By Glenn Guzzo
Strat-O-Matic must love a good argument.
With college-football software that already allows gamers to challenge the BCS system’s selection of annual national-championship contenders, Strat-O-Matic is not stopping there. It is nearly ready to tackle the debate over which team is the best in history.
Nearly three dozen of the most powerful college football teams from 1966 through 2005 will be featured in a College Great Teams roster for Version 5 of Strat-O-Matic’s Computer College Football game. Strat-O-Matic is accepting orders now for the Great Teams.
Gamers will get to relive the 1966 “Game of the Century” between Notre Dame and Michigan State, the first BCS champion in 1998 Tennessee, Archie Griffin’s Ohio State, Bo Jackson’s Auburn, and Tony Dorsett’s Pittsburgh. Eighteen universities will be represented, with three seasons each for Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Southern California.
Strat-O-Matic began re-creating all the Division I teams with the 2004 NCAA season, so three of these teams will look familiar, but will not be identical twins to their predecessors.
The 2004 Auburn, 2004 USC and 2005 Texas teams will showcase Cadillac Williams, Matt Leinhart and Vince Young, respectively, with ratings intended for play against the other 32 teams in this set, not the original offering.
“While the College Great Teams will be compatible with our season rosters, they are designed primarily for play against each other,” Strat-O-Matic Director of Development Bob Winberry explained.
Soon, gamers will be trying to answer the perpetual question: Who is No. 1? With Strat-O-Matic, there will be a better answer.
With 120 years of college football to draw on, selecting 32 great teams is bound to be controversial, maybe even as argumentative as the current BCS system.
Gamers will find Johnny Rodgers’ 1971 Nebraska team here, but not the ’71 Oklahoma team it beat in another “Game of the Century” on Thanksgiving weekend. They will find Archie Griffin’s 1973 Ohio State team, but not the Rex Kern/John Brockington/Jack Tatum Buckeyes of 1968. Texas’ 1969 national champions are here, but not ’69 Penn State, which also was undefeated.
Steve Reiter, who did most of the research and made the selections, said he found it exciting just to choose some schools and seasons over others.
“There are a lot of great teams, a lot of great games people will want to replay,” Reiter said.
Reiter has been dubbed “The College Football ‘Bwana” by fellow fanatic Fred Bobberts, who initiated the research. Reiter said there always has been interest among Strat football gamers for such a product, but interest “amped up 100 percent in the last year.”
So Reiter traveled from his home in Colorado to track down data, pored over the numbers and dug for ratings systems that would make sense of it all. He said he found four of the many “all-time-best” ratings systems to offer higher credibility. The two offered by Richard Billingsley and Clyde Berryman were the most influential.
Now Reiter has a ready answer to such questions as why a famous national champion like 1968 Ohio State is not on this list: “Neither Billingsley nor Berryman had them among the top six Ohio State teams. They were behind ’73, 2002, ’54, ’96 and ’75. Berryman also had them behind the ’98, 2006 and ’79 Ohio State teams.”
That doesn’t mean the 32 teams offered will absolutely be the best 32 in the ratings.
“If this was a pure top 32,” Reiter said, “ ’66 Michigan State would never have gotten on the list … ’96 Florida was not on there, nor ’81 Clemson. There would be no Ohio State at all, no ’69 Texas.”
Instead, we’d have teams like ’94 Nebraska, ’45 Army, ’52 Georgia Tech and ’49 Notre Dame.
So how did Reiter decide?
Billingsley and Berryman narrowed 120 years of NCAA football to 350 teams worth consideration. Looking at the stats reduced the list to 220 who could compete.
Then Reiter applied some practical rules:
n Start with 1966. Earlier than that, there are unresolved issues about how the software will handle two-way players and single-wing offenses.
n No more than three teams per school. Make sure any schools with three would universally be considered worthy of three: USC, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Miami and Notre Dame.
n No more than three teams from any season.
Now Reiter had a manageable group of 45 to choose from.
“The top 15-20 were mortal locks,” he reported. Other choices included notable football programs in the top 45, such as Ohio State and Texas. But that wasn’t enough to represent Georgia, LSU or Colorado, schools that have won national championships.
Here are the 32 teams to be featured: