Colorado wildly overrated by EA Sports, plus whose title drought will end soonest?

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Did you make EA Sports’ cut?

Game developers informed more than 14,000 college football players today whether they are among the more than 11,000 players included in the new College Football 25 video game. Teams will be limited to around 85 real player spots, and those who are in will begin receiving their $600 participation payment next week.

Now, for more of EA’s rankings (and let’s emphasize that these are not The Athletic’s rankings) …

The video game’s best offenses and defenses

EA started the morning by releasing the 2024 game’s top 25 offenses. Here are the top five: 

  1. Georgia (94 rating)
  2. Oregon (94)
  3. Alabama (91)
  4. Texas (91)
  5. Ohio State (89)

Other teams in the top 10 include Miami (No. 7), Missouri (No. 9) and … Colorado at No. 8.

Are the Buffs overrated? The Athletic’s Austin Mock thinks so; he has Colorado’s offense ranking at No. 49 this season. Confidence in Colorado might come from the return of Shedeur Sanders, one of the top QB prospects for the 2025 NFL Draft, and cover athlete Travis Hunter, but the Buffs ranked 69th in offensive success rate in 2023. A top 10 evaluation is putting a lot of faith in a team that still needs to prove a lot.

Biggest snubs: Maybe it’s because we still haven’t seen much from former five-star QB Nico Iamaleava, but I was shocked to see Tennessee left outside of this top 25. Iamaleava will have a solid target in Bru McCoy, who opted to return after a season-ending injury last year. I’m also surprised to see Oklahoma State left off the list. The Cowboys return 85 percent of their production from last season, including the best running back in the country in Ollie Gordon II.

And now, for the defenses. Here are the top five in the game’s ratings:

  1. Ohio State (96)
  2. Georgia (94)
  3. Oregon (90)
  4. Alabama (90)
  5. Clemson (90)

My initial takeaways:

Hello, USC? After a year when the Trojans’ defense was blamed for nearly all of the team’s flaws, Lincoln Riley’s defensive unit comes in as the 16th-best in the nation, according to EA. USC brought in a new defensive coordinator in D’Anton Lynn to fix the disaster, but I’m not sure a top-25 ranking — let alone one within the top 20 — is the right evaluation. Ranking USC’s defense above its offense (No. 25) is just … well … I have no words. (And Colorado appearing in the defensive top 25 is even harder to explain. Last year, the Buffs were No. 115 in yards per play allowed.)

Is Iowa underrated? The Hawkeyes’ defense led them to a 10-4 record in 2023 despite an offense so disastrous it was held to a scoring incentive — and failed to reach it. Iowa returns key linebackers Jay Higgins and Nick Jackson as well as cornerback Jermari Harris and defensive back Sebastian Castro in 2024. For a unit that led the nation in yards per play allowed, is No. 13 too low? I think it could jump a few spots.

Read Austin Mock’s analysis here, and keep in mind EA will be able to adjust team ratings throughout the season.

Based on what we’ve learned this week, here’s my prediction for the game’s top five teams (the official list will be released tomorrow):

  1. Georgia: Will anyone be surprised?
  2. Oregon: Former Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel will lead an offense that could light up the Big Ten.
  3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes won the offseason and put together an elite roster worthy of high expectations.
  4. Texas: At least one team with a cover athlete has to be in the top five! That’d be Quinn Ewers and the Longhorns.
  5. Alabama: The Tide are turning the page to the Kalen DeBoer era, but with an offense and defense ranked in the top five, they’ll still be evaluated highly.

EA also released its sights-and-sounds deep dive yesterday. Watch it here. Plus, the rankings aren’t done yet! EA said player ratings will be revealed in July.

Mandel’s Mailbag

Who’ll be the next fresh champion?

Of the schools that never made the four-team Playoff, which one is most likely to win a national championship in the next 3-5 years? — Martin D.

It’s got to be a school capable of consistently recruiting at a top-10 level. There aren’t many of those left who’ve yet to reach a Playoff, but the short list of candidates (without accounting for current coach or roster) would be: Texas A&M, Florida, Miami, Auburn, Tennessee and USC. Note: All but Texas A&M won at least one national title in the BCS/CFP era.

Call me foolish, but I’ll go with Miami. Mario Cristobal hasn’t broken through yet, but he’s recruiting at a high level (his first two full classes both finished in the top 10), has the NIL resources to get prized transfers like Cam Ward and Damien Martinez, and has a better chance of winning his conference (and securing a first-round bye) coming out of the ACC than the Big Ten and SEC schools on that list.

Also: The U was one of the most dominant programs in the sport from 1983 to 2003. It won more national titles over that 20-year span (five) than Georgia has in its entire history (four). Surely, it’s going to come back at some point, despite the past 20 years of evidence to the contrary.

Read the rest of the mailbag here. 

Quick Snaps

In Monday’s newsletter, we broke down the video game’s ranking of the toughest stadiums. How do The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s rankings compare? Spoiler: EA’s No. 1 almost fell out of Bruce’s top 10.

Can an Iowa tight end be the Hawkeyes’ star in 2024? Or what about a running back for Northwestern? Tomorrow’s Until Saturday podcast presents one X-factor for each Big Ten team. You can listen to past episodes of the podcast here.

Nobody was sure how Kalen DeBoer would handle replacing the greatest roster builder of all time. Initially, there were worries about recruiting. But just months into his Alabama tenure, DeBoer has debunked the doubters, Ari Wasserman writes today.

Notre Dame and Michigan State announced their scheduling of a home-and-home series in the 2026-27 seasons this morning. The programs have met 79 times dating back to 1887 with the last meeting in 2017 when Notre Dame won in East Lansing.

Also, there’s MAJOR DRAMA going on in the college baseball world. Less than a day after Texas A&M played for a national title, rival Texas swiped Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle away from College Station. A rivalry like no other will be renewed in the SEC this season, and the heat just keeps rising.

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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