I’m big into EA Sports’ college football video game on PlayStation, way more than the Madden game, and was an even bigger gamer back in the day. Just about a decade ago (yeah, that long ago) I was playing the game’s Dynasty mode with Craig Carroll when we both lived at home, which made it easy to blow through season after season in no time. For those that don’t know, you not only play games for the school you choose to represent, but you run the team like a true head coach, recruiting, training and all the like to put a team on the field.
I ran the Michigan program a little differently than most, always seeking to rebuild my skill positions with freshmen and play them immediately when the opportunity allowed. One year I recruited a scrambling quarterback from high school named Joe Hayes. Of course, I put him in the lineup immediately and he completely changed my offensive philosophy and the history of video games in the Carroll household forever.
Playing so many freshmen probably wasn’t a smart decision, and probably still isn’t to this day, but it did allow my young quarterback to become a larger-than-life figure. Joe Hayes rushed for well over 1,000 yards and threw for another 3,000 in each of his four seasons at the school. I would regularly win games 49-42 or the like, as there was always tons of offense and pretty much no defense at all. (Sound familiar?)
Joe Hayes won two Heisman trophies and a national championship with me at Michigan. He became as close to a real-life person as you can get, even though he was in digital form. He was loved by yours truly and deeply hated by Craig, who played for the Miami Hurricanes.
After Joe Hayes’ four years were done, his legend fully intact, I even traded for him in the Madden game (you can connect the two games for the NFL Draft) after he was drafted by the 49ers, something Craig still brings up to this day as being a fleece job. (I still contend the trade was fair).
The Joe Hayes legacy continued in the Madden game, playing with me with the St. Louis Rams. (Craig had the Jets). He soon replaced Kurt Warner as quarterback and again continued his storied career with me. Hayes won Rookie of the Year honors, was MVP numerous times, and won a Super Bowl. He was and always will be the greatest player ever in the digital world of EA Sports.
To this day, a decade later, he is still brought up consistently, more so when Craig and I play the latest edition of the college football game, even though Joe Hayes is nowhere to be found in the game.
Now, what does this have to do with anything? Well, watching the Michigan offense, something that used to be three yards and a cloud of dust under former coach Lloyd Carr, become something I created digitally a decade ago is truly remarkable and a little bit unbelievable.
Quarterback Denard Robinson is playing the role of Joe Hayes, and of course, both wear the same number. The Michigan defense is, well, playing the role of the Michigan defense. Craig has said time and time again this season that Michigan has become exactly what they were when I played for them in the video game. Unfortunately, without the same number of victories.
As we kick off a New Year, and bring you an express-version of College GameDay Rewind, I still get a smile on my face watching the Michigan Wolverines. It’s been an extremely frustrating experience watching a defense that can’t stop a nose bleed and it's even worse watching the Gator Bowl get out of hand as I write this. But anytime I can think back to the golden age of gaming, with Joe Hayes leading the way, it’s a good thing.
True, it’s only a video game, but it’s still amazing to me that Joe Hayes lives on a decade since I last picked a play for him to run down the sideline for the Rams. There’s no doubt Joe Hayes will be brought up in some conversation 50 years from now. I'll say how great he was, while Craig will say he was overrated.
I’ll just wait now for a comment from Craig ripping me and Joe Hayes, which should come rather quickly after this post goes live.
In the meantime, make sure you watch our latest episode of Brad Carroll’s GameDay at the top of the website. Craig, Anthony and I talk about all the New Year’s games plus the Orange and Sugar bowls. We’ll discuss the BCS National Championship and more in our final episode, which will debut next Friday.
One thing Craig can't talk away is the performance of Miami in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. The Hurricanes were simply embarrassed by the Irish, there's no way around that. With all the hype surrounding the game - it was sold out in a matter of hours - you would think both teams would come out ready to play. But only Notre Dame showed up. It's sad because this matchup of the Catholics and the Convicts could have been great, but now those who didn't know what a great rivalry this was, and didn't watch the ESPN documentary, won't care if the team's decided to play in the regular season again. It's all on the Hurricanes. And that's a sad development.
One last note before we get to the breakdown. Charlie Weis is rumored to be heading to Florida to become the Gators offensive coordinator. Weis, the former Notre Dame head coach, is currently offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. Obviously, Weis will do what he believes is best for him and his career, but I just can’t see why he would leave a high-profile job in the NFL for college.
But if it does happen, Florida could be scary good very quickly. The interest in Weis does prove one thing at Florida, new head coach Will Muschamp will do anything he can to be a success with the Gators, and in short order. Florida fans have every reason to be excited right now.
Now, on to the breakdown:
My Bowl Week: 3-4 (spread); 2-5 (overall); 0-0 (upset picks)
My Season: 62-43-3 (spread); 82-26 (overall); 8-0 (upset picks)
My Money: UP $1,470 (season)
Craig Carroll's Bowl Week: 4-3 (spread)
Craig Carroll's Season: 53-52-3 (spread)
Craig Carroll's Money: DOWN $420 (season)
Anthony Della Calce's Bowl Week: 5-2 (spread)
Anthony Della Calce’s Season: 51-53-3 (spread)
Anthony Della Calce's Money: DOWN $730 (season)
West Virginia -2.5 vs. NC State
My Pick: West Virginia 24, NC State 20
Actual Score: NC State 23, West Virginia 7
I should have stuck with my better conference theory since I would have won this game instead of having the Big East humiliated again. I’m humiliated I even picked a team from the Big East to win. Anthony and I both open the bowl season with losses, while Craig gets the win with the Wolf Pack.
Missouri -2.5 vs. Iowa
My Pick: Missouri 31, Iowa 24
Actual Score: Iowa 27, Missouri 24
This game put together an exciting fourth quarter, but more so for Craig, as he watched the Hawkeyes come from behind and win the Insight Bowl. Missouri had the game in control, leading by four with the ball deep in Iowa territory with under six minutes to play. But everything changed with an Iowa interception that ended 72 yards later in the end zone. That gave Iowa the win and Craig as well. He improves to 2-0 on the day. Anthony and I went with Missouri to both start 0-2.
Oklahoma State -5 vs. Arizona
My Pick: Oklahoma State 38, Arizona 21
Actual Score: Oklahoma State 36, Arizona 10
This was an easy win for the three of us, as Oklahoma State rolled over the Wildcats. Not being around a computer, I actually thought the spread was in double-figures, so I sweated briefly about the score. But then seeing the spread was just five, I thought this was the easiest pick of the bowl season to date. Craig is 3-0, while Anthony and I both get our first wins to post 1-2 marks.
Syracuse Pk vs. Kansas State
My Pick: Syracuse 20,
Kansas State 17
Actual Score: Syracuse 36,
Kansas State 34
Craig wasn't happy after watching his undefeated bowl record end in disappointing fashion. Kansas State scored to pull within two in the final minute, but the referees called an excessive celebration penalty, which meant the Wildcats would have to go for the 2-point conversion from 17 yards out. They didn't get it and Syracuse got the win. The referees should never make the game about themselves, and they did that here. Let the kids celebrate and get on with the game. There's no reason to throw a flag unless the entire team ran into the end zone after the score. To have a game decided like that is truly embarrassing and something should be done about it. But I’m not going to complain too much, as I even my record at 2-2 with the Orange pick. Anthony gets the win and is 2-2. Craig loses to fall to 3-1.
Washington +13.5 vs. Nebraska
My Pick: Nebraska 31, Washington 20
Actual Score: Washington 19, Nebraska 7
I’m glad I listened to that little voice inside my head that said go with Washington plus the points, as the Huskies upset the Huskers in the Holiday Bowl. It was great to see a team I've come to despise this season end on a losing note. The icing is I improve to 3-2 with the win. Anthony wins as well to move to 3-2. Craig drops his second straight game, to drop to 3-2.
Miami -3 vs. Notre Dame
My Pick: Miami 34, Notre Dame 23
Actual Score: Notre Dame 33, Miami 17
This was easily the most hyped and anticipated game of the early bowl season – and for good reason. It was the Catholics vs. the Convicts again. It was Miami and Notre Dame. And then the game kicked off and everything went downhill from there. The Irish routed the Hurricanes and made this game a yawner. Here’s a message to Craig – your Hurricanes stink. Craig and I both fall to 3-3, while Anthony gets the win to improve to 4-2.
South Carolina -3 vs.
My Pick: South Carolina 27,
Florida State 20
Actual Score: Florida State 26,
South Carolina 17
I’m starting to believe my bowl picks just aren't going my way this season. South Carolina had no offense and lost to Florida State without much drama. That’s another bowl loss for yours truly, as I finish the early bowl games with a 3-4 record against the points and a 2-5 record overall. Craig ends with a victory to move to 4-3. He cuts into my lead in the Battle for Carroll Supremacy by one game. He trails by 9 games in the season-long race. Anthony ends the week with a stellar 5-2 record. Maybe he is truly turning the corner this season. Too bad it’s at the end of the season … but better late than never. He is two games under .500 for the season. I’m 19 games over, while Craig is two games over. Remember, there is a brand-new web episode of Brad Carroll’s GameDay at the top of the website right now that discusses all the major New Year’s Day bowl games plus the Orange and Sugar bowls. So check that out and make sure you make Brad Carroll’s GameDay a daily stop on your web surfing adventures.
HAPPY NEW YEAR AND THANKS FOR VISITING!