Year 12 First Half: A young Zips squad looks to mature into a title team
Coach Luke makes a big change by putting sophomore Leonard Sims in at quarterback for Akron this season.
Welcome to the next chapter of the University of Akron’s quest to win seven national championships in NCAA Football 14. To learn more about this series and read up on past installments, visit the About page of this site.
This post will chronicle the first half of the Year 12 season. I’ll be streaming the conclusion of Year 12 tonight on Twitch.
Coach Luke did his job last year. The Zips program was in danger of going off-the-rails after a four-loss season in Year 10 but they rebounded with a 12-1 season capped with a Rose Bowl victory.
Instead of resting on our laurels, the team made a major change heading into Year 12. Former starting quarterback Rod Jackson has been transitioned into a halfback this season and true sophomore Leonard Sims takes over at quarterback. It’s a change that has shocked Zipsters across the nation. This risky move could define Coach Luke’s growing legacy at a crucial time for the Akron football program.
The University is completing construction on the new state-of-the-art LeBron James Stadium and is hopeful that the football team has a landmark season to get that new stadium packed next year.
Year 12 Schedule
The schedule may be one of our tougher ones yet. It starts off a little bit slow as all of there isn’t a team rated above 90 overall until our Week 6 game against Oregon.
The middle stretch will likely be our toughest period as Oregon, Michigan, Nebraska, and LSU are all rated above 90.
Year 12 Roster
Our roster is as good as it has ever been. The stars of the offense that you need to know are QB Leonard Sims, HB Rod Jackson, and WR Dan Richardson. On defense, we’re being led by familiar favorites like OLB Todd Austin, DE James Smith, CB Howard Norman, and CB Ethan Terrell.
Year 12 Season (2024-25)
It’s the year 2024 now. Things are so different in the future. Aliens have landed and recently starting cohabitating the Earth with us. They’ve taught us how to teleport which has completely ruined the airline business. It’s a big help for Coach Luke’s recruiting travels though. The future is mostly good, but we miss the simple pleasures like coffee and pasta. Those things don’t exist in 2024. But, hey, at least we still have football though!
The Zips have a crucial season and need to get started with some big wins. They’ll start off the season with a vacation to Hawai’i to face the Warriors.
0-0 | Week 2 at Hawai’i
Hawai’i is the second-worst rated team on our schedule with an 83 overall rating. The hope is that our Zips get a good suntan while they’re there and that we see our new starting players put on a bit of a show afterward.
Sure, that’s a big win! Can’t complain about that.
Leonard Sims makes a great debut as our starting QB with 5 TDs in 25 pass attempts. Keith King overshadows Rod Jackson at HB, and Howard Norman goes off with two interceptions. Dan Richardson has the time of his life in Hawai’i with a gigantic 10 rec, 181 yards, 3 TD performance too.
The Zips start the season with a zippy performance! I love it.
1-0 | Week 3 vs #13 Pittsburgh
Despite the lovely Hawai’i vacation, the team must quickly travel back to Akron for a very important game as we face our first ranked team of the year. The good news is that Pittsburgh is only rated 90 overall despite being ranked #13 in the country.
Should be no problem then, right? Barely an inconvenience?
Oh my. That was way closer than expected.
Our run game was SHUT DOWN.
But, their passing game? Also, SHUT DOWN.
It’s still a win though. No damage has been done to our championship chances. Let’s just move on and win big in the next game.
After this tense game, Coach Luke runs out of the stadium to immediately hit the recruiting trail. Most fans worry that he loves recruiting more than coaching games but it’s a vital part of this team’s success either way. With his fanciest suit on, Coach Luke immediately goes out and gets two insta-commits after this game to start the recruiting cycle on a positive note:
MLB Jeff Davis (77 OVR) ★★★
ATH Warren Oliver (76 OVR) ★★★★★
Jeff Davis is a gem of a prospect who could be an elite linebacker in the years ahead while Warren Oliver projects as an offensive tool much like Rod Jackson.
2-0 | Week 4 at Northwestern
Northwestern is next on our schedule and they are led by reader-created QB Ricky O’Donnell Jr. We’ve easily handled them over the past two years. They’re rated 90 overall this year and we want another blowout on our resume after that Pittsburgh game.
To quote famous rapper Kanye West, “yikes!”
Once again, we escape with a victory, but it took a fourth-quarter comeback. Our run game is looking like a major liability. In fact, the entire offense may need a facelift. We’ve only scored 33 total points in our last two games. That is not the Akron way.
It’s a win. Let’s take it and move on.
On the recruiting front, it is becoming clear who our most crucial pursuits will be. This is what the board looks like after the Northwestern game:
Really, the highest priority is building the offensive line back up as our strength. Getting Sean Merrill and Mike Smith would be the quickest way to ensuring that happens.
3-0 | Week 5 at Kent State
For some reason, we have Kent State on our schedule again. Oh, wait—that’s right—they’re a “rival” of ours apparently. Gosh, that seems werid. They’re a really bad team and we’re a really good team.
Whatever! Let’s travel fifteen minutes down the road and humor Kent State by playing football with them.
As I always say: “can’t read, can’t write, can’t play football: Kent State”
4-0 | Week 6 vs #5 Oregon
The biggest game of the season is here.
We had one loss on the entire season in Year 11. That was to an Oregon Ducks team that went on to win the championship. We get our chance for revenge here and they’re coming to our house this time. They’re ranked #5 in the country and we are #4. We’ll likely be in the driver’s seat for a BCS Championship Game if we win this one.
I invite out a ton of recruits to hopefully jump-start our recruiting cycle for the season. Our championship hopes are on the line. Our recruiting success is on the line. It’s ALL on the line.
Goodness, gracious. Just an embarrassment.
We lose 37-17. This was one of the first games where it felt like we had no hope at all.
This game stings for lots of reasons. One of those reasons is because it also had a negative effect on our recruiting process. There were a dozen recruits coming out for this and we did so poorly that we made very little headway with any of them.
Thankfully, we did a single commit after the game and it was a good one. The #1 CB in the country, J.R. Kendrick (81 OVR), commits to Akron.
Getting that one great player committed is not enough to take away the pain of this rough loss though. The mood is pretty dour in Akron.
4-1 | Week 7 vs Michigan
So, how we do move on from such a crushing loss?
Well. We jump right into another marquee matchup, of course. The University of Michigan decides to send their Wolverines down to Akron so that we can get a taste of Big Ten life.
Coach Luke has an in-depth meeting with his assistant coaches and decides on a few playbook tweaks that will hopefully ignite an offense that has struggled in big games this year. It’s all-or-nothing time now.
This is another game that was watched on Twitch, in hopes that our season could get turned around after Oregon basically stole our soul.
What a win!
It was slow-moving for a bit, but then we scored 29 points in the third quarter to get us rolling. Leonard Sims broke a school record for passing yards in a game and Micah McBride had a breakout game at receiver.
This felt like a magical game. The third quarter really shifted everything, and I hope it is the thing that shifts this entire season.
After the game, we do get a single commit with WR Scott Washington (78 OVR) joining the squad. He’s a five-star player and he is our third five-star player this year. We only have five commits thus far but we’re getting some good ones.
5-1 | Week 8 at #6 Nebraska
We can’t even rest for a second to enjoy our Michigan win.
Coach Luke and the boys immediately hop in a giant bus for a team road trip to Nebraska. The team has a great time as they all bond by having different players create playlists for each section of the road trip. When they finally arrive in Nebraska, they are greeted with the challenge of playing the #6 team in the country in their house. Fun!
All of that joy from the Michigan game and that epic third quarter could immediately be wiped away in this game. Will the team capitalize on the momentum or shrink at this moment? This feels like a defining game.
Our defense has a statement game with three turnovers! We escape Nebraska with a gigantic win for the program. We’ve proved that we can hang with the Big Ten, baby!
It shouldn’t go unstated that this was maybe our toughest stretch of three games in program history. Oregon, Michigan, and Nebraska were all top-tier teams. We escaped the gauntlet with only one loss and now are rewarded with a bye week and then a lighter stretch of games.
6-1 | Week 10 vs NC State
The first game coming out of the bye is against our old friends at NC State. They are coming to visit Akron as an 86 overall team. As usual, when playing against inferior competition, I’m mostly curious how much we’ll win by and who will step up for us.
Yup, nothing to worry about. Leonard Sims is doing his best to try to force his name into the Heisman conversation. Rod Jackson is starting to become more comfortable in his role at halfback.
We land a good recruit after this game. CB Riley Anderson (72 OVR) commits to give us more depth in the secondary moving forward. At this point, our recruiting efforts have yielded some amazing five-star talent but not much else so it’s good to get depth guys like this too.
The recruiting board still has lots of tight battles at this point. The main focus is still on getting our top offensive line prospects in addition to #1 QB Jon Moore.
7-1 | Week 11 vs LSU
I’ve been fascinated by the fall of LSU during the twelve years of this series. It’s interesting that LSU’s fall has coincided with Akron’s rise. Read into that what you may.
That’s not to say they’re not a good team this year. They’re 4-4 and rated 91 overall. They’re good but they are certainly not the juggernaut that they once were. This is the type of game that we need to win if we’re truly a football powerhouse now.
That’s a nice win!
We struggled on offense in this one despite the point total. Our running game disappeared and the passing game was fairly pedestrian. The reason we won this game is because of our lights-out defense. We shut down their passing game completely while accounting for four interceptions.
CB Howard Norman is starting to break out this year. He got two more interceptions in this game, as well as a defensive touchdown.
Don’t look now but, suddenly, we’re re-entering the championship picture as we improve to 8-1 with this win.
8-1 | Week 12 vs #24 Auburn
We enter Week 12 in Year 12 with a #5 ranking in the country. There are four undefeated teams ahead of us. The hope is that a couple of them fall in the remaining weeks so that we can return to the BCS National Championship Game.
We have work of our own to do first though. The three remaining games on our schedule are all against ranked teams in Auburn, Army, and Notre Dame.
Auburn is the only home game in that stretch so we need to take care of business in this game if we are going to stay in the championship hunt.
They’re rated 88 overall. On paper, that feels like good news but we’ve struggled and lost to teams rated lesser than this before. This game makes me nervous, but let’s go!
Statement game! We win 54-7!
This game was very similar to the LSU game as our offense wasn’t exactly lights-out but our defense was incredible. Once again, we had four interceptions with FS Ken Davis getting three on his own. When we’re winning the turnover battle like this, we’re hard to stop.
We move up to #4 in the country now with a few weeks left in the season. The teams above us are Oregon, Oregon State, and Navy. There’s a conceivable scenario ahead where we could be playing in a championship game this year.
We’ll find out about that next time though as this is where I end today’s post. Check out the next post in a couple of days or watch tonight’s Twitch stream to see how this season ends.
We did get a few more lower-ranked commitments in those final weeks there. Our recruiting class is a bit top-heavy this year and we still have a ton of scholarships left to offer.
If you want a closer look at these players, join the Discord server and go to the #recruits-signed channel there.
To get a look at the season stats thus far, here’s a link to the spreadsheet that contains the team stats and dynasty history.
Tuesday Night Twitch Party at 8:00 PM EST!
Will this team pull off the unthinkable and return to a title game? Will it be against the dreaded Oregon team that has owned us for two years now? Will we slip up against Notre Dame or Army before that could even happen? It’s hard to say!
I will be going nuts and screaming at my TV watching the games tonight on Twitch. The Twitch channel link is right here. Come on out and potentially see your favorite simulated football team’s second championship title.
For the non-Twitch family, the next post will be coming out soon to chronicle these final weeks. I’m hyped! Let’s Zip!
As a side note to end this on, I’ve been asked by some readers if I have a Patreon or Venmo so that they could financially show their appreciation for the series. This is really just a fun project first and foremost, but my Venmo is @lgloeckner or you can subscribe to the Twitch channel if you’d like to support the series. I feel weird even bringing this up so this will be the only time I mention this in these newsletters.
I hope you keep enjoying this project either way! Go Zips!