Six New Rule Changes to Keep Track of in College Football This Season

| August 23, 2018

 

Once again the power that be have decided that football needs fixing. While I will say that some of the new rules make sense, others continue American football’s mission to make the game bland.

To emphasize this, the NFF (National Football Foundation) begins with a rule that continues the demise of the greatest play in sports, the kickoff return

Back in 2013, officials changed the touchback rule from having the ball taken to the 20-yard-line to the 25-yard line. In response, kickers have learned to kick the ball so that opposing teams are forced to return, or forced to accept the ball deep in their own territory.

The new rule states that “if a kickoff receiver makes a fair catch inside his 20-yard line, his team will have the ball at the 25-yard line – just as if the ball had been caught and downed inside the end zone for a touchback.”

The optics on this will be painful. Watching a kicker place a ball high in the air, land in the receiver’s hands inside the 10-yard-line with opposing players closing in on him is exciting. If the receiving team calls for a fair catch, they should get the ball at that spot. That’s a fantastic kick from a player that works week-after-week on his craft, and now it means nothing.

The next rule regards unsportsmanlike penalty enforcement on field goal plays. The old rule would only give the kicking team the option to take the first down and remove the points from the board, or keep the points and go about business as usual.

Now, the rule states that you can assess the penalty yardage on the ensuing kickoff, just as if such a penalty occurs during a touchdown or an extra point.  Officials want to have a uniform rule, and it makes sense. Shouldn’t cause too much of an issue.

The third rule change centers on blocking below the waist. The key to this rule change is focused on the fact that a block below the waist is only a penalty in certain circumstances. The ambiguity is now gone, or at least lessened. The new rule states that “Downfield, more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, any block below the waist is illegal.”

That’s easy enough, but there are still some exceptions. “If a player is outside the tackle box or in motion at the snap, he may not block below the waist back toward the location of the ball at the snap – this is the crackback block. Even if the block is directed from the front, it is illegal. Once the ball has left the tackle box, no player is allowed to block below the waist toward his end line – this is the peel-back block. For the team on defense, the rule is quite simple: these players are allowed to block below the waist only within a 10-yard belt, which extends five yards behind and five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. If they are outside this belt when they block below the waist, it’s a foul—even if the block is directly from the front.”

The fourth change revolves around safety equipment. Essentially the rule states that no longer can a player have their pants rolled above the knee. They are exposing their knees to potential injury because they are forgoing knee pads that protect them. Now, all players will be required to wear full kneepads and have pants that go below the knee. If an official sees a player on the field without the proper uniform, he has to leave the field, cannot come back until he is appropriately dressed, and at the very least must miss one down.

This reminds me of the seatbelt rule. There is a certain amount of risk that every player takes when they put on the pads and helmet. I think anyone who decides that they want to forego PPE that makes them safer, that’s on them and natural selection will sort it all out.

This next rule is my favorite because it addresses one of the worst parts of the game, the pace of play. “This year, the rules have changed to shorten the time between the touchdown and the extra point, and between the kickoff return and the first play from scrimmage. In both cases, the 40-second play clock will start as soon as the ball is dead. Instead of pausing for one minute between the touchdown and the extra point, the 40-second play clock will begin counting down as soon as the touchdown is scored. Similarly, when the ball becomes dead after the kickoff, the 40-second play clock will start. This should have a significant impact on the amount of time it takes to “manage” a touchdown and the ensuing kickoff.”

This is great. I don’t need 5 minutes of commercials between kickoff and the first snap of a drive. I tip my cap to the NFF for this one.

Finally, the rule that affects absolutely no one. The NCAA will now allow all officials to wear small TV cameras (no audio) on their caps. Currently, the umpire has been allowed to wear the device. The only stipulation is that both teams have to agree to the officials wearing the cameras before the game.

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About the Author - Kevin Chaney, Jr

Kevin Chaney covers sports all at all levels throughout Anne Arundel County. Follow him on twitter @Kchaneysports and his website www.Shellbacksports.com

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