Thursday, July 25, 2024

EA Sports College Football 25 rankings, takeaways: Colorado overhyped, Michigan’s defense is underrated

We’re less than two weeks away from the release of EA Sports “College Football 25.” With it comes the end of an 11-year drought for the game, and the buzz has been palpable as the long-dormant college football video game community awakes from its slumber. The first gameplay trailer has garnered 2.9 million views on Youtube and subsequent videos showing gameplay, sights and sounds and a look at dynasty mode have all been seen well over a million times. 

With such a large, passionate audience tuned in for every update they can get on the game, EA Sports knew it would court some controversy when it released its team ratings. Fans flocked to social media to debate the game’s top 25 offenses, defense, places to play and overall teams. As providers of preseason prognostications ourselves, the CBS Sports staff wanted to get in on the fun. 

We asked our college football team for their biggest takeaways from the team ratings release. 

Unfair punishment for Missouri

I can’t believe that I, a grown adult, am taking exception with a video game ranking, but it’s July and I am weeks away from entering hibernation with “CFB 25.” I am indeed invested, so I cannot let this slight against Missouri go unnoticed. Yes, the Tigers have the No. 9 offense (89 OVR), according to EA Sports, but they’re nowhere to be found among the top 25 teams in the game’s power rankings.

Missouri, which won 11 games last year and returns the combo of Brady Cook and Luther Burden III, is unequivocally one of the top 25 best teams in the country. I mean, if Colorado is, then so is Mizzou. The Tigers are likely being dragged down by a lower defensive score — they do not rank among the top 25 defenses, per EA — but I have more real-world confidence in coach Eli Drinkwitz’s reloading job on that side of the ball given what’s in the wings. — Ben Kercheval 

EA is making enemies on Rocky Top  

EA Sports is poking a hornet’s nest in Knoxville, Tennessee, with its assessment of the Volunteers. Placing Neyland Stadium as the No. 13 toughest place to play undervalues one of the loudest stadiums in college football. That was just the start. The Volunteers also missed the list of top 25 offenses and defenses. It was just two years ago Tennessee ranked No. 1 nationally in total offense at 525.5 yards per game. Even on a down year for the offense in 2023, the Volunteers still finished No. 19 nationally at 448.1 yards per contest. 

Former five-star prospect Nico Iamaleava steps in as the starting quarterback following an impressive debut in a 35-0 Citrus Bowl thrashing of Iowa, and Tennessee should be back in the neighborhood of 500 yards per game in 2024. Yet, EA thinks UCF, Florida State and Virginia Tech — just to name a few of the questionable choices in the top 25 — have better offenses than the Vols? In terms of overall power rankings, it’s also silly to rank the Iowa team Tennessee just crushed while the Volunteers missed the top 25. That puts them somewhere behind the Hawkeyes (and Colorado!?). Tennessee fans aren’t exactly known for being good sports when they feel slighted. EA Sports better be careful, or it might end up with a Big Orange boycott on its hands. — David Cobb

Michigan’s defense still packs a punch

I assume we’re all laughing about Colorado’s inclusion in the top 25, so I won’t even get into that. I understand why the offensive rankings are the way they are. They always give added weight to the quarterback. If you look, 22 of the 25 top offenses have veteran QBs, while others like Tennessee are breaking in new starters. However, my biggest ratings gripe by far is Michigan coming in as the No. 10 overall defense. 

That defense stopped Ohio State, whooped Alabama in the Rose Bowl and shut down a prolific Washington offense in the title game. While it loses some pieces, all of its best players are back. I’m supposed to believe that defense is only the 10th-best in the country? Question the new-look Michigan offense all you want, but that defense remains elite and should be ranked no lower than third. — Tom Fornelli 

michigan-will-johnson-1.jpg

Defensive back Will Johnson (2) leads a strong group of returning defensive starters for Michigan.  USATSI

The USC defensive rating doesn’t make sense

Like many, the first time I saw game footage from EA’s return to college football, I was blown away by the attention to detail. The sights, sounds and pregame traditions packed into that first trailer assured me that this was a labor of love made by college football fans, for college football fans. Less than a minute into the first official reveal trailer, there’s some really cool footage of the USC Trojan Marching Band drum major stabbing his sword into midfield before a game. There’s no telling how many times the developer team must have watched that iconic tradition in order to get it right for a video game. 

However, after looking at the team rankings, I can’t help but wonder if the good folks at EA Sports bothered to watch the actual USC football team play at all over the past two years. The Trojans somehow rank as the No. 16 defense in college football, according to the good folks at EA Sports. New USC defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn has an impressive track record and inherits a group with a few good pieces (defensive lineman Bear Alexander, linebacker Mason Cobb and safety Bryson Shaw all come to mind), but the Trojans have a steep climb ahead on that side of the ball. They gave up 34.4 points per game (121st in the country) and only held two opponents (Stanford and Nevada) to fewer than 28 points in 2023. I think most would consider Lynn’s first season a success if the Trojans can field a top-50 defense in 2024. — Chris Dukes

Colorado hype train running amok

When I first saw the team ratings in “College Football 25,” I was shocked to find Colorado at No. 17. I don’t think it’s a massive problem, but I thought Colorado would come in just outside the top 25. The Buffaloes have two of the best players in the sport (Travis Hunter and Shedeur Sanders), but a majority of the roster is a mystery. 

Colorado lost a large chunk of its roster to the transfer portal this offseason, and there are question marks around Deion Sanders’ program (hence why Colorado was picked to finish 11th in the Big 12 preseason poll). Still, we have to remember this is a video game. The Buffaloes’ star power has to be factored in to justify ranking Colorado ahead of teams such as Oklahoma, USC, Kansas, Oklahoma State, etc. — Cameron Salerno

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