State of the Hogs: Rule Changes

There are a few new rules on the books this college season. I like most of them. Either way, it's good to find out what's new this year.

I love rules. I cause problems in my home because of my interpretation of rules.

For instance, I once caused a serious argument among family members on a vacation because I bought a buffet lunch (and the rest of my family ordered from the menu) and did not allow anyone to have anything off of my plate.

I know, I know. We don't need to go there again. I learned my lesson. No one talked to me for the next 500 miles of our trip. I'll give away my biscuit next time and go back through the line for a second if it ever comes up again.

But, heck, a rule is a rule. Got to enforce them when they are posted above the buffet line.

The problem with rules is we often don't know them or understand them. I'm as guilty as the next college football fan. But I do try to keep up when the rules are changed.

I especially hate it when we have to hear a television commentator do a college game when he's really an NFL guy. He'll interpret a college rule with the NFL slant. I'll holler at my TV, "Learn the college rules!" And, my family will ask me to calm down.

There is good news for me. As is the trend, some of our college rules have been amended this year to more closely resemble what we see and hear on Sunday. That will help the announcers who don't know the difference.

The one that will be most obvious this weekend when we start watching college games is the way officials announce penalties. We will now be given the jersey number of the guilty player. I don't really know if it's good or bad, but it seems that we do like to put blame on athletes. So I guess it's an OK rule in most eyes.

There are many other changes, some so obscure that most won't ever come into play. I want to go over them just in case. It's good to know the rules.

I don't see that any of these are going to change the game as much as one switch did in the 1980s. That happened when offensive players were given the right to block with their hands extended. That change put the forward pass into the college game in a big way.

They say that it came about because of Lavelle Edwards' influence on the Rules Committee. (Did you know that coaches and athletic directors make the rules, not anyone at the NCAA?) Brigham Young's offense, as coached by Edwards, doubled its passing yardage in the next year. None of these changes are going to lead to anything like that this year, in my estimation.

Here are the changes for 2004 and some of my thoughts on them:

• It is now illegal in an attempt to block a field goal or extra point to jump so that you land on opposing player. That means you have to pretty much jump straight up, and not take a running start before jumping. That's my interpretation, anyway.

• No longer will the defensive team be charged with pass interference if the punting team simulates a punt, and then passes high and deep. Not many know it, but this was an Auburn play that was reported to the refs before every play. I'm glad that has been removed from Tommy Tuberville's playbook.

The reason for the change is because the receiving team would almost always be charged with pass interference for trying to block the gunner when the pass would be thrown in their area.

Can you believe that Tuberville would try such a low, dirty trick? Sorry I asked.

I know he probably takes extra biscuits from the buffet line and passes them around to the folks who ordered off the menu at his table. That's against the rules, you know.

• You now have the option to accept a penalty for offsides on a kickoff when your team has a nice return. For example, the kicking team is called for offsides, but your team ran the kickoff back to your 40-yard line. You get to keep the ball and step off another 5 yards and start at the 45. That's a good change.

• The offense is not allowed to substitute from the previous play and then rush to the line to snap the ball in an effort to catch the defense without the right personnel on the field. The umpire will step over the ball and prevent the offense from running a play until the defense is ready. And, if the 25-second clock runs out while the defense is trying to substitute, the offense will be given a delay of game penalty. The defense could also get a delay of game penalty if the referee determines that it has not acted quickly enough to substitute.

I do want to note that Arkansas has often used a similar situation to its advantage. It can continue to do that as long as it has not subbed from the previous play.

• No longer will a roughing the passer penalty be assessed when an offensive player blocks a rushing defender into the quarterback. Did Florida knock Tony Bua into Chris Leak at the end of last year's game? Probably not, but I'm going to pretend it happened if it didn't.

• A glove may not have any additional material that connects any of the fingers or thumbs. This sounds like something Tuberville would do. I'm glad they stopped him from doing that.

• Finally, there is one experimental rule that will be allowed in the Big Ten. Officials will be allowed to use video replay to review their calls only in games played at Big Ten Conference stadiums in 2004.

I kinda like that rule, but kinda don't in that it's only going to happen in one conference. I think it's a good idea, but it could lead to a real mess.

For example, a bad call is reversed in a Michigan or Ohio State game that could change the order of the national polls. A couple of weeks later, you have the same situation in an SEC game. It's a missed call that everyone can see on replay after replay on national TV. The problem with that? The SEC can't change a bad call because it isn't using the replay rule.

I like rules, but I want them to be the same for everyone. I especially don't want anyone at Ohio State or Michigan getting an extra biscuit. If you don't feel my pain, then we probably will just have to agree to disagree.

As you can tell, I don't agree with that famous adage that rules are made to be broken. And, for the record, I've never missed curfew and never been guilty of speeding going down a steep grade on I-540.

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