8 rules recommendations that would make college football even better than it already is
College football isn’t broken. It’s actually pretty darn good, but it could be even better.
Fortunately, I’m here to help.
It’s Recommendation Season, and here are the first 8 rules changes I’d make for the 2019 season to improve the game.
8. Keep the clock running after incompletions*
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I felt like a kid in the backseat watching some of the games this fall, especially ones involving pass-happy teams.
According to the Associated Press, the average length of a game was 3 hours, 19 minutes this season. The average Ole Miss game took 3 hours, 41 minutes, the longest in the country. Wisconsin’s average game ended 50 minutes earlier.
We know why. Incompletions stop the clock in college football. Every single one of them.
Wisconsin averaged 44 rushing attempts per game. An average 3-and-out could consume almost 2 minutes of game clock.
Ole Miss led the SEC with 36.8 pass attempts this season. On average 13.25 of those were clock-stopping incompletions. A typical Rebels 3-and-out could take just 30 seconds of game clock.
There’s a simple fix. Don’t stop the clock after incompletions *until the final 4 minutes of the half or game.
7. Scrap the end zone fumble touchback rule
I’d love to know the genesis for this rule.
There aren’t many rules in any sport that punish extra effort. There’s no other rule in football that results in a turnover without, you know, the defense actually possessing the ball.
I’ve heard the other side — the defense made a great play! The defense, in theory, had other opportunities to make a great play. Why reward them with a bail out?
If you want to punish the offense, make them restart at the 20. But give them the ball.
6. Limit teams to 1 timeout during the first half
How many times do we see a coach call an early timeout simply because he has them and wants to avoid a delay of game penalty, doesn’t have enough players or the field, has too many players on the field or doesn’t like a particular set?
You have all week to work on those things.
If only every college football coach were a little more like Roy Williams … the Hater of Timeouts.
5. Suspend referees who have 2 calls overturned by review in the same game
The only thing more aggravating and unreliable than college kickers are college referees.
This suggestion will never happen, but it should. There needs to be more public accountability, public penalties paid for incompetence. Privately reassigning a poor official to a lesser game isn’t a solution.
Along those lines, I’d love for each league to release a review of calls that were missed each week.
4. Speaking of kickers, let teams place the ball wherever they want on field goal attempts
Another antiquated rule that makes no sense and serves no real benefit.
College football’s wide hashmarks create the most difficult angles, smallest windows imaginable. The NFL doesn’t do this. Its hashmarks are as wide as the goal posts, 18 feet, 6 inches. The college hashmarks are more than twice as wide — basically creating a dogleg left or right, depending on the spot.
Did Pete Dye suggest this while discussing what makes his golf courses so distinct and demanding?
Just put the ball where you want it.
3. 2-point conversions start with first overtime
I’m not sure whether it was the fourth overtime or fifth, but around that point, as thrilling as it was, most of us just wanted the Texas A&M-LSU game to end.
The rule now is teams must go for 2 starting in the third overtime.
Let’s bump that up to the first OT. Do it for the players. For the fans. And for the coaches who might have to sit in a Gatorade-soaked shirt for the next 60 minutes trying to win this thing.
2. RPOs are fine … as long as linemen stay on the line
RPO blocking has become a hot-button topic, much like the shift in baseball.
I’m not a huge fan of RPOs, but I’m not bothered enough to engage in a get-off-my-lawn missive on why they’re ruining the game and should be abandoned.
I do think, however, that the current rule allowing lineman to run block 3 yards downfield creates a competitive disadvantage. Once again, the NFL has the better rule: 1 yard. Adopt that.
1. Not all targeting is the same, so measure intent in yards, ejections
There is a lot more incidental targeting than mean-spirited targeting. Both are ruled the same.
Instead, they should be viewed in the same vein as a face-mask penalty.
College coaches already have voted to change the targeting penalties, allowing referees to measure intent and penalize accordingly. Their suggestion still starts with a 15-yard penalty. I’d reduce that to 5 for the incidental instances — especially involving ball-carriers who lower their head just before contact — but the coaches’ primary objective is to create a reasonable threshold for ejection.
As written, every targeting call results in an ejection. That’s a bad rule, made worse by the fact that every targeting call in the second half also results in that player missing the first half of the next game.
Call it the Devin White Revision, but every targeting call shouldn’t result in an ejection and certainly shouldn’t include carryover except for in the most egregious instances.
This one will get changed, fortunately. The game would be better if several others on this list were adopted as well.