Year 12 Second Half: The Zips inch closer to a BCS National Championship Game
The Akron Zips may need some luck to return to a title game but don't count them out yet
Welcome to the second half of the Year 12 season and another installment in the University of Akron’s quest to become a football powerhouse in NCAA Football 14. To learn more about this series and read up on past installments, visit the About page of this site.
An early-season loss to Oregon made it feel like this season might be a complete bust for Coach Luke and the Zips. Championship aspirations temporarily turned into frantic desperation before the team took that desperation and rattled off huge wins over Michigan and Nebraska to start a five-game win streak. The Zips averaged 44.6 points per game during those five games while holding teams to under 21 points in four of those games.
Needless to say, the team is getting hot. You could have blinked and missed it but they are suddenly ranked #4 in the country with a legitimate pathway to return to the BCS National Championship Game. The three undefeated teams ahead of them are Oregon, Navy, and Oregon State and it seems likely that two of those teams might suffer a loss in the weeks ahead.
That’s one part of the equation. The other part is that Akron must win out in their remaining games against #18 Army and #8 Notre Dame first.
My friends, let the zippin’ commence.
Year 12 (2024-25) Second Half
Yes, the Zips have been hot. Leonard Sims has been leading the charge at QB with 26 TDs and 6 INTs on the season. The defense has been led by new star James Smith who is on pace to break his own Akron season sack record that he set last year as a freshman. Those things must continue if the Zips are to win a title this year.
First up? The dang Army.
9-1 | Week 13 at #18 Army
The Army that you all know and love as you are reading this is not the Army that exists in the year 2024 of this simulation. They now have a coach that prefers to have an aerial attack and it’s been fairly successful as they are 8-2 entering this game while being ranked #18 in the nation. They average 515 yards per game coming into this and only let up 293 yards per game, both of which are the best in the country.
They’re pretty good.
That being said, they’re still only rated 88 overall and most of those numbers have come against a weak schedule. We just need to travel up there, do our jobs, and hope we see losses from Oregon, Oregon State, or Navy on the scoreboard.
Their offense does manage to put up a ton of yards but Leonard Sims throws for over 500 yards himself as the Zips win in a blowout. On defense, FS Ken Davis has been accumulating a lot of interceptions and is slowly putting together a great season. DE James Smith gets two more sacks to add to his growing sack total.
It’s all good news here but what about in the other games across the country?
#1 Oregon wins their game and remains undefeated. Boo.
#2 Navy wins their game and remains undefeated. Boo.
#3 Oregon State loses to Utah and will drop in the rankings! Hell yeah!
This is excellent news as that means we’ll rise to #3 in the country and just need Navy to lose to Army or Oregon to lose in their conference championship game. We have a chance!
10-1 | Week 14 vs #8 Notre Dame
We travel to Soldier Field for our fourth game against Notre Dame in four years. We have won two of the previous games. We won’t know the result of Oregon and Navy’s next games until after this is over but there’s a pretty decent shot one of them may lose and give us a chance to get in the title game if we win.
The pressure is on. Time for the Zips boys to become Zips men. As the kids say, let’s f’n zip!
We watched this game on Twitch and here is the highlight reel from that:
What a heartbreaker.
The Zips jumped out to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter and then completely collapsed. From there, Leonard Sims threw four interceptions as the Irish scored 34 straight points.
This game leaves me at a loss for words. We had a chance to return to the national championship right in front of us and we had a good lead and then it all slipped away. Leonard Sims was not at his best. The defense got gashed in the running game and couldn’t produce any key turnovers when we needed them.
We would find out afterward that Navy lost so this win would have given us a chance to play Oregon in the title game. So it goes.
The hope is that this is the type of game that builds character for next year but it’s hard to spin this into a positive right now. We walk out of Soldier Field realizing that a dream has died for many seniors on this team.
After the game, we do get word that we’ve been invited to the Fiesta Bowl to play a 12-1 Oklahoma team.
10-2 | Fiesta Bowl vs #4 Oklahoma
This is our second time being in the Fiesta Bowl and a rematch of our BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma in Year 8. We have a few seniors entering their last game with the Zips, including HB Rod Jackson and WR Daniel Richardson. We want to send them off properly with a win.
A gutsy 20-3 win from the boys! The defense clamped down and shut down their passing attack completely. Despite Oklahoma winning the turnover battle, they could not score on us. So proud of the defensive effort.
In an interesting twist of fate, Leonard Sims continued his struggles that started in the Notre Dame game and was benched for senior Rod Jackson. Though Rod Jackson had shifted away from QB duties this year, he had an epic last game here by leading the team on two key touchdown drives that broke this game open.
You can watch the game from when Rod took over by clicking on this timestamped link to the Twitch stream.
Rod Jackson’s legacy will be a complicated one for Zips fans to look back on but I’m happy to see his career end on a positive note with us.
Coach Luke’s bowl game dominance continues and a new offseason with new expectations is now set to begin.
On the national stage, Oregon won their second consecutive national title. It makes our loss to them feel a little less embarrassing.
A week after the Rose Bowl, I’m standing in front of a construction site on the outskirts of the Akron campus. LeBron James is standing next to me. We’re looking at a half-completed stadium that he helped finance.
As we stare at the construction site, LeBron breaks our silence. “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned.”
I look at him curiously.
“You earned this stadium, Coach. You’ve made Akron proud.”
I can’t help but get a little teary-eyed as his succinct words make me realize how far we’ve come in twelve years. Akron was not a prime destination when I got here and now LeBron James is helping finance a gigantic stadium that will usher in an era of national prominence for us. For the first time since our pairing started, I don’t want LeBron to go. I want to tell him how much I appreciate him and his generosity.
“LeBron, I just can’t begin to—,” I start to stay before he interupts.
“Crap, I realized it’s dinner time. Wife is making tacos tonight! See ya.”
He then literally runs away at full speed as I’m left alone staring at a construction site. This guy, man.
The next day we get the news that we’ve been waiting for: Akron has been officially invited to join the Big Ten conference. Our work has paid off and we have a new conference to call home finally.
Game-related note: Maryland and Rutgers were not in the Big Ten to start this dynasty. In this alternate universe, they never did join the Big Ten. To even things out when we joined, we brought along University of Cincinnati with us.
The offseason starts off with some good news for our players. Leonard Sims is now the Akron record holder for single-season passing yards. Also, our players won five national awards this year! We had won a total of five awards in the previous eleven seasons here.
Bednarik Award: Trey Gipson (CB)
Nagurski Trophy: James Smith (DE)
Lombardi Award: James Smith (DE)
Linebacker of the Year: Todd Austin (OLB)
Thorpe Award: Howard Norman (CB)
Every single award went to the defense and four different players got accolades! It may have not looked pretty at times on defense but they were full of stars and, thankfully, most of these players will be back next year! Trey Gipson is the only one of those players set to graduate.
Speaking of players graduating, when we get to the Players Leaving week of the season, we do find out that two of our offensive linemen want to leave Akron:
Coach Luke takes out his PowerPoint presentation that highlights the virtues of the Akron degree and uses that to convince James Alexander to stick around. The offensive line was actually a weakness this past year and it would hurt to lose him.
It’s becoming a regular occurrence to see NFL scouts all over Akron so it’s no surprise that the NFL Draft includes a ton of Akron players this season:
As we reach the recruiting portion of the offseason, we’re in an interesting position. Despite Coach Luke’s best efforts, we’ve been struggling to fill our class. We all know that Coach Luke wears a dashing suit that dazzles recruits and that still is the case. The reason for the struggles this year is that we are focusing on higher-level talent than usual. The idea is that we may not use all 25 of our potential scholarships but we’ll bring in better starters for our team.
There are three players I’ve been keen on all year. I’d love to get the #1 QB in the country, Jon Moore. He’s a pocket passer and would change our offense up a bit and I’d love to see what he can do. In addition, our offensive line needs a facelift so I’m targeting two of best linemen in the country there.
And that’s it.
We have other scholarships we could use but I put all of our offseason recruiting points into those three players:
And how does that go?
We get those three guys! This is one of the biggest recruiting moments we’ve had and I’m super excited about it. Here’s how the class ends up looking:
It’s only seventeen players but it’s a great group of guys with most of them being ranked at the top of their position. You can check out a full look at the commitments for this year and past years on this page of our dynasty spreadsheet.
Year 12 may not have gone exactly as we wanted but this is a great ending to the season. With lots of players returning and this recruiting class joining the team, I can’t wait for our first year in the Big Ten next season!
LeBron James Stadium
As we enter the Big Ten next year, we’ll also be playing in a new stadium. The official name for it is LeBron James Stadium but it is affectionately known as “The Bron” already by Akron fans. Here’s a little teaser of what it looks like:
Year 13 Schedule
Now that we have a conference to call home, the schedule is less of a decision-making process. Our out-of-conference schedule will include games against Kent State, Auburn, Notre Dame, and Maryland. Here’s a look at how it all breaks down:
On the Twitch stream, there’s a contest held during the bowl games to pick the game’s total points. The person who is closest gets to create a custom recruit in the offseason. Reader Gavin won the contest for the second time in a row and chose to create a giant tight end this time:
His prospect from last year, QB Aaron Burrito, committed to Connecticut. Here’s a page of the dynasty spreadsheet that will be tracking the stats of all reader-created recruits.
Year 13 Top Players
To get you ready for lucky Year 13, here are the highest-rated players on the Akron roster heading into the year:
Rubber City Dynasty Scheduling
If you aren’t familiar with the scheduling here, I’ll be streaming games on Twitch on Tuesday and Friday nights. The streams usually go all night with multiple games being watched on there. It’s a fun time. Here’s the planned schedule for this season:
In between those streams, there’s a bunch of us on our Discord server chatting and having a good time. Feel free to join that to get to know everyone better even if you can’t make the Twitch streams!
Thank you so much for following this series. Next year is going to be BIG! I can feel it. Let’s get zippy!