The Only Option

By Johnny Ginter on September 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I am absolutely terrible at football videogames.

I want to be good! And I tried (oh how I tried) for a long time, but somewhere around NCAA '08 even the shimmering visage of Jared Zabransky couldn't inspire me to greater heights.

One of the biggest reasons that I am terrible at these games is my utter inability to master the option play. I've been told that it's devastating in the games; that if you can figure it out every quarterback with a speed over 85 becomes Michael Vick and that scores of 100-0 are possible on Junior Varsity (the only mode I ever played in, because, you know, the terribleness).

This made me especially frustrated because I freaking love the read option.

So when NCAA '14 released its demo, I dutifully downloaded it. "THIS time," I stupidly thought, and proceeded to spend an hour or more in the tutorial section, hoping that eventually I could figure out when to determine where the defensive end was crashing down. I eventually got to the point where I could make the correct read about 50% of the time, which is better than not knowing what's going on but also the functional equivalent of a guess. The demo is still there, mocking me, and maybe one day I'll become a competent football videogame player, but probably not for a while.

So sadly I sat, read optionless, until last Saturday when Kenny Guiton ran a master course on how to trick your friends and enemies without really trying.

Words cannot describe the sheer silly joy that I took from watching Guiton destroy San Diego State with a relatively simple play, over and over and over. You probably got bored after halftime, but it's important to point out that Guiton was the leading rusher for the entire game last week. Of course, with that said, let's be clear, even though Kenny Guiton is clearly an athletic dude, he isn't Braxton Miller athletic. But the beauty of the read option is that he doesn't have to be, he has to be just athletic enough to allow trickeration and execution do its work.

See, what I love about the read option is that it is an incredible equalizer in an inherently unfair game.

For much of football, if you're bigger, stronger, faster, whatever, then you have a marked advantage over people who are not. It's a constant reminder that the world is inherently mean to the little guy and that unfortunately, nice guys often finish last.

POISONWitches' brew

But the beauty of the sport is that there are always people looking for exceptions to the rule. Creative, skilled people will always try and find ways to subvert the system if it is stacked against them. The read option is part of this.

And the fact that Kenny Guiton ran this play to perfection last weekend is the topping on the delicious ice cream sundae of hubris that comes when a skinny, relatively slow, and unheralded quarterback reads the intent in the eyes of an overexcited defensive player and completely burns their britches by doing what they never expected: make the right read almost every. Single. Time. 

As Ross rightly pointed out earlier in the week, there really isn't much of a comparison between the athletic ability between Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. Miller adds a dimension to the offense that Guiton can't, and Braxton forces opposing defensive coordinators to gameplan and make concessions to the Ohio State offense which Guiton won't.

But I posit that at this point in the season, that's okay. Miller is still listed as a "game time decision," and in my opinion that decision is going to be "sit unless Guiton gets into trouble." So instead of flash and dash coupled with an occasional bomb downfield, we're looking at a Saturday filled with methodical drives based on precision and fakery.

So obviously I'm a bit giddy at the prospect. I guess I'll pay lip service to the Braxton narrative: yes, I want him to win the Heisman and become the complete quarterback that we all know he's capable of being, and no, I don't want his injury to linger for when we need him as we start Big Ten season.

But man, once in a while... Once in a while it's just fun to sit back and watch a guy in complete command of the unfair math that is the game of football, and use a deceptively simple yet awesomely clever play to skip and jump his team to 40 plus points and 250 plus yards on the ground. If that's what we get tomorrow, I'll be happy Buckeye fan regardless of how much Braxton we see.

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