There are several new rules for the upcoming college football season, implemented for various reasons, such as player safety, limiting shady tactics, and helping refs and fans better identify players.
“Targeting” fouls will now result in an ejection in addition to a 15-yard penalty. Players are not allowed to lead with the crown of their helmet or initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with their helmet, forearm, elbow, or shoulder.
What was an illegal hit last year remains unchanged; but the penalty is far more severe. These plays can be reviewed by instant replay, meaning a call initially ejecting a player can be reversed. The rules are designed to protect not just the ball carriers but the tacklers as well. Of course, they are only called in the open field and never at the line of scrimmage, even though the first impact between offensive and defensive linemen is often helmet-to-helmet.
Loss of helmet
Last year, a new rule was implemented requiring a player whose helmet had come off to sit out a play. Having that player miss action can now be avoided if the team calls a timeout. Teams are still punished, but not so much that they necessarily have to lose a key player at a critical moment.
Teams will now need at least three seconds on the clock in order to execute a spike and still run another play. If, after the ref’s whistle, there are just one or two seconds remaining, the offense can only run one more play. This is similar to the basketball rule that established a minimum amount of time needed to get off a shot. It makes things a lot easier for the refs and takes pressure off the clock operator. I’m surprised it took the rules committee this long to figure this one out.
The color of the number on the jersey must be in contrast with the color of the jersey itself. This applies even if there is a border around the number that is a different color. This has always been a rule, but now the language in the rule book is more direct, because apparently Oregon wasn’t listening.
In addition to the rule changes listed above, there is an attempt at a clearer definition of blocking below the waist penalties that isn’t all that clear; expansion of the 10-second runoff rule, stating that if a player is injured within the last minute of a half, the opposing team can choose to have 10 seconds come off the clock (which can be avoided with a timeout); and stricter policies regulating jersey numbers—players must report to the ref if they change their number during the game and two players at the same position can’t wear the same number.