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NCAA: No Huddle, No Problem, But OT Rules Need Change

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The 2013 San Diego State Aztecs played in four overtime games, posting a 3-1 mark. Shouldn't the NCAA start there if they want to make the game safer? Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images.
The 2013 San Diego State Aztecs played in four overtime games, posting a 3-1 mark. Shouldn't the NCAA start there if they want to make the game safer? Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images.

The NCAA is considering a rule change that would slow down teams that like to run the no-huddle offense. The new rule would give defenses time to make substitutions to counter an offense that already has its plan in place.

So instead of rewarding a well-prepared offense and punishing a defense that can't adjust, a change may be in order. The rule must be approved by a playing rules oversight panel which will meet March 6. 

Instead of this panel voting to take away one of the most popular facets of NCAA (and professional) football, perhaps it should look into something that actually could use a change in college — overtime.

Each team currently gets a possession at the other team's 25-yard line. If the teams both score the same amount of points, they do it again. If they score the same amount of points a second time, each time after, if a team scores a touchdown, they must go for a two-point conversion.

Following so far?

That's the pathetic attempt to shorten a game that, by that point, is already too long. And it doesn't work every time because there are still several ways for each team to continue tying. Both could make a field goal, miss a field goal, commit a turnover, turn it over on downs, score a touchdown and make a two-point conversion, or score a touchdown and miss a two-point conversion.

Think that hasn't happened? In 2003, Arkansas and Kentucky played seven overtimes. In fact, Arkansas won another seven-overtime game in 2001, and lost a six-overtime contest in 2002. Fast forward to 2013 and lets check out overtime by the numbers. There were 32 games overtime games, 21 of which were decided in one extra period. The other 11 were multiple-overtime affairs and included a game with five overtimes, one with four, six with three, and three with two extra sessions. (Apparently, the days of six- and seven-overtime games are a decade behind us, for what it's worth.)

However, a dozen teams played more than one overtime game in 2013, including San Diego State, which played four and posted a 3-1 record. That's a lot of drives where the offense only has a quarter of the field to go for a touchdown. 

Of course the defense is put in a tough spot and the scores in the 50s don't look good, but these rules merely change the standard and do carry some upside. Holding a team to a field goal in overtime is generally considered a victory given the circumstances. Also, the college football overtime rules did well to get rid of the dreaded tie, which used to fill a dissatisfying third column after a teams' win/loss record. They may have the NFL beat in that regard. The pros still have the occasional tie when teams fail to score in a full extra quarter of overtime. Additionally, the extra offense and instant drama brought about by putting offenses on the brink of the red zone is exciting for fans and media. Hell, its free football for those in attendance. 

But overtime sifts through a lot of tying in the extra sessions just to get rid of the possibility of an ultimate tie score. At some point, neither team should be rewarded for being unable to distinguish itself as better than the other. The NFL knows when to quit. The NFL says if you can't break the tie after a quarter, you deserve that extra column. Furthermore, the NFL allows the kickoff and punt teams to participate. It gives defense at least one more chance to shine. And, as long as the defense (or special teams) doesn't allow a touchdown, both offenses get a legitimate shot on the field in overtime as opposed to an overly legitimate automatic shot from the 25-yard line.

When it comes to overtime, college should follow suit with the NFL overtime rules, past or present. The "sudden death" mantra of days gone by in the NFL would be a significant improvement over the current 25 yards of lunacy that rules college football overtime.

If this panel has a problem with too much offense, it should take a look at overtime box scores such as the one from the Arkansas-Kentucky tussle from 2003. The 71-63 Arkansas victory was more reminiscent of a basketball score than of a football score.

If the NCAA "powers that be" are concerned about player safety, perhaps it should turn its focus away from the issue of no-huddle offense/no-clue defense. That proposed change, ironically, may trigger a delay-of-game penalty for playing too fast. Instead, the panel should turn its collective attention toward a set of overtime rules where the clock, player safety and common sense is removed from the equation.

When Arkansas and Kentucky went into that seven-overtime drag-out on Nov. 1, 2003, the game was tied at 24, meaning both teams scored far more points in overtime than they did during the 60 minutes of football when the game ideally should have been decided. To those teams, it must have felt like they played an entire second game. Although by 2003, Arkansas was becoming used to the routine.

If players are expected to endure that much overtime, they should be paid time-and-a-half like employees in conventional jobs. As it is, college football players aren't compensated for regulation, let alone overtime, but that's another issue for another time.