The Times They Are A'Changin' - Again

Some college football fans will be caught off-guard by rule changes that go into effect this season, but Texas devoted part of spring training adjusting to at least one notable modification.

Starting this fall, NCAA officials will administer a 40-second clock at the end of each play. It marks the third straight year that the NCAA Football Rules Committee has made recommendations intended to accelerate the game's pace. The proposals largely stemmed from television networks eager for time-saving measures. The average length of a college football game in 2005, for example, was 3:21, according to the NCAA.

Now, teams will adopt the NFL's play clock whereby teams have 40 seconds to snap the ball after a play is declared dead.

"We found out during the spring that it really speeds up the game," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It sounds like it would slow it down, but it tries to get the game through more quickly with the dead time (between plays)."

Last season, a 25-second clock was started when officials placed the ball down and ready for play (rather than from when the previous play was blown dead). Yet, there was inconsistency among conferences with the amount of time taken to start the play clock. Overall, the average length of a college game was shortened by 14 minutes, but that also resulted in 13 fewer plays per team from the previous season.

The new 40-second clock "should work" Brown said, who joined a host of coaches last season denouncing the 25-second clock because it took away too many plays. The 40-second play clock is expected to restore more snaps, but it could also result in a proliferation of no-huddle offenses and quicker snap counts. Overall, the measure should have the effect of accelerating the pace without shortchanging the game plan.

"If the play is a long pass, you're going to have to move forward immediately and get back to work," Brown noted. "There was definitely a quicker pace this spring than there has been in the past."

Other rule changes for 2008 include:

…The elongated definition of ‘chop block' was redefined, or scaled-back, to help officials clarify the area of the foul. A chop-block is now understood as a high-low block by any two players, with ‘low' now understood as the opponent's thigh, or below.
…The incidental five-yard face mask penalty has been eliminated. The foul is only for the pulling, turning or twisting of the face mark and shall result in a 15-yard penalty.
…A ‘horse collar' tackle is prohibited and will be treated as a personal foul.
…When a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team may now take the ball at the 40-yard line.
…Sideline infractions (formerly ‘warnings') now result in five-yard penalties; it becomes a 15-yard penalty with the third infraction of the contest.

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