Last year, the football rule changes in the NCAA and the Big Ten were minor. Eliminating the halo rule on punt returns was arguably the biggest.
However, this year, there will be some major changes. Let's examine the new rules, starting with the biggest and sure to be most controversial: instant replay.
The Big Ten was granted instant replay on a one-year trial basis for the 2004 season. It is the only conference that will have replay this year. It will be used for intraconference games only. For out of conference games at Big Ten stadiums (e.g. Cincinnati at Ohio State), the visiting teams will decide if replay will be used or not. It will not be used for out of conference road games (e.g. Ohio State at N.C. State).
Confused yet? Well, let's look at a few more of the particulars.
* There will be a replay official (technical advisor) in the press box that will notify the field officials when a play is in dispute. Like the NFL, play must be stopped before the ball is snapped. The replay official will review the play and decide if it needs to be overturned or not (this is much better than the NFL's system of the referee going over to the "peep box" and looking at replays).
* There is no time limit on replays.
* There are no "coach's challenges." Only the replay official can stop play.
* And finally, the big question: Which plays are subject to review? Could they have used instant replay in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl to catch the 20-something holding calls that were missed from Miami's O-line? Nope. Holding, pass interference and things of that nature are judgment calls. They will not be subject to replay.
Here are the only plays that will be reviewed (courtesy of our good friends at www.bigten.org).
1. Plays governed by Sideline, Goal Line, End Zone, and End Line.
a. Scoring Plays, including a runner breaking the plane of the goal line.
b. Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted at sideline, goal line, end zone, end line.
c. Runner/receiver in or out of bounds.
d. Recovery of loose ball in or out of bounds.
2. Passing Plays:
a. Pass ruled complete/incomplete/intercepted in the field of play.
b. Touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver.
c. Touching of a forward pass by a defensive player.
d. Quarterback (Passer) forward pass or fumble
e. Illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage.
f. Illegal forward pass after change of possession.
g. Forward or backward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.
3. Other Detectable Infractions:
a. Runner ruled not down by defensive contact.
b. Forward progress with respect to first down.
c. Touching of a kick.
d. Number of players on field.
There you have it. Should be interesting to see how it turns out and how many games are affected by it.
From what I've heard, Big Ten coaches (not named Joe Paterno) are not in favor of it. Jim Tressel said matter-of-factly last year that he was not in favor of instant replay unless you could replay everything (like holding, etc…). Now that it has been adopted by his conference, albeit for a single year, I expect Tressel will walk the company line and publicly support it, but he doesn't like it.
After the one-year trial, the NCAA and the Big Ten will decide if they want to bring it back for another "experimental" year, adopt it for the entire NCAA (for one, or multiple seasons), or get rid of it all together.
OTHER RULE CHANGES
There are a few other rule changes this year. These are for the entire NCAA, not just the Big Ten…
* The jersey number of a player committing a penalty will be announced. My question is: What took so long? I always found it funny that the number of a third-grade basketball player would be announced after committing a foul, but the identity of college football players were always protected. This will obviously stop the coaches from asking after every play, "Who's it on? Who's it on?"
* There is a new "leaping rule" on attempted kick blocks this year. If a player leaps and lands on nothing, or his teammate, there is no penalty. However, if a player leaps and lands on an opponent, there will be a 10-yard penalty and automatic first down.
* Finally, coaches may call timeouts directly, instead of signaling one of their players to do so.
Another good season from the baseball Buckeyes. They were young and without their top pitcher (Scott Lewis) for most of the season, but head coach Bob Todd and Co. still cranked out a 36-25 record and placed second in the Big Ten regular season and tournament. They missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years, but it was still a solid year.
In 17 seasons at OSU, Todd is now 686-344-2. He has won seven Big Ten championships and six tournament titles. Every player that he has recruited at OSU has left with a championship ring.
Now if the NCAA could figure out how to properly run baseball, OSU could really have a nationally-respected program. Since the NCAA is not willing to let the season roll into early July, the southern schools have a major advantage. The season is forced to begin in early February, leaving the northern schools on the road for the first two months. This is why the ninth-place team in the SEC (Mississippi State) ends up making the NCAA tournament over the second-place Big Ten team. The southern schools pile up wins in February and March, while the northern schools struggle to stay afloat. Could you imagine a college basketball team playing the first two months of its season on the road?
This isn't recent news or anything, but I really liked Jim O'Brien's decision to make Terence Dials the lone captain for the 2004-05 squad. Dials will be a junior, but a fourth-year junior, and is mature enough to handle the role.
The 6-9 Dials is one of those players that is always able to produce (averaging a double-double is not out of the question) and seems to be a pretty good guy off the court as well. He keeps his mouth shut, works hard and I shudder to think where this program would be without Terence Dials right now.
HAIRSTON SILVER LINING?
Possibly one of the few people in Columbus that was happy to hear Malik Hairston wasn't coming to OSU was Buckeye forward Matt Sylvester. In O'Brien's doghouse for much of last year, there wouldn't have been too much playing time for Sylvester if Hairston came here.
As it stands now, Sylvester, a 6-7 junior, will probably get a good deal of PT. He'll play some three, some four and if he can stay healthy and out of trouble, he could be the surprise player of the team.
TURANO'S JOB TO LOSE?
With A.J. Trapasso's recent issues and Josh Huston still not looking much like a punter, it might be Kyle Turano's job to lose. The Bowling Green transfer had a decent spring and might be the best option out there (or is that the lesser of the evils?). Working against Turano is the fact that he is a fifth-year senior. Tressel might want to use someone who will be back in 2006 (Huston might be granted a sixth-year of eligibility).
It will be interesting to see how it turns out, but Turano looks like the frontrunner right now. He also seems to have the holding job locked down.
JUST SAY NO TO ONE-GAME TITLE GAME
You know it's the offseason when someone suggests, "NCAA should have a one-game title game after the bowls."
Might sound good on the surface, but that would just be asking for more problems. Sure it would have worked last year with USC and LSU, but what do you do in the 2002 season after OSU beat Miami? Only one undefeated team was left standing. Why make the Buckeyes play a two-loss USC team, just for the sake of staging an extra game?
I'll say it again: The best way to determine a champion is with a six-team playoff (top two teams get a first-round bye). You still incorporate the bowls and you still have the "lesser" bowls for the teams out of the top six.
Anything short of that, the BCS is the best system. Adding a game after the BCS would only serve to screw things up the years the BCS actually works (like 2002).
Maurice Clarett recently had another court decision go against him and it does not look like he will be part of an NFL supplemental draft this year. So what options does he have left? Canada? I-AA ball? How about the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena League? Clarett always said he wanted to play linebacker; AFL players go both ways. Of course, there are no tailbacks, but Clarett could learn fullback or receiver.
I'm kidding… I think.
BIG XII DYSLEXIA?
What is up with the Big XII schools and their apparent case of dyslexia? Ever notice that the "University of Colorado" is called "CU" for short? Same goes for the University of Oklahoma (OU) and the University of Nebraska (NU).
I'm just glad our favorite school is not known as "SUO" for short.
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