Why Super Bowl LI would have benefited from college football overtime rules
Overtime is one of the things college football does right
One of the things the NFL does better than college football is move quarters along with a running clock after first downs. But the one thing college football does better than the NFL? Overtime, without a doubt.
The overtime rules in college football are straight forward. One team gets an untimed opportunity to score starting in opponent territory and then the second team gets the exact same chance. Whoever ends the period with the most points wins, sudden-death style.
The NFL is a bit more detailed. The overtime is treated like a full quarter, time-wise. If the first offense team scores a field goal, the second team will have a chance to tie the game or go for the win. If the first team scores a touchdown, game over. Basically, first touchdown wins, which heightens the moment. Such was the case when running back James White scored from two yards out on the first possession to give the Patriots the 34-28 win.
But what if the Falcons had one more opportunity? They were, after all, the league's best offense in 2016 with an MVP at quarterback. The outcome might have been the same -- there's no woulda, coulda, shoulda here -- but at least there would have been an equal number of chances to win. That's true no matter which team went first and it's the thing that harms NFL's overtime the most.
It doesn't need to be an exact replica. NFL overtimes don't have to put offenses on the opponent's 25-yard line. Move the starting position back to the 35- or 40-yard line. Kickers are obviously far better in the NFL, too. For the sake of argument, though, let's say Super Bowl LI had a college football style overtime as it is. That's giving Tom Brady, an already four-time Super Bowl champ having the game of his life, and Matt Ryan, the league MVP, incredible field position to make the last play.
Defenses won't like it, but it has more entertainment value and the NFL is chiefly in the entertainment business. There's a unique drama to sudden-death style overtimes. It's the heightened feeling that every little thing matters more and has large-scale consequences. There's extra value for it in college football because the sport's excitement stems from its unpredictability.
In the NFL, college football-style overtime would get its extra value from seeing both sets of star players take the field at least one more time. Sunday's battle wouldn't have been just Brady in overtime, it would have been Brady and Ryan. Maybe twice. Maybe three times. The important thing is they each would have been given the same number of tries.
Therein lies the two primary benefits of college football overtime: It's exciting and it's fair. A game many will consider one of the great Super Bowls of all time deserved to have that type of ending.
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