By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
College football is at times the best TV sporting event in the country, even better than the NFL when they get it right.
No other sport can match the passion of the fans, the intensity of historic rivalries, or the week to week importance of games with single losses potentially ruining a season, but that doesn’t mean college football is flawless.
This won’t be a playoff format conversation (though for the record I prefer an eight-team playoff with automatic entry for the Power 5 conference winners, one spot for the top ranked Group of 5 team, and then two at-large bids for the best teams remaining), but instead I’ll list four ideas to fix the on the field product and TV presentation of college football.
1. Don’t Stop the Clock After a First Down is Gained
The game is too long.
Maybe if you’re a fan of an SEC team, which features more running teams who don’t run no-huddle, then this won’t seem like a major issue, but Big 12 games routinely last over four hours and many weeks take close to five hours.
Twice last season I used my DVR to record a game, but even with the channel scheduling the game for 3.5 hours and setting the record to go one hour past the end of the scheduled broadcast, my recording ended halfway through the 4th quarter.
I don’t consider myself a micro-second attention span millennial, but watching 4.5 to 5 hour games is a chore.
NFL games hit between 3 to 3.5 hours like clockwork unless there is overtime, so matching their rules on keeping the clock running after first downs should help to shorten the games significantly.
Plus, in an age where player safety is at the top of everyone’s mind, keeping the clock running would obviously mean less plays are run, and therefore players would take less hits.
Changing this rule wouldn’t impact the style of the game at all as it would be even more important for no-huddle teams to hurry with the clock not stopping, but would improve how watchable the product is and could improve player safety; it’s a win-win.
2. Make the Hash-Marks More Narrow
The distance between hash-marks decreases from high school, to college, to the NFL which has always seemed backwards. Why would games at lower levels, with less-experienced and less-talented players make it harder on kickers by increasing the angles on field goal attempts?
In the NFL, the hash-marks are in-line with the goal posts (18 feet and six inches), but those marks move out to 40 feet apart in college football, and are even further spaced apart for high school football.
Does that seem odd to anyone else?
Why are the best of the best at the NFL level given easier kicks with lesser angles than the kickers in college and high school, with presumably only one percent of them even making the NFL?
If you’re someone like me who is active on Twitter during games, how often do we see fans complaining about bad kickers in college football? All the time right? Well, narrowing the hash-marks wouldn’t improve their overall level of talent, but it would rightfully make the kicks they attempt easier.
Narrowing the hash-marks should also have the added benefit of opening up offenses and making them less predictable. Under current college rules, when an offense must snap the ball from either hash-mark, the defense either has the advantage of an extra defender with the sideline on the short-side, or has the advantage of being able to anticipate the play going to the wide-side of the field.
You could also argue that shortening the distance of the wide-side of the field by moving the hash-marks in, could also help defenses since they wouldn’t have to guard as much space.
Don’t see a negative to shortening the hash-marks; another win-win rule change.
3. Change the Catch Rule from One Foot to Two Feet Inbounds Like the NFL
This one may seem odd to you because it’s something I’ve never heard complaints about, but the logic behind it should make sense.
My biggest reason for this is uniformity, both to match other rules in the game and for the benefit of fans who watch both college football and the NFL.
To the first point, why do we require two feet plus possession when determining if a play is an incomplete pass or a catch and then fumble in the field of play in “bang-bang” situations, but then only require one foot in bounds plus possession along the sidelines?
If the pass is thrown to the middle of the field and the targeted receiver catches the ball, but still has one foot in the air and hasn’t turned to make “a football move” when a defender knocks the ball loose, then that pass is ruled incomplete.
Yet if the pass is thrown to the sideline, the targeted receiver needs only to control the ball with one foot in bounds, but doesn’t need the second foot or some sort of football move. That doesn’t make sense, why is less required of the receiver on a pass near the sideline, than when he is in the middle of the field?
Maybe using the bang-bang play example is confusing since losing possession is what caused it to be incomplete, but I hope you get my overall point which is the same criteria should be required for all parts of the field when it comes to determining what is and what isn’t a catch.
Obviously, you can’t turn and make a football move when your momentum is taking you out of bounds, but you can and should be required to get both feet in bounds.
You could also think about it this way, when a receiver or special teams player is pushed out of bounds on a play, he must re-establish himself with two feet in bounds before being able to legally touch the ball; why aren’t catches held to the same standard?
Plus, when almost every rule change is made to help the offensive side of football, it wouldn’t hurt to help the defensive side occasionally.
4. Move Back the Starting Yard Line for Overtime
I might be in the minority here, but I like the idea behind what college football uses for overtime rules, but it needs a small tweak.
Getting rid of kickoffs and punts eliminates some of the extra hits players would take, which is important when they’ve already played a full 60 minutes, but the yard line where they start each possession should be moved back. Currently each team gets alternating possessions that start at the 25-yard line, which means any team with a decent kicker is in field goal range without even running a play.
Shouldn’t the offense have to earn some yards before being able to score? If you’re going to put them that close, why not just run alternating plays from the 10-yard line like a shootout in soccer or hockey?
They should move the starting yard-line back 20 yards to the opponent’s 45-yard line that way each offense would have to gain 10 yards to even think about trying a field goal, and would need to gain 20 yards to put themselves in the very make-able range they were starting off at under the current rules.
This way you still eliminate some of the time and hits that would come with kick-offs, punts, and advancing the ball up to the 45-yard line, but would also give a fairer chance to the defense to make a stop, and force the offense to earn yards to move the ball into scoring range.