Image: Sports Illustrated
On Thursday, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel announced that they would be tweaking the rules of Football Overtimes in an attempt to expedite games that find themselves seemingly in perpetual deadlock. The Rule, which will go into effect for the 2021 season, forces teams to go for a two-point conversion on any touchdown scored in the second overtime onwards. Should a game still be tied after the second overtime, teams will partake in a 2-point conversion shootout, taking turns until someone can't get across the goal line.
In principle, I think it's great that the NCAA is trying to tackle the issue of games dragging on for too long. During the 2018 season, games ran for an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes, about 3 minutes longer that NFL Games in that timespan. By reducing the chances of a game overstaying its welcome, the NCAA is improving quality of play, reducing injury for those on the field, and preventing the attention spans of fans from burning out after just one week of already long games.
All that being said, these new rules are, to put it in the most academic of terms, dumb. And stupid. And also dumb.
Let's break down what works and what doesn't in College Football overtimes, and how one simple tweak can run circles around what the NCAA has in place right now.
OT Can Be Great
In my personal opinion, the September 4th, 2016 game between Notre Dame and Texas, which finished after two overtimes, is the greatest football game I've seen in my life so far. The Kick Six in the 2013 Iron Bowl is the greatest play I've ever seen, but in terms of of a game overall, the game I watched on Labor Day weekend my freshman year of college was one of the greatest offensive showdowns I have ever seen.
After taking the reins of the Longhorns offense after two losing seasons, Freshman quarterback Shane Beuchele looked as comfortable as Patrick Mahomes against the Jets, lighting up the Irish defense with 280 yards and two touchdowns, while Tyrone Swoopes scored three touchdowns on the ground for the Longhorns. Despite this strong tandem, Irish QB DeShone Kizer nearly went yard-for-yard with Beuchele with 215 of his own to go along with 5 passing touchdowns. One of the most famous plays of this game came on special teams, as Notre Dame's Shaun Crawford returned a blocked extra point for two points that would tie the game at 37 in the fourth quarter. Texas would eventually take the win as Swoopes lunged over the goal line in double OT to snag the 50-47 victory.
Games like these just weren't meant to be contained in 60 minutes, and both schools left it all out on the field in Week 1. While this game was a classic to begin with, College Football's OT rules at the time, which consisted of trading off drives at the 25 yard line, definitely allowed both top offenses to put on as great of a show as possible.
When OT Just Sucks
A game that perhaps serves as the antithesis to the aforementioned Irish-Longhorns classic, LSU and Texas A&M's 74-72 slugfest in 2018 is the epitome of why the NCAA's new overtime rules are a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. I've seen some fans of both teams and College Football in general say that this game was one of the greatest I've ever seen, but if you ask me, it was a mess after OT 3.
Tying several other games for the longest in college football history, this SEC Rivalry matchup simply devolved into who could tire out last, not who was the better team out there on the field, which is exactly what I think will happen with the NCAA's new system of implementing a shootout. In a 14ish game season like College Football, win and losses are meant to be an indicator of a teams ability on the field, and how it may make their case for playing in the also-currently-flawed College Football Playoff. Did Texas A&M really prove that they were the better team against LSU that night? No, they were just the last team to make a mistake.
When looking at how to eliminate these wars of attrition, there is a simple, yet less flashy solution; the return of the tie. Not seen in the college game since 1995, the tie could make a return in order to save teams from unneeded injury and fans from dragged out games, while also creating potential tension for later matchups.
For an example of how the tie can make for some exciting football, let's stay in the SEC. Say Alabama and Georgia are the powerhouses in their respective SEC divisions in a given year. In an early Week 3 meeting, they're trading touchdown after touchdown, find themselves tied after two overtimes, and the game ends in a tie. While anyone watching that night might leave the stadium or change the channel feeling a bit cheated, both teams get the credit on their record they deserve for holding out that long. Additionally, both teams would no doubt count down the days until the SEC Championship Game where that season's beef would be squashed for good.
I get that ties can be boring. However, by doing a bit of forward thinking, while also considering player safety, I think ties can make a serious comeback in College Football, and if we embrace it properly, help create plenty of more storylines for years to come.
The new NCAA OT rules will definitely be used in 2021, and we'll see them pushed to their limit over the next couple years until the Rules Committee goes back to the drawing board. Until then, the tie will just be sitting here, indifferent to everyone, waiting for it's return.