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Panther Hollow: What Does Virtual Reality Have In Store For The 2013 Panthers?

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) -- Since it's the weekend, what say we play a game?

NCAA Football 14 was released by EA Sports this week, and, every year, our parent company's "Eye On College Football" blog uses the new game to simulate the entire major college football season.

I still remember, despite enduring tongue-lashings from the old man for not making my bed or taking out the trash, being engrossed in NHL 96 on my Sega Genesis like it was the most amazing thing on Earth. So, even today, with all I now know--and still don't know--about electronic media, I tend to be mesmerized by the intricacies of modern sports video games.

No game will ever truly, fully integrate the human element, though my hat goes off to the folks at EA Sports, because, over the years, they've sure as heck tried.

I'd actually prefer a dose of abject failure in this case, because the outlook for Pitt, per our official corporate simulation, is...well...not good.

The virtual 2013 Panthers went a gut-punching 2-10 overall, winning just one game in ACC play.


In last year's "Eye On College Football" simulation, Pitt was one of four teams to share the Big East crown (with Cincinnati getting the conference's BCS berth). So last year's team was ultimately oversold, meaning, logically, this year's team has been undersold, right?

Feel better now?

I've got fifty days to make a prediction on the actual 2013 Panthers, and I regret to inform you I won't be putting all my eggs in this basket. Let's just say, if you were planning to make a long-distance call to Vegas after reading this, make other plans.

Turning our attention back to last year's simulation, the SEC continued its reign of supremacy. Your virtual 2012 national championship went to...

(Nope, not them...)

(Nope, not them, either...)


Like I said, you have to suspend disbelief.

But that doesn't mean we can't still have a little fun. To wit, let's compare highlights from last year's simulation to actual results, and also look at some highlights of this year's simulation, just to gauge what level of accuracy we can expect:

--The team Arkansas defeated to win its virtual championship was Kansas State. The real 2012 KSU squad didn't get a title shot, but if the post-RG3 Baylor Bears hadn't caught the 'Cats on an off night, it might have. On a related note, Collin Klein was a runner-up in both the simulated Heisman Trophy race and the real one.

--The virtual 2012 Heisman Trophy went to Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas, even though, in the simulation, the Ducks didn't even make a BCS appearance, let alone echo their real-world victory in the Fiesta Bowl. The real Thomas enjoyed a respectable sophomore year with 701 yards, an average-per-carry over 7.0, and 11 TD's, but was only roughly half as productive as the game predicted he would be. Still, he made the 2013 Heisman Pundit/ Heisman Trophy Watch List.

--Cincinnati bowed to Virginia Tech in last year's virtual Orange Bowl. The real Bearcats finished just off the BCS mark in 2012, losing the Big East tiebreaker to Louisville, and settling for a win in the Belk Bowl over Duke. The real Hokies didn't fare so well after Pitt repeated history and made Frank Beamer its punching bag, finishing a pedestrian 6-6 before beating Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

--The actual 2012 ACC and Orange Bowl champions will be seeing the Panthers at Heinz Field Sept. 2. In this year's simulation, Florida State, once again, can't get out of Virginia Tech's shadow, falling to them in a close ACC Championship Game. The Hokies go on to whip UCLA in the virtual 2013-14 Orange Bowl.

--Notre Dame went to Sun Life Stadium last year and lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship nearly four months after signing off on a partial football partnership with the ACC. So for what it's worth to ACC fans (hey, wait a second, that's you!), the Irish, who visit Pittsburgh Nov. 9, end up 8-4 in this year's simulation.

--Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez edges Big Ten rival Braxton Miller of Ohio State in this year's virtual Heisman Trophy race, which isn't outside the realm of possibility. Both have been deemed preseason Heisman candidates by Heisman Pundit and CBS, with Miller in particular gaining national popularity. The simulation predicts Miller's Buckeyes will defeat Alabama for the 2013-14 national championship.

--To reinforce my point about the blurry line between fantasy and reality, this year's simulation has Navy and Temple both reaching BCS games. It pains me to say this, because I have friends with ties at both schools, but I'm filing that one under "predictions sure to go awry."

But the most enjoyable part of the annual release of EA Sports' NCAA Football game is seeing the players react to seeing themselves in the game (for legal reasons, no proper names are used, but they can be purchased and uploaded independently for a couple bucks). Hence our unofficial tweet of the week from Pitt freshman tight end Scott Orndoff:

That's okay, I still haven't forgiven them for making Dave Wannstedt fat in NCAA Football 07, either.

Anyway, happy gaming, everyone--you too, Scott.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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