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Breaking Down Team Ratings in NCAA Football 11 from EA Sports (E3 Ratings Edition)

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Edit: Big thank you to Steve Noah of http://www.operationsports.com for linking to this article on the front page of the Operation Sports home page, and thanks to all of you OS readers and members who are coming here to read this write-up for the game!

EA Sports’ yearly release in their NCAA Football video game franchise is due to hit on Tuesday, July 13th; in preparation for that, I have gone through the ratings for all of the teams included in this year’s game to run some data analysis.  The goal of this research is to provide some data surrounding how the EA Sports team has decided to rate each school’s team in the game, and how that affects potential conferences to use in the game’s multiplayer Online Dynasty mode.

Please note that the ratings used in this analysis are taken from video recorded at the Electronics Entertainment Expo and may not reflect the retail team ratings when the game is officially released.

NCAA Football 11 Box Art for Playstation 3

First off, we will look at the numbers taken as a result of averaging the rating for each team in each conference.  Schools are rated in three major categories:

  • Overall Rating
  • Offensive Rating
  • Defensive Rating

By averaging each conference member school’s ratings, we arrive at the following results for best overall conference in terms of school ratings:

FIXED Top Conferences

The first six conferences–the SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, and Big East–are the schools that receive “Automatic Qualifier” status in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.  The last five conferences–the MWC, C-USA, WAC, MAC, and Sun Belt–do not receive “Automatic Qualifier” status; this explains the large disparity in average roster ratings between the lowest “Automatic Qualifier” conference–the Big East–and the highest “Non-Automatic Qualifier” conference, the Mountain West Conference.

Of course, there is one catch; these ratings are taken from the E3 build of NCAA Football 11, which gave #1 Alabama ratings of 99/99/99 in Overall/Offense/Defense.  It seems unlikely that Alabama will maintain this perfect set of ratings for the final retail version of the game, which means that the Southeastern Conference will have ratings drop across the board in terms of averages.

When considering a conference to select in an Online Dynasty–particularly an Online Dynasty where all members of the dynasty will play as teams from a single conference–the overall averages of schools is a minor consideration.  More important, however, is to consider how balanced the schools in a conference are; if a conference has teams that are very evenly balanced, then the playing field is significantly more level for gamers.  However, a conference that has a large gap between teams could potentially be problematic in an Online Dynasty because serious mis-matches are more likely to occur.  With that in mind, here is a breakdown of how balanced the conferences are in NCAA Football 11:

NCAA 11 Balanced Conferences (E3)

Based strictly on these numbers–which represent the rating point difference between the top team and bottom team in a conference–then the Big East clearly offers the most balanced conference of teams in NCAA Football 11, while the WAC is most skewed between teams.  There is a catch here as well, however, as the Western Athletic Conference fields #5 Boise State–a team that has a 93 Overall rating–while the highest Overall rating in the conference otherwise is the 78 for Fresno State.  Only 16 rating points separate Fresno State and San Jose State, the worst team in the conference, so the WAC is reasonably balanced when the Broncos are removed.

In order to break down each conference individually, I’ve also run the numbers for each conference for analysis below.  After each image will be a quick reaction to the suitability of that conference for balanced Online Dynasty play.  I will present these in order from most balanced to least balanced, from the Big East to the WAC.

Big East Conference

Big East Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 5 out of 5

Just over ten points separate #16 Pittsburgh and West Virginia at the top of the conference from Louisville and Syracuse at the bottom, making the Big East a great selection for users seeking a balanced Online Dynasty.  There are only 8 teams in the conference, however, so the Online Dynasty would operate below the maximum of 12 players.

Pacific 10 Conference

Pac-10 Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 4.5 out of 5

The Pac-10 provides a surprisingly balanced experience–only 13 points separate #13 USC from Washington State–while also having a legitimate sense of “star quality” regarding the big name schools involved in the conference.  While there won’t be much worry from a balance standpoint, be prepared for some healthy debate concerning who gets to play as which school if you choose this conference for your Online Dynasty.

Big 12 Conference

Big 12 Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 4.5 of 5

Despite nearly going defunct this summer, the Big 12 Conference actually provides a fairly balanced conference for use in NCAA Football 11; 14 rating points separate #15 Oklahoma from Kansas State.  This is another conference offering a lot of big-name schools for large Online Dynasty groups without skewing the playing field too strongly one way or another.

Atlantic Coast Conference

ACC Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 4.5 of 5

The ACC features a slew of teams in the inital Top 25 of NCAA Football 11, but there is still only a rating point differential of 14 between #14 Miami (FL) and Duke.  The star quality isn’t quite as prevalent here compared to other conferences in the game, but there is ample reason to believe that a level playing field could be had with an ACC Online Dynasty.

Sun Belt Conference

Sun Belt Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 4 of 5

The Sun Belt Conference is the first “Non-Automatic Qualifier” conference, and it doesn’t really have any big-name schools to make for a “sexy” Online Dynasty in NCAA Football 11.  That said, there is a solid balance between the squads in this conference, though the overall ratings for these teams are well below the ratings of teams in the conferences more balanced than this one.

Mid-American Conference

MAC Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 4 of 5

The MAC offers a similar situation to the Sun Belt Conference: solid balance between teams which aren’t high-profile, and teams whose ratings trend downwards very quickly.  It might be difficult to collect a group of people willing to play in an Online Dynasty dedicated to the Mid-American Conference, but if you can do so, nobody will feel particularly overpowered in the conference.

Southeastern Conference

SEC Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 3.5 of 5

The issue with #1 Alabama again rears its head here, and if the team is not 99/99/99 in the final retail copy of NCAA Football 11, then all of these numbers for the SEC will be changed.  It may well end up that the SEC is more balanced than the numbers would show here, considering that Alabama is 7 points ahead of #6 Florida and #17 LSU when considering the E3 ratings.  At the moment, however, this popular and powerful conference sits just about in the middle of the pack when it comes to balanced play for Online Dynasty use.  Again, the major issue will be players fighting over the popular teams while hoping to avoid getting saddled with Kentucky or Vanderbilt.

Big Ten Conference

Big Ten Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 3.5 of 5

The Big Ten Conference boasts four teams in the Top 25 for NCAA Football 11 at retail, but now we’re starting to see bigger rating point spreads between the top and bottom of conferences in the game.  Nearly 20 rating points separate #2 Ohio State from Illinois; while the middle of the pack is fairly balanced, those players who control Northwestern, Indiana or Illinois might find themselves at a marked disadvantage.

Conference USA

Conference USA

Suitability for Balanced Play: 3 of 5

The Conference-USA squads aren’t going to be able to stand up to the big boys of the NCAA, and even within this 12-school conference there are nearly 20 rating points separating UCF and Rice.  The middle of the conference is solid from a balance standpoint, but four teams on the outside–UCF and #25 Houston over 80, Tulane and Rice under 70–skew the overall balance of this conference when being considered for Online Dynasty play.

Mountain West Conference

FIXED MWC Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 2.5 of 5

The major appeal of the Mountain West Conference comes from the interesting offensive strategies employed by its teams; certainly not in terms of the balance between teams in the conference.  #8 TCU is 22 rating points better than New Mexico within the conference play, and there is a significant breadth in ratings across the entire conference.  An Online Dynasty focused on the MWC would certainly create some interesting match-ups, but there are certain teams that would be difficult to succeed with from a game balance standpoint.

Western Athletic Conference

FIXED WAC Conference

Suitability for Balanced Play: 1.5 of 5

#5 Boise State throws the Western Athletic Conference completely out of whack… get it?  The Broncos are 14 rating points higher than Nevada, the second-best team in the conference; they are an incredible 31 points higher than San Jose State, who sit at the bottom of the group.  While Boise State will be leaving the WAC in the future, an Online Dynasty in NCAA Football 11 would be very difficult to achieve from a balance standpoint unless the Broncos were left to be controlled by the computer in the dynasty.  Even an unskilled player would be quite capable of running at the head of the conference given the points spread in the WAC.

Of course, that only covers 117 of the 120 teams on the game disc in NCAA Football 11; there remain three Division I FBS Independents:


But since Army, Navy and Notre Dame are all doing fairly well on their own without having to be a part of a conference in the NCAA, that’s all the time we’ll be giving them here.

Now, before anybody gets on my case about this, please note that I’m aware that users can change conference lineups to be whatever they wish in NCAA Football 11.  However, for people like myself who enjoy playing the game based on how the conferences are going to be aligned for the coming season, this breakdown will hopefully be useful in working out which conferences are the strongest and which are most suitable for balanced play.

In just over a week, NCAA Football 11 will be out in video game retailers everywhere, and the team ratings in the final version of the game may differ from these numbers.  That said, this research should give everyone a solid head-start to thinking about what conference they might go with–or what team might be their new in-game favorite–for Online Dynasty in EA Sports’ latest version of their college football franchise.

Have any feedback, comments, or insights?  Feel free to weigh in through the comments below!


Written by Brian Parker

July 5, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. You put Nevada in the MWC, and that throws off your ratings for the wac because they’re the second best team in the wac, not fresno..


    July 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    • Thank you for that spot check! Knew I was bound to mess something up somewhere along the line. Working on making that correction now.

      Edit: Now fixed as of 2:37PM ET.

      Brian Parker

      July 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM

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