Football time is so close now that it can be tasted. For many lovers of the game, we are waiting for the magnificent feast to be set before us, just like a huge Thanksgiving dinner. We can hardly wait for the first coin toss. For others, especially some of the Kentucky Wildcats fans, they are reluctant to ready their seat at the table, because they are not fond of the menu. Nonetheless, it is almost time for the boys of fall to show us what they have got.
I am going to share with you a few of the new rule changes coming this season to college football, to get us all ready to know what is different this season. The main claim of the new rules is to increase safety for the student athlete. I will always be supportive of keeping our boys safe, as long as flag football is not considered because I love the defensive side of the game the best. We can have tackles and sacks without being dangerous, in my opinion. I have a feeling these new changes won't be widely popular with the fans or the coaches.
The first rule change involves play action in the event of a helmet coming off.
1. Helmet comes off. If a player's helmet comes off, he must leave the game for the following down. The only exception to the rule is if the helmet comes off as a result of a penalty (face mask, for example). If the ball carrier's helmet comes off, the play must be whistled dead immediately. No more running into the open field without a helmet.
If someone would like to explain why a player without the ball cannot put his helmet back on and play the next down, I'm all ears. In the case of the ball carrier's helmet coming off, a dead play whistle, I understand. If his helmet comes off, you have 21 more guys on the field with molded plastic protecting their heads from direct hits. The guy carrying the ball is a huge target.
Then there's this detail,
If a player who is not the ball carrier loses his helmet, he must stop playing. He cannot make a tackle, continue blocking or running a route, for example. If he continues prolonged participation without a helmet, he will be whistled for a 15-yard penalty. There is some gray area here. One example mentioned -- what if an offensive lineman loses his helmet while blocking somebody coming after the quarterback? Does he stop playing to allow the end to go after the quarterback unimpeded? The key will be determining what "prolonged participation" is. [Emphasis mine.]
Wait a minute ... I better not hear a whistle for holding the D-line back from the quarterback! Their goal is to protect the quarterback. They have learned it their entire football life. I hope the stripes guys are good at determining.
There is one more part to this rule change. With less than 1 minute remaining in either half, if the ball carrier's helmet comes off, and that is the only reason the play is being whistled dead, there is also a 10-second runoff. If a team has a timeout remaining, the coach can elect to use the timeout instead of running 10 seconds off the clock. But the player must still leave the field for one play, unless his helmet comes off as the result of a foul.
Which could mean ...
Here is your ultimate nightmare hypothetical: Let's say 9 seconds are left in a game, and your team is driving. The ball carrier's helmet comes off, and the play is whistled dead. Your team has no timeouts left. Officials must announce the game is over by rule. [Emphasis mine.]
I know a whole lot of fans, players, and coaches are not going to like that rule change, especially if this happens. I can hear it now, "We were robbed by the refs". That's not so new.
2. Kickoffs. They move to the 35-yard line now. If there is a touchback, the ball is moved to the 25-yard line, up from the 20. The hope is for more touchbacks on kickoffs in order to avoid many of the jarring hits that injure players. But kicking teams may elect to squib it to try to pin a team inside the 25. Receiving teams may decide to run out of the end zone anyway, even with the extra five-yard cushion.
The NFL went from the 30 to the 35 last year and they swore we would hardly ever see a kickoff return. We all know what Randall Cobb thought about that last year.
A couple more changes listed at the ESPN article I used for reference:
One rule change to the formation -- 10 players on the kicking team must have one foot on or inside the 30 in order to cut down on running starts.
On onside kicks, any player on the receiving team is given the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven into the ground and bounces into the air.
Love them or not, these are the rules. I guess time will tell if they work or not. If it could save a player from severe, career ending injury, it will be worth it because it is only a game we fans love to watch because they love to play the game.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!