Defensive FAQ for NCAA Football 2006 on PS2 Well, this is my first FAQ I've ever written and as such, thought I would write about something that I am intimately familiar with. Namely, playing defense in EA Sports' NCAA Football series. When I play NCAA Football, I'd guess that I am on the defensive side of the ball about 60 - 65% of the time. When I play with my friends, they run the show on offense. They usually employ a quick-strike offense and because of that, I don't get very much opportunity to really explore the offensive schemes in NCAA Football. Besides, playing D is what I truly enjoy and when my friends and I get together, I am the defensive captain 100% of the time. Why? I enjoy it more than offense, am a stud at it (pardon the horn-tooting), and I understand how to defend far better than running with the ball. Sacking a QB, stripping, swatting, and making INT's prove to be more of a rush for me than getting the TD. With this FAQ, I hope to shed some light on what some refer to as the "dark art" of the gridiron and make playing D more fun and rewarding for you. Remember what the great Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant once said, "Offense will win ya games, but defense will win ya championships." Truer words have never been spoken. Table of Contents 1. Defensive sets 2. Blitz vs. Zone defense and calling audibles 3. Defensive recruiting and optimum utilization of players 4. Toughest offenses & players to defend and how to defend them 5. FAQ 6. Hints and tips 7. Legal stuff 1. Defensive sets A. 3-4 B. 4-3 C. 5-2 D. 4-4 E. 3-3-5 Stack F. 4-2-5 G. Nickel H. Dime I. Goalline A. 3-4 defense Pros: Greater number of faster players on the field. Higher number of blitz plays Good short pass coverage Good run-stopping Cons: More porous defensive line Poor long pass coverage Well, as the pro/con says, the 3-4 defense is a pretty decent set to use. I use this one about 30 - 35% of the time because I have no problems defending against the long pass, which is not what this defensive set is primarily used for. It employs 3 defensive lineman (one defensive tackle and two defensive ends) and 4 linebackers, with two safeties and two cornerbacks to complete the package. The main advantage of this defensive set is that you have faster players on the field that have great tackling abilities (linebackers). This serves two purposes: 1) Excellent zone coverages to defend against the short pass, 2) Good run-stopping ability. What hurts about using this set is that should you go up against a 4 or 5-receiver offense (Texas Tech's "Air Raid" offense is murder on the 3-4), you will get burned. Badly. B. 4-3 defense Pros: Balanced and effective against most defenses Good pass coverage Decent run-stopping Cons: Can be exploited by long-passes and triple-option plays Defensive backs can be overwhelmed by more than 3 receiver offenses The 4-3 defense is one of the base defenses of the game, along with the goalline and 3-4 defenses. It is a very balanced defense and as such, should be used against teams that use a conventional offense, like, say, Oklahoma. Be careful when using this set for more than 3 plays in a row, as the AI in NCAA '06 will quickly pick up on your ruse. If you have decent linemen and 'backers, around 60 or above in the "overall" rating, then go with the 4-3. Rookies at '06 (or any EA Sports NCAA football game) will want to stick with the 4-3 for their first couple of years in dynasty mode until they get more talented defensive players and better understand the offenses they'll be facing. You'll notice that the 4-3 has a fairly balanced mix of zone and blitz plays. Use this to your advantage. I have used this defense with mixed success against teams that use 4-wideout sets, but I wouldn't recommend it for newbies. The main reason is that the 3 linebackers that are used in this set rob you of a defensive back, forcing a safety out of zone coverage which could easily end up netting six points for the opposing offense. C. 5-2 defense Pros: Excellent at stuffing the run Powerful against the option Cons: Poor pass-coverage It has fewer speedy defenders due to the extra D-lineman Ah yes, the 5-2. New to '06, the 5-2 has been around for a while in real life, but is only now making its presence known in the series. The 5-2 is outstanding at guarding against the run, particularly at containing the option. You still get to have two linebackers, but you pay for this by sacrificing either a defensive back or a third linebacker. Obviously this is a horrible set against the pass and should only be used about 10% of the time, usually only in goalline or within your own 5 yard line situations. You still get 4 DB's, but when you consider that a regulation football field is around 50 yards wide, that's a lot of grass for only four guys to cover. I usually use this against human opponents just to throw a wrench in the works from time to time. Try it, you'd be surprised at just how much this defensive set will stifle your buddies if you spring it on them unexpectedly (read: in a medium-yardage situation, when they'll be thinking you will play zone D). Don't bother trying this against the computer; the AI WILL burn you for a huuuuuge gain if you decide to get cute and use this from beyond your own 5 or 10 yard line. D. 4-4 defense Pros: Excellent against the run Good amount of speedy players on the field Very aggressive set (i.e. lots of blitzing) Cons: Can be burned for big gains if you are caught unawares against the pass Sacrifice a couple of defensive backs for the one or two extra 'backers The 4-4 defense, like the 5-2, is new to '06 and it's my personal favorite. Why? Simply, I find that it suits my style of defensive play and that it has, for me at least, an excellent balance between run- and pass-coverages. It has four DB's (two CB's and two safeties), four 'backers, and four D-linemen. It is a very aggressive defense to use, but all that aggression has cost me in the past. If you are one of those people who prefer to play zone defense or one that doesn't want to bother with learning to play truly great defense, don't bother using this set much. I use it about 50% of the time because it has what I want in a defense: spying, zone coverage, blitzes out the yang, and a couple of plays that mix all of the above. One thing to remember about using the 4-4 is that you must be good at stopping the long pass. While the 4-4 is a great set to use against the run and short-yardage situations, against anything beyond 6 or so yards will often result in the opponent getting a fresh set of downs if you are soft on defending the bomb. So, again, make absolutely sure you can defend the long pass. E. 3-3-5 Stack Pros: Balanced, aggressive defense Lots of DB's to help you defend the pass Good against the run Cons: Porous D-line due to only three D-linemen Because of its aggression, it can be burned for big yards against the spread-option offense Can suffer against the run (more on that in a minute) Another new addition to '06, the 3-3-5 is, to the newbie, an oddity. Unfamiliar to some gamers and football fans, the 3-3-5 stack is a revolution in defense. Using 3 D-linemen, 3 linebackers, and 5 DB's, the 3-3-5 can be devastating. Combining the best parts of the dime (DB presence), 3-4 (team speed), and 4-4 sets (aggression), the "stack" as I call it is a wonderful way to wreck an opponents' day. It is an extremely effective defense against short to medium-range passes and against the run, but can be a real pain to use when trying to defend the option. Be patient when using this defense; because of its newness to the gamer, it can be tough to figure out. I've found it most effective against teams that use a West Coast or traditional I-form offense. I have a feeling it was designed to defend against the increasingly popular spread-option offense, and has proved to contain that style of play somewhat. You'll note that I mentioned that this defense can be both good and bad against the run. Well, allow me to elaborate. Like I said in the pro/con section, the stack is effective at containing the run because of its aggressive tendencies. This, sadly, is also its downfall. I've noticed that against teams that use a dual-purpose QB, like Texas with Vince Young, can hurt you because this defense uses 5 DB's. When playing against a fast, strong, quick 'back like Vince Young, Adrian Peterson of OU, or Laurence Maroney of Minnesota, the DB's have a tough time dragging these guys down. You only have 3 D-linemen and 'backers and this can prove to be nettlesome when dealing with a 'back of this ilk. Just be patient, the AI of your team is pretty good, and eventually you'll learn when and when not to use this defense. F. 4-2-5 Pros: Good against the run Good against the long-pass Cons: Can be exploited against the run Iffy against the medium-range pass The second of two new defenses to '06 (the other being the stack), the 4-2-5 was, like it's brother the 3-3-5, developed to defend against an evolving offensive landscape. The spread-option, West Coast, and any combination thereof have proven to be a defensive-minded coach's nightmare. To this end came the stack and the 4-2-5. The 4-2-5 uses 4 D-linemen, 2 'backers, and 5 DB's. I've found this to be very effective at defending against spread offenses that use 4 or 5-wideout sets. Teams like Wisconsin usually use a lot of receivers and this defense is great at stopping these guys. I usually average -34 rushing yards on All-American level and have found that the 4-2-5 works wonders at defending the long-pass. Where it suffers is stopping tailbacks that are shifty and quick like Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Williams of Memphis. This is because you only have two linebackers to use and if you are soft on stopping the run, get ready to have a long day if you use this defense. Mix this one up with the 4-4 and Nickel defenses for best results. G. Nickel Pros: Balanced, semi-aggressive defense Decent against the pass Good blitz plays Cons: Poor at defending run-heavy offenses Can be ineffective against the option and spread offenses The good ol' Nickel defense. Long a mainstay of football video games, the Nickel has proven to be a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none in football. In real life, the nickel is going the way of the dinosaur. It's still a solid defense to use, but because you only have two linebackers, defending against the run can be a royal pain in the ass. Lots of newbies to football video games find themselves going back to this defense, and for good reason. It is a very balanced defense, mixing blitzes with zone coverage, and helps out rookies immensely with pass-coverage. I use it about 25% of the time because I have discovered that the new spread and tweaked West Coast offenses have rendered this defense largely moot. One day I was bored and decided to challenge myself playing as Penn State ("Linebacker U"), using ONLY the Nickel against USC. This was a stupid idea. What ensued was 2 hours of unending frustration as Reggie Bush and LenDale White racked up yardage by the bucketful (346 yards collectively and 3 TD's apiece). Bottom line: against run-heavy offenses, using the Nickel is like to trying to stop a freight train with a BB gun. It CAN be used effectively, but only if you have linebackers rated AT MINIMUM 90 overall and know how to audible well. H. Dime Pros: Excellent against the pass Great blitz availability Cons: Atrocious at defending the run Downright awful against spread and option offenses Basically, the Dime defense should only be used when facing an offense like Texas Tech's. Tech uses a lot of 5-wide sets and this defense is usually pretty consistent at stopping the pass. You only get one linebacker when using the Dime, and I usually mix this up with a 4-4 and stack defenses. I use this one maybe 6% of the time, usually against a 5-wide set. Like the Nickel, the Dime defense is living on borrowed time. I decided to really push my run-stopping abilities using only this defense one day and chose to play against the All-Time USC team. Now, what's notable about USC is that they have 7 Heisman Award winners. All of those winners were offensive players and all but two of them were QB's. Wanna guess who the other five were that won the Heisman? That's right, all of them were tailbacks, hence USC's nickname, "Tailback U". Two of which are enshrined in Canton, Ohio (O.J. Simpson and Marcus Allen), and one of which will be one day (Reggie Bush). Yes, I know, Mr. Nitroglycerin (Bush) isn't on USC's All-Time team in the game, but I added him because he will most likely be there next year. Getting back to football now, what happened in the next couple of hours was something to see. All told, USC managed to rack up an absurdly high 967 rushing yards and FIFTEEN RUSHING TD'S!!!! I had it set up like this: 15 minute quarters, Heisman difficulty, using Temple, with the sliders on my team all the way down, with all the sliders for USC all the way up. I did this to prove a point as if it wasn't obvious enough (no, I'm not trying to insult your intelligence): DO NOT USE THIS DEFENSE AGAINST RUSH-HAPPY TEAMS, IF AT ALL. There are much better defensive sets available. Basically, the Dime is special-use only. I. Goalline Pros: Excellent run-stopping defense Cons: Obviously horrible against the pass Like the Dime, the Goalline is basically a special-use only defense. It is one of only 3 sets you cannot edit in a custom playbook (Hail Mary and Special Teams being the other two) and should only be used within your own 3-yard line. It stacks about a billion dudes in the box and it serves to stop the run. Further explanation about defending the pass is unnecessary as most of the defensive players are concerning themselves with stopping the run. I use this defense maybe once a year (seriously). 2. Blitz vs. Zone and calling audibles Okay, here we go: the nuts and bolts of a shut-down defense. Defense is a peculiar animal to master because it is a purely reactionary state of mind. Unlike offense, you cannot dictate what happens on the field, you can only adjust and react. Even the best defensive teams (think Alabama, Auburn, or Georgia Tech) can't decide what they're going to do before the snap. True, they can decide to blitz, but even then it's largely a reactionary thing. Basically, you don't want to blitz too much. The AI will pick up on this eventually and decide that a 60-yard TD scamper is just what the doctor ordered to keep you honest. Out of 10 defensive plays, I'll call a blitz about 4 times out of ten. Now that might sound like a lot, but remember that the AI in this game is pretty good. I discovered that by calling blitzes 40% the time, it tends to mess up the computers rhythm (if a bunch of binary code and algorithms have rhythm, that is). Any more than that and the AI will simply throw 4 or more wideouts at you. Zone coverage is absolutely necessary in this game, especially if you are playing against a team that chucks the ball a lot. Try to mix it up a little. You probably don't want to play defense as aggressively as I do and that's your preference. Try to run a couple of zone coverage plays, a blitz, and then maybe a spy play. A quick word about audibiling: calling line, 'backer, and coverage audibles can be disastrous if you aren't INTIMATELY familiar with offenses and their tendencies. What I try to do is wait for the offense to get set up, take a quick read of how many wideouts the offense lines up, and adjust accordingly. I'll explain below. Line audibles: Call a pinch audible if the offense is using a Big set. A Big set is any set that involves more than one tight end and that the two tight ends line up on opposite sides of the QB. Be very wary of calling pinch audibles too much because, again, the AI is much more sensitive than in years past and will audible out and run the ball to the outside for a big gain. Call a spread audible if the offense is going with a 5-wide set. This has proved very effective against pass-heavy teams like Texas Tech because it throws the offensive line off their blocks just long enough to let the D-linemen get in the backfield to make a play. Spread audibles should be used about 15% of the time. Call a shift audible to the left or right, depending on what side the offense is strong-siding. The aim here is too contain a tailback that is torching you for big chunks of yardage all day. I've found that when I audible out for a line shift, it is done most effectively at the weak-side. It gives the defensive end a little more time to get in the QB's face. Linebacker audibles: Same as line audibles. Coverage audibles: A sticky issue here. While some of my friends want to play hang-back, zone-ish- type defense, they quickly learn that playing an aggressive, in-your-face brand of defense is better. Therefore, what I usually do is call for a bump-and-run audible and let the AI control the DB's up until the ball is just about to the receiver, click over to control the DB, and jump and swat at the ball to get a tip or an interception. Calling an audible to have your DB's to hang back an extra five yards is fine if you want to try to get a better angle on an elusive runner like Reggie Bush, but most of the itme it's not a great idea. Have your DB's play bump-and-run D to really frustrate a human opponent. 3. Defensive recruiting and optimum utilization of players In NCAA Football 2006, you will discover that recruiting is much more difficult than in past editions. As hard as it is, it is still undeniably necessary to building a consistently championship-caliber program. There's an old saying in college sports, "Recruiting is everything". Keep that in mind the next time you are thinking of pursuing a blue-chip halfback when you really need to beef up your D-unit. When I recruit defensive players, I will only pursue 4 or 5-star players and athletes. Playing defense is tough enough without having to overcome the lack of talent. Remember, in this game you have the option of switching players' positions. Try switching safeties to cornerbacks and linebackers to defensive ends if you are running thin on players at these positions. When recruiting, don't pursue DE's very much. LB's are much easier to recruit, in my opinion, and they can be switched to defensive ends if they have decent size (say, 6'3" or so and in excess of 240 pounds with at least a 4.6 40 time). Whatever you do with your recruiting on defense, remember that DB's (safeties and CB's) are ABSOLUTELY necessary if you aren't that hot defending the pass manually. The AI is good in this game (finally!!) and obviously it will only do better the more talent its given. So spend maybe 60% of your recruiting time and effort getting solid, blue-chip or 4-star caliber DB recruits. It will pay off tremendously. 4. Toughest offenses & players to defend and how to defend them Toughest offenses 1. Spread offense - I've found that the 4-2-5 and stack defenses work well against this offense. The 4-4 is good, but not spectacular, and should be mixed with blitzes and spy plays from these defenses. The whole key to stopping this offense dead is spying the QB with a DE or LB. 2. West Coast - The second most frustrating offense to defend, behind the spread-option. What makes this so difficult to do is that it is a grinding, ball-control type of offense. Don't expect to generate too many turnovers with this one. Get very aggressive when facing this offense. 3. Option run/wishbone/flexbone offense - Arrrggghhh....you better have your ducks in a row with your LB's and D-line when you square off against these offenses. You don't know where the ballcarrier will go, so at best it's a guessing game. Recruit fast defensive players that have, at minimum, a field awareness rating of B+. Seconds are precious with defending these offenses and you can ill afford to have players that don't know what's going on post-snap out there. Toughest players 1. Reggie Bush, RB, USC - The most dangerous man in college ball. In real life, the things this kid does with a football make my jaw drop and my bowels evacuate. In the game, the things this kid does with a football make me mortally wound any nearby inanimate object and consume large amounts of alcohol. I swear, tackling this guy takes the reflexes of a bolt of lightning and the speed of a mongoose. I've found that running the 4-4 Mad Robber or All-Out blitz and spreading the LB's works well when he is lined up as a tailback. If USC's QB Matt Leinart decides to audible out to have him as a receiver, then use a Max Protect or Max Zone from the Nickel, Dime, or 4-4 sets to shut him down. GET ON HIM IMMEDIATELY, EVEN IF IT MEANS LEAVING DWAYNE JARRETT WIDE OPEN. You CANNOT afford to leave this guy open. I'm not exaggerating; anyone that's seen this guy on TV knows I'm being serious. He only needs a hole big enough to fit a skateboard through to get to the endzone so it is IMPERATIVE that you bottle up this piece of lightning before he makes your defense look like a Pop Warner outfit. 2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma - Oh, my Lord. This guy is a freaking BEAST. Fast, shifty, but worst of all, STRONG. Seriously, this guys' strength rating is on par with an offensive lineman's (in real life he squats nearly 1,000 pounds with both legs) and he has wheels that would make Florence Griffith-Joyner envious. The best way to shut him down is to shift your D-line one way (usually whatever side is the weak-side) and your LB's the opposite way. Gang-tackling is pretty much the only way you'll bring him down consistently. Put your best LB or DE on spy duty with him and wrap him up before he has a chance to get into the open field. If he DOES get open, click over to the fastest DB you have and pray you make it to him before he makes it to paydirt. Try running a 5-2 blitz or a 4-3 Fire Green when he's the lone back. Don't run the 3-4 or Nickel packages (Dime is very much out of the question) too much with Peterson. You need 4 D-linemen if you wanna contain him. 3. Vince Young, QB, Texas - Probably the worst to defend against purely because he can beat you with his arm AND his legs. Young isn't the greatest with his arm, but he ain't horrible either. Just use a basic Cover 3 when he drops back to pass, click on the DB when the ball is near the receiver, and jump and swat at the ball and hope to get lucky. Texas uses primarily a shotgun offense, so you HAVE to be prepared for the times when Young will take the snap and then start running. Use the Nickel package primarily and always keep at least 3 DB's in zone coverage. Use a DE or an outside LB to contain him when he does run, which will be about, oh, 45% of the time. Gang-tackle the hell out of this guy, he's big, strong, and FAST. 4. Matt Leinart, QB, USC - Thankfully, Leinart is a pocket QB and because of that, you can relax a little. A LITTLE. Remember, he IS a Heisman winner and as such his ratings are nearly flawless. He is a very accurate, very powerful passer who will usually find his mark. That mark will most likely be either Reggie Bush or Dwayne Jarrett, who is an awesome wide receiver, and who will usually be 2,000 yards downfield wide open. I usually go with a 3-4 Fire Green or Crash blitz when I play against him. He tends to fold like wet cardboard when the defense is in his face, so don't be afraid to blitz a little more than normal. Just remember that Leinart can scramble A LITTLE. So go with a 3-4 or 4-2-5 defense, blitz maybe 5 out of 10 times (I know, it's a lot of blitzes, but trust me), and pick a play that has at least 2 of your LB's in a zone coverage. Your D-line shouldn't have any problem containing him should he decide to channel the spirit of Michael Vick and take off running. 5. Tedy Ginn, Jr., WR, Ohio State - This guy has got a pair of Pratt & Whitney turbine engines for legs. I'm serious, he's THAT fast. OSU will usually use him as a KR/PR and a slot receiver. Whatever the Buckeyes assign Ginn to do, he will do so with blinding speed. Use a 3-3-5 defense with a spy/zone play and swat at anything that comes his way. He doesn't have great hands, but when those hands get a firm hold on the pigskin and he sees daylight then it's buh-bye. Cloak him with two of your best DB's and hope you can get lucky. Remember the key to stopping Ginn is not letting him get a hold of the ball. 6. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan - The complete playmaker. In real life, he saved the day against Michigan State in 2004 in triple OT and if you aren't careful, he'll remind you why he went #3 in the 2005 NFL Draft. I usually run a Max Protect or a Cover 4, 3, or 2 against him. I try to get double or triple coverage on him whenever possible and hope that Chad Henne, the QB, doesn't pass to him. I click on my DB covering him when the ball is nearing Edwards and jump and swat and hope to get lucky because if Edwards DOES make the catch (and he will, ad infinitum), the next thing you'll be hearing is "Hail To The Victors". He's not that hard to defend against, it's just that like all wide-outs, he can't make a play if he doesn't have the ball. So double-team him, run lots of Dime Cover 2 Zone (don't bother with Man-on-man coverage if your DB's have less than 90 in the "overall" category) plays, and hope. If the Dime Cover 2 isn't working, try running a Nickel LB blitz to put pressure on Henne, who will most likely make a bad play. 5. FAQ Question: What do I do if I don't feel comfy stopping the run? Answer: Get comfy, honestly. In football, to have a good passing game, you MUST have a great ground attack. The game has practice drills to help you hone your run-stuffing skills, so use them profusely. When you get good enough to play on the All-American or Heisman levels, 95% of the plays will be of the running variety. Food for thought. Q: What about stopping the pass? A: Again: practice, practice, practice. Use the practice drills, they're your best shot at improving passing defense. If you just can't or don't want to grasp pass defense, then recruit, recruit, recruit blue-chip/4-star DB's and let the AI handle it. If you can live with giving up 300 passing yards + every game, then don't bother with recruiting. This FAQ was written on the premise of TOTAL defensive domination, not just run-stoppage. Another big help is to let the AI defend until the ball is in the vicinity of the receiver, click on the DB, and then jump/swat at the ball and hope. Q: Where are the instructions on basic gameplay? Y'know, like how to juke, dive, stuff like that? A: In the instruction manual. Sorry to get sarcastic, but this IS a defensive FAQ. Q: How can I get more INT's? A: See above about letting the AI run the routes until the ball is near the wide-out. That's how I figured out how to get 5+ INT's per game. Q: What's the best defensive player to control? A: Well, it depends. If you are like me, and prefer to control DE's and LB's and leave the fun of DB work to the AI, then use a DE. I've racked up over 20 sacks per DE in a single season using only my DE's on the All-American level and once had over 150 in one year for the whole defensive unit on the Varsity level. If you are more the DB type, then pick them but I would use a safety. Receivers, even the bad ones, in this game are for some reason unbelievably fast and for some other reason even if your CB has a 99 speed rating will run like a turtle through molasses when chasing Herr Wideout if you control him. So, use a safety as a second CB on whoever is the best receiver. Q: I want to create a really kick-ass defensive unit. What do you recommend I do? A: If you are starting with a one-star rated school, then you are gonna have to do things the hard way. That means playing top schools and doing your best to shut down the opposition. You see, when you are playing top schools, top recruits are paying attention. If they see that a cupcake school is blowing out a big-dog school defensively, then they'll be more likely to committ to your school come signing day. I took my favorite team, the University of Connecticut (I was raised 30 minutes from the real-life campus), to a six-star perennial championship contender by using this method. It's hard, it's long, it's frustrating sometimes, but believe me, it's worth every minute because you gain invaluable experience. Q: I want to create a new school and I want it to smoke everyone. Suggestions? A: Locate your school in an area of the country that is a hotbed of real-life recruiting. Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are places that come to mind. I'd recommend either Cali or Florida. I lived in Florida for a few years and saw plenty of high school football games and believe me, those kids were already the size of grown men and half of them had to have Mom drop them off at practice. So I'd go with those places. Bear in mind, though, that should you create a cupcake with the aim of growing them into a national power that you'll be competing with traditionally awesome programs like Miami, Penn State, Michigan, USC, Ohio State, and the University of Texas for the best recruits. Q: The damned spread-option offense is carving me up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What should I do? A: I like to use the 3-4 and 3-3-5 sets against teams that use this offense. Texas and Florida use this and because they usually have stellar athletes they can be a pain to defend. Use blitzes about 40-45% of the time and keep your eyes peeled on what the QB is doing. He is the lone reason this offense is deadly. Q: What can I do to stop getting torched for long passes? A: Again: let the AI handle the DB's. In my opinion, it's much better to use DE's and LB's in this game to get pressure on the QB. This will make him make bad decisions under pressure and with any luck, you'll get a couple more picks per game. 6. Hints and tips Okay, this is the really fun part of the FAQ. I'll share with you some knowledge I've acquired playing this game and I hope that it helps. Don't use these hints and tips as the sole basis for your defense, however. When playing against a team that uses a lot of 4 and 5-receiver sets, the Dime and 4-2-5 defenses work best. Call a line audible and spread the D-line out. Control a DE (DT's are way too hard to bust through the line) and pay attention to the snap count. For a little surprise every now and again, run a Dime package Dog Gold play. This makes the only LB you have blitz and can be effective and shutting down a QB who decides to run a sneak. In dynasty mode, just as in real-life, recruiting is everything. I'm serious, if you don't get quality players, then you can kiss winning any national titles goodbye. Thanks to the wonderful gift of in-season recruiting, you can rack up an impressive number of blue-chip recruits. This helps tremendously during the off-season because it relieves a lot of pressure to get great players in the 5 weeks you have to recruit. Mix up zone and blitz plays. When squaring off against a human opponent this works remarkably well. It works even better against the computer because I've noticed that the computer seems to run a fairly balanced offense (Texas Tech being the lone exception). The key is to be unpredictable. If you are playing online against an opponent who runs constant no-huddle, one-play offense, then quit. It's not worth the frustration and all that to always play against a guy who runs a HB Direct play and says, "I can't be touched, dawg. You suck!!" or some such crap all the time. Look around in the various rooms; there are players who run honest, balanced offenses and aren't cheesers (cheeser: player who only runs one play with no-huddle offense) and you'll have a ball playing against them. In short-yardage situations, 95% of the time the computer will run the ball. Use the 4-4 set, Mad Robber, bump-and-run coverage audible for best results. Experiment with linemen and linebacker shifts to get optimum coverage and GET AGGRESSIVE. You could even try pinching the D-line and spreading the LB's out. When playing as a DB, if you are behind the WR then you are toast. Sorry, but even superhuman DB's get burned by WR's with a 60 rating all the time when controlled by humans. I don't know why this is but hey, there ya go. Get a 45 degree angle on the wideout of you can and use the Big Hit stick or button to get him down. Remember: if you are behind the receiver, then count on the offense ripping off a big chunk of yards. The 3-4 is probably the best defense against the short to medium-range pass. I use it around 33% of the time as it is a very balanced defense, but don't bother to use it much against run-heavy teams. Granted, you have a faster set of players out there, but they sacrifice the underrated strength statistic to get that speed. Either use the 3-4 if you find yourself getting touched for lots of short to medium passes and mix that up with a 4-3 Fire blitz or go with a Nickel set, linebacker blitz. Both work very well when used in conjuction with the 4-4 defensive set. Don't count on blocking many field goal and XP attempts. Just let the offense have their three points and move on, even if it's a close game. It's not worth risking a roughing-the-kicker penalty that might get them a fresh set of downs and all that much closer to your endzone to try and block it. A very easy way to get a safety or five in a game (I do it all the time) is to use a back-up CB as the right-most player on the line during a punt. Control him, wait for the snap, and hold down the speed burst button. This works even better if you edit your playbook to have the CB line up normally on the left-most side of the line during punts. Do that, then in a punt situation click on him, run him from the left-most to right-most side of the line and hit the jets when the ball is snapped. If you get a good jump on it you can usually whack the punter for either a HUGE loss or a safety. I know this next tip sounds cheap, but believe me it works: turn off the offsides penalty. Really, what does it matter if it's off? "But it makes for a less-realistic game!", you might say. To that I say, "So freaking what?" It's your game, have fun with it. I think that if we all wanted to play realistic football, we'd grab an actual football and hit the gridiron with some buddies. I bought this game to have fun with it, I don't know about you. Anyway, back to the tip. By turning off the offsides penalty, you can hold the down button/analog stick and let your player have a couple seconds to get up to top speed. This is a huge help in a punting situation and it's what I do to rack up the tackles-for-loss. Besides, the computer will NEVER have a flag thrown against them for offsides anyway. When facing a tailback that is an impact player, I guarantee that 85% of the time the ball will be given to him. Actually, this is true for any offensive impact player. If a QB is an impact player, get ready to spend lots of time blitzing, as he is very likely to run a lot of QB keepers. Don't bother with playing any pennants to help your team. If anything, they MIGHT help at swatting a couple more passes down. If you learn to let the AI run the secondary while you handle things in the trenches, you'll be fine. Remember: recruiting is life or death. If you have decent athletes, say 80 or above in the overall rating, you'll be fine. Some of my friends argue that playing so aggressively on defense is not a good idea. To this I say, "Shut up." Seriously, play vicious, attacking, aggressive defense 90% of the time. The reason is is because of the way the AI runs the opponents offense you won't have time to be worrying about whether or not your DB's are in proper coverage. I know it might sound boring to always control a DE or LB and spend half the game blitzing, but this is really the only way to totally shut down the opponent consistently. For best results, let the D-line be controlled by the AI and use an outside LB to get some big tackles for loss. LB's are pretty dang quick and using them as an extra DE can prove to bear lots of fruit. In the 5-2 set, edit your line to look like this: LB DE DT DT DE LB. Put your fastest LB's on the outside and the strongest DE's and DT's on the inside. Spread the line out and get aggressive. Watch the negative yardage pile up. Have fun with this game!! That's the best piece of advice I can give you. You bought it to have fun with it, right? I thought so. Don't let anybody try and take the moral high road and give you crap about playing with offsides turned off, low penalty settings, stuff like that. I don't play like that myself, but only because I like a fairly realistic game. The guys at EA put out a very solid edition of NCAA Football and you should take advantage of everything this game has to offer. Mix it up, turn off penalties, play one-minute quarters (VERY helpful if you have difficulty with defending the no-huddle defense), line up an offensive player on defense, have a ball. Actually, I tried that once: using offensive dudes on the other side of the ball. I used Reggie Bush as a FS and he didn't do too bad at all. Here was his stats: 5 tkls, 2 INT's, 87 PR yards. Don't try to use defensive players on offense. I've heard nothing but horror stories from guys who tried this. Fumbles galore, dropped passes by the trainload, just a bad idea. 7. Legal stuff This is copyright 2005 by Scott Johnson. Any reproduction or transmission, in whole or in part, in any way whatsoever is explicity prohibited without expressed written and signed consent by the author. The author is SCOTT JOHNSON. This FAQ and any part contained herein is authorized soley for personal and/or private use and may only be used by this site.