Florida's surprising 11-2 season last year left the Gators set up for a lot of good things going forward. Jeff Driskel's a second-year starter in the fall, Matt Jones is a promising tailback, and Will Muschamp's success on the recruiting trail makes it likely that Florida will be doing more reloading than rebuilding on defense.
That carries over to NCAA Football 14, too, and it's one of the best things about this year's game: It's never been a better time to be a Florida fan and an NCAA player.
After sitting with it for a week, I still think the best thing about NCAA 14 is the improved running: Not only is cutting on a dime in the open field with fluidity viscerally satisfying, the option as run in NCAA 14 is the best execution of a real-life concept in a sports game in a long, long time, even if reading the defensive end right can sometimes feel like entering a cheat code.
But the second-best thing is how seamlessly that fits the rest of what is a remarkably fun and deep game. The streamlined recruiting in Dynasty allows you to chase down virtual versions of Dalvin Cook and Will Grier without spending a half-hour doing it for each week of action; the Ultimate Team mode, which will suck many of your hours if you let it, is just the same core gameplay with the potential for creating very cool teamms on which Rex Grossman throws to Percy Harvin, or Tim Tebow hands off to Emmitt Smith. (My first Ultimate Team pack yielded Christian Ponder at QB; he got benched for Mark Sanchez before the first game, and then I benched Sanchez for the next live body at QB I got. That's realism, too!)
If you want to run the ball and play sound defense like Florida does, you can definitely do that. If you want to play with the weird Brent Pease formations — the pistol variants, the I-form with an unbalanced line — you can definitely do that. And if you want to recruit a new fleet of great wide receivers and revamp Florida's offense into a new Fun 'n Gun attack, jump into Dynasty and keep going. I'm not raving about this game because this post is sponsored; I'm raving about it because I think it might be the best, most real fake world of college football that EA Sports has ever made.
It will also be the last NCAA Football game EA Sports makes, I'll bet, unless there's some sort of drastic reversal in the court proceedings of O'Bannon v. NCAA, because the NCAA is turning tail and running from the franchise, ensuring that we're going to get something like College Football 15 next season. (No, this move won't kill college football video games, not unless you think a series that sells around a million copies per year on the Xbox 360 alone is easily abandoned.) So that "there's never been a better time" bit works in multiple senses.
The most important one for me, though, is the one that involves Florida playing for a national title in Pasadena later this year. I know I can make that happen in NCAA 14. And that's pretty cool.