It's that 'time' again

Timing is everything. If you don't believe it, consider how often the NCAA has changed its procedure for timing college football games in recent years.

NCAA brass altered the way games are timed in 2006 and again in 2007, so it isn't surprising that they're at it again for 2008. The latest change could be pretty significant.

Ever since the game began the referee would mark the ball, then swing his arm to alert the timekeeper to start the clock. The offensive team then had 25 seconds to initiate a play by snapping the ball.

Those days are gone ... sort of. This fall a 40-second clock will begin ticking as soon as an official gives a dead-ball signal to declare the previous play concluded. The umpire will spot the ball, then walk away. He will give no signal since the play clock is already running. It is up to the offensive team to locate the ball, line up and initiate a play before the 40-second clock expires.

This seems simple enough but there are exceptions, of course. Rogers Redding, coordinator of SEC officials recounted them during the recent SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

"There will be many times in the game when we will go to the 25-second clock because of administrative stoppages – if there's a penalty enforcement, a timeout, a media timeout, injured player, dog runs on the field any number of things that will cause us to shut it down and then go to 25 seconds.

"In those cases, the referee will chop it or start the 25-second clock as he always has in the past. Most of the time the clock will go to 40 seconds after every play, then start clicking down. So that's a major change."

Not content with one major change, NCAA brass also is instituting a change in the timing procedure when the ball goes out of bounds.

In the good old days (2007), when the ball was carried out of bounds or fumbled out of bounds, the clock would stop and not restart until the ball was snapped for the next play. This year the clock will resume running as soon as the ball is marked. But that's not all. The pre-2008 procedure of starting the clock when the ball is snapped will be utilized the last two minutes of each half.

Got that?

Another notable rules change for 2008 involves the face-mask rule. There no longer will be a five-yard inadvertent face-mask penalty. If it's an inadvertent grab-and-release situation, there will be no call. If the tackler grabs and PULLS or TWISTS the face-mask, however, he still will incur a 15-yard penalty.

Another major rules change for 2008 involves expanding the use of instant replay. The replay official now can be consulted when there's a question of whether a field goal attempt passed inside or outside the uprights ... also above or below the crossbar. Short-range field goals that sail above the uprights will be not be reviewable; only kicks which replay can confirm passed inside or outside of the uprights.

Fumbles can be subject to review this year, as well. In the past, the replay official could not be consulted regarding whether a ball-carrier was down or not when the ball came loose.

In addition, the rule regarding coach's challenges is being altered. If a coach successfully challenges a play, he will be allowed to challenge another play during the course of the game. If his challenge is ruled invalid, however, he will lose a timeout ... same as before.

Another rule which could have immediate impact involves the curtailing of the sideline warning. Instead of one warning, coaches and/or players who venture too close to the sideline during play will cost their teams a five-yard penalty. If a team incurs three such penalties, the third one will result in a loss of 15 yards.

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