt 70 73 66
UConn AAC 70 69 71
ULM Sun Belt 70 74 65
UTEP C-USA 70 73 66
Buffalo MAC 68 65 70
Charlotte C-USA 68 69 66
Texas State Sun Belt 67 67 66
Coastal Carolina Sun Belt 66 70 62
UAB C-USA 62 60 64
Jason Kirk

Kirk used SBNation writer Bill Connelly’s S&P+ projections for every team to base these rankings on and adjusted everything for the 60 to 99 scale that the NCAA Football games used.

On the teams’ ratings, Kirk says the following:

“On that scale, a team rated 60 is almost certainly the worst in FBS (that scale still leaves room for an FCS team to play like a 45 or so), and a 99 team is likely one of the best ever.”

And further justifies the lack of any teams close to a 99, the highest rating possible with the following reason, which I happen to agree with:

“So since none of 2017’s teams look likely to be in the running for greatest ever, nobody’s really close to 99.”

As you can see, Alabama (94) is projected to be the best team in the NCAA followed by Ohio State (93), Florida State (91), USC (90), and Clemson (89). Four of the top five teams are four of the five teams to appear in every College Football Playoff ranking (the fifth team is Utah), so it is not surprising to see those four teams in the preseason top five, and USC is the trendy preseason pick after winning their final nine games (after losing to Utah) of the 2016 season and return 2017 Heisman Trophy frontrunner quarterback Sam Darnold. USC is expected to be the class of the Pac-12 in 2017. Washington (88) and Stanford (87) are also projected as preseason top 15 teams. Stanford’s 88 rating on defense is the highest of any Pac-12 team, while Oregon (84) and USC are tied with the highest offensive rating at 93. The only other Pac-12 team to rate over 90 in any category is Washington’s offense at a 91. The lowest rated Pac-12 team is Arizona (78).

So, how do they have Utah rated? Well, the Utes check in with a rating of 81, led by an offensive rating of 84 and only a 77 on defense, which is actually lower than Oregon State’s (78) and only five higher than Arizona State’s (72), which is the lowest in the Pac-12. Utah’s rating of 81 is only higher than Arizona (78), Arizona State (80), Cal (80), and Colorado (80) and is tied with Oregon State and Washington State, which means Utah is rated between 6th and 8th in the Pac-12 according to this. The offensive and defensive rankings seem almost backwards to me. An offensive rating of 84 puts Utah somewhere between No. 43 and No. 49 in the nation, which is higher than Utah has finished in total offense in six years in the Pac-12 (their best total offense was No. 51 last season, and their next best is No. 76 in 2013). The same holds true for scoring offense as well, with Utah’s best mark coming in 2014 when they ranked No. 52 in the nation. I think the high rating stems from the return of a senior quarterback along with depth at running back and wide receiver. I also think the addition of offensive coordinator Troy Taylor resulted in a rating bump for the Utah offense. If Utah’s offense truly performs like an 84 overall offense in 2017, I will be ecstatic.

While the offense at an 84 seems potentially a little too high, the defense at 77 overall however seems far too low. It rates between No. 51 and No. 55 in the nation. Utah has only finished worse than No. 55 in the nation in total defense twice since joining the Pac-12 (in 2013 and 2014). If you use scoring defense as your measure, Utah only finished worse than No. 55 once (in 2013). The Utah defense lost a lot in the secondary, but they return all of their linebackers from last season and a lot of talent on the defensive line. Defensive end Kylie Fitts and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei are both potential first-team All-Pac-12 players. The linebackers took their lumps last season, but they improved throughout the season, and I think Kavika Luafatasaga (a former four-star JUCO recruit) will have a breakout senior season. The secondary might be unproven, but there is plenty of talent in the group led by safety Chase Hansen. Utah also added two instant impact JUCO players in safety Corrion Ballard, who arrived on campus for spring football and performed well, safety/outside linebacker hybrid Marquis Blair, and cornerback Tareke Lewis. The jewel of their 2017 class was top 100 high school cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who should instantly compete for playing time and a starting role.

One other fun part about the release of the NCAA Football games was seeing who the highest rated players were. This was not covered in Kirk’s article, so we will make some predictions. I think the highest rated Utah football player would be punter Mitch Wishnowsky. He is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner after having a phenomenal debut in his sophomore season at Utah. I expect he would be rated 95 or higher. The highest rated defender would likely be Lotulelei rated in the low to mid 90s. Offense is the hardest to gauge. There is not a clear cut most talented player on offense. Quarterback Troy Williams, running back Zack Moss, wide receivers Demari Simpkins, Raelon Singleton, or Siaosi Wilson, or offensive lineman Leka Uhatafe could all potentially be Utah’s top rated offensive player. With a rating of 84 though and the importance of a good quarterback, my guess is if the game did exist, it would be Williams who rated the highest somewhere in the mid to maybe upper 80s.