NCAA approves changes to targeting, overtime rules ahead of 2019 college football season
Targeting is a well-intended penalty but has left too much room for error in the process
As it does every year, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves adjustments to college football's rules in an attempt to improve the game. Of the items up for discussion this year, targeting (surprise, surprise) and overtime were two of the bigger-button issues on the table.
The biggest complaint with the targeting rule is not necessarily the rule itself as much as the inconsistency with which it has been applied. There has been a well-documented trail of bad calls (see: Devin White vs. Mississippi State) and the inconsistencies between calls and penalties that can result in suspensions have taken away from the game.
Starting in 2019, the panel has approved an adjustment that removes away some of the gray area that gives targeting a more all-or-nothing feel: "Instant replay officials will be directed to examine all aspects of the play and confirm the targeting foul when all elements of targeting are present. If any element of targeting cannot be confirmed, the replay official will overturn the targeting foul. There will not be an option for letting the call on the field "stand" during a targeting review -- it must either be confirmed or overturned. Games using the halftime video review procedure will continue to use the current process."
The goal of the targeting penalty is to change the way players tackle/hit one another for safety reasons. Empirically, that part seems to be working. However, it's not supposed to a punishment for a bang-bang play, resulting in an ejection because someone looking at replay can't say for sure it isn't targeting.
That being said, the panel is cracking down harder on repeat offenders -- probably because, theoretically, it'll be harder to eject a player for targeting. Players who commit three targeting fouls in the same season will receive a one-game suspension.
Additionally, the NCAA had made a tweak to college football's overtime rules. If a game reaches a fifth overtime, teams will begin to run alternating two-point plays rather than offensive possessions starting at the 25-yard line. This was done to limit the number of plays run overall.
Call it a response to the 2018 LSU-Texas A&M game, which went into seven overtimes last season and resulted in a 74-72 win for the Aggies. By the end of the game, both sides were clearly beyond gassed. Safety and recovery both need to be taken into account when discussing overtime periods in college football.
Other changes ahead of the 2019 season include a 15-yard penalty for forcible contact on blindside blocks, which sounds an awful lot like the elimination of most, if not all, blindside blocks. The NCAA also approved the elimination of the two-man wedge formation on all kickoffs.
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