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The Voice: New rules could lead to wild finishes in college football

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgOnce again, there are a handful of rules changes in college football, and at least a couple of those changes could create some very interesting scenarios that could go a long way into deciding the outcome of games.

Perhaps the most complex change involves low blocks (see a recent Lucas at Large blog on the subject from Mike Lucas). In a nutshell, the following players can legally block below the waist:

• Backs completely inside the tackle box who are stationary at the snap

• Linemen completely inside the seven-yard limit at the snap (that means seven yards from the middle lineman of a formation)

• Generally speaking, defensive players may block below the waist until the ball has gone more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage (they cannot block low against an opponent in position to catch a backward pass)

Again, those are the low block rules in a nutshell. It goes deeper than that, but let's avoid turning this into a low block clinic -- I am not smart enough to be an instructor. The key is for the players to get a handle on what they can and cannot do, which has added to the importance of having officials at practice when the Badgers scrimmage.

"In all of my years as a head coach," said Bret Bielema, "we have had more meetings with the officials this year than at any other point."

He adds that the low block rule "will significantly affect the game."  

A couple of other changes will be easier for fans to notice, and perhaps result in more drama.  

The first big change involves unsportsmanlike conduct. For years, rules makers have been trying to put a lid on showboating, and this year, a display of "Hey, look at me!" can take points off the scoreboard.

For example, the offense has a third-and-one from the opponent's 30-yard line. The running back breaks free and is on his way to the end zone. With no defensive player in the vicinity, the running back decides he wants to dive into the end zone from the 2 yard line. If that happens, the offense will be smacked with a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul, turning a touchdown into a first-and-10 from the 17-yard line.

Imagine a close game in the final minute or two, and an official has to make that call against the home team.

Another major change is a 10-second runoff after a penalty in the final minute of either half. Bielema says this rule has been "my main summer project -- when to use it. We have a number of tapes. Paul (offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) has met individually, not only with Bill (Big Ten Supervisor of Officials Bill Carollo), but also with a couple of officials who have come here on campus, so there is a lot of dedication to the rule."

An example of how this rule works -- Team A, down by two points, is at Team B's 35-yard line. Trying to get a little closer to kick a field goal, Team A runs a play. The runner is tackled in-bounds at Team B's 28-yard line. With the clock running and just: 08 remaining, Team A races to the line of scrimmage, but is guilty of a false start. The officials throw the flag and stop the clock with: 05 remaining. Team B accepts the penalty and wants the runoff. Game over.

What a way to lose.

There are a few other rules tweaks, some specifically in the name of player safety. One such adjustment is intentional grounding. A passer needs to have an eligible receiver in the area, but the receiver does not need an opportunity to catch the pass. By rule, mere presence is enough to avoid an intentional grounding call.

Those are some of the changes. While everyone tries to figure out the low block rule, I really am interested in how the unsportsmanlike conduct and the 10-second runoff rule will change the course of some close games this season.

As entertaining as college football is already, I have the feeling fans across the country could be in for even more late-game fireworks this fall.

1 Comment

Got to many NFL officials gettting involved in the college game. Every new rule is exactly like the NFL. Soon we will be playing two handed touch. Do you know that every major college conference is now being run by a former or current NFL official, and you know how they always got things right. College BB is headed the same way. What a shame!Always nice to read your blogs. Have a great season - On Wisconsin

ON WISCONSIN