How might CFB rules proposals affect Cougs?

ONE OF THIS offseason's college football rules change proposals would shorten the distance o-linemen can move downfield to one-yard before the ball is thrown. Currently, it’s a three-yard limit. The effectiveness of the resulting "pop pass" is not a new phenomenon, it goes back to 2009. A Cougar assistant coach was at its forefront.

Some recent articles have all but implied the pop pass began with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. He ran it in a high profile game against Alabama in 2013 but it goes back a lot further than that.

I remember watching a wild Nevada-Boise State game in 2009. The ESPN color commentator astutely noted Nevada came back from 24 points down to make a game of it by running plays where the o-line was run blocking and the quarterback showed run -- before pulling up for a pass at the last moment. This has become known as the pop pass.

Jim Mastro was as assistant coach on that Nevada team under Chris Ault. They ripped off eight straight wins after an 0-3 start. The next season, Nevada went 13-1.

Washington State doesn’t run the pop pass in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. But they, and pretty much every other team, have been hard pressed to effectively defend against it. Among those who added it to their arsenals, and in some cases as soon as in 2010 after seeing Nevada’s success the year before included: Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, Florida, Ohio State, Kansas State, Auburn and others. It’s made its way to the NFL too, with the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll using it effectively.

NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding told the Associated Press the proposed rule change on the illegal man downfield penalty is because it is too difficult for officials to determine in the flow of a game whether a lineman had gone beyond three-yards before a pass was released. That’s certainly a true statement but it’s not the real reason, in my view. The NCAA wants to restore some balance to a game where the scales have tipped so far towards offense.

Defenses key on offensive linemen for their run-pass reads. The pop pass plays havoc with that. And so no matter how fast, athletic or just plain salty a defense is, they get burned on the pop pass. A lot.

No one wants to see a 6-3 defensive struggle. But trying to restore a little of what defenses have lost in recent years makes sense. Last year’s proposal that offenses would have to wait 10 seconds before snapping the ball to allow for defensive substitutions met with a huge backlash, including by Mike Leach, and was later withdrawn. Will this proposal – one that would match the NFL’s one-yard rule -- draw enough blowback to produce a similar fate?

The proposed change is to be voted on by the Rules Committee in March. Some of the other proposed rules changes seem to make perfect sense, others seem destined to suck the drama out of a would-be fantastic finish:

-Allowing an eight-man officiating crew.
-A 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul on players who push or pull opponents off piles.
-If a helmet comes off a defensive player in the final minute of a half, there will be a 10-second runoff of the game clock and the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds. Previously, the play clock was set to 25 seconds.

You can find the full list here: CLICK HERE

The NCAA is also looking to gather more information on the potential use of tablets and computers in the coaching booths, team bench area and locker rooms for coaching purposes. The NCAA wants to also explore allowing players to wear helmets with cameras to show footage from the perspective of a player, and permitting wireless communication from a coach to one player on offense and one on defense. (Wireless devices in helmets that allow coaches to give directions or play calls to quarterbacks and one defensive player are used in the NFL).

The Pac-12 is also trying to push a new rule that would eliminate the clock stopping after a first down is made, although it doesn’t appear to have enough traction to make it onto the rules committee’s list at this point. FBS games averaged 3:23 in 2014, up six minutes from 2013. The 143.7 total plays per game was the highest ever and the points per game per team (offense) tied for the most ever at 29.5. In 2006, the average game length was 3:07, the plays per game stood at 127.5 and the points per game was 24.4.

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