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As we lead up to the 2012 season, we’ll look at issues that could have an impact on teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, and preview each team. We begin with a look at the rule changes in a “non-rule change year.”

Did you enjoy all the touchbacks in the NFL last season? Get ready, because they’re coming to college football.

…assuming your team has a kicker that can send it to the back of the end zone.

A major change in kickoffs is one of the biggest changes on the horizon for college football, as college players will join the NFL is kicking off the ball at the 35-yard line. But there are some big differences from the pros as well, including one that brings into some question how much the rule changes have to do with player safety.

Because to make these rule changes for this season, a “non-rule change year,” the rule must be directly related to the safety of the student athlete.

And on the whole, the new rules hit the mark. But some changes are a bit more of a headscratcher.

Kickoff moves to the 35 yard line, but…

Data has shown over the past few years that more injuries occur on kickoffs versus any other play, and it makes sense. Players are running at full speed when they slam into one another on kickoffs, something you don’t see on many other plays.

So if you  move the kickoff up to the 35, it will lead to more touchbacks. Which means fewer plays, and fewer injuries. (And a more boring game. But safety is paramount here)

But unlike the NFL, which has teams take a touchback out to the 20 like before moving the kickoff, the NCAA has decided to move the kickoff to the 25.

That’s 5 extra yards.

And 5 more reasons for a kicker to kick it a few yards shorter instead.

From a competitive advantage, I love it. Kickoffs have more strategy then ever.

And it is safer. There still will be more touchbacks. And like the NFL, college players on the kicking team will only start 5-yards behind the ball, meaning, in theory, they won’t be at full speed.

But EIU’s Dino Babers made a very interesting point at OVC Media Day.

“You’re still running 40 yards.”

All in all, I feel the NCAA rules committee looked at the NFL, saw what the change did to the game and realized “Hey, we still want kickoff returns. Just safer returns.”

Other Kickoff Changes

While kickoffs are more strategics, onside kicks have been made much more difficult. But no question safety is enhanced by this rule.

A player of the receiving team who is in position to receive the ball has the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven to the ground, strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of the ball kicked directly off the tee.

The idea here is to completely get rid of teams kicking it straight into the ground, only for it to bounce up. It can hit the ground, but more in line-drive fashion, not straight down off the tee.

Blocking Below The Waist

Blocking below the waist is essentially banned, except for offensive linemen, but of course, there are exceptions.

For example, a back who is in motion inside the tackle box, and never leaves the tackle box before the snap can block below the waist.

Outside the tackle box, blocks below the waist are allowed “along the north-south line or toward his adjacent sideline.”

No blocks below the waist are allowed past the line of scrimmage.

For the defense, blocking below the waist is only once you get five yards past the line of scrimmage.

Time to lose the Dreads?

Lose your helmet, take a seat for the rest of the current play, and leave the field for the next play.

That’s the essence of the new helmet rule, and it’s not much more complicated than that.

First, there’s a small clock implication in the last minute of each half. If a helmet violation happens in the last minute, the opponents have an option of a 10-second clock runoff. Minor, but could come into effect.

If the ball carrier loses his helmet, the play is dead, right then and there. If it’s someone else, the play goes on, but they can’t participate in the play “beyond the immediate action in which he in engaged.”

Break that rule? 15 yard penalty, and an automatic first down. Ouch.

Of course, if you’re caught removing your helmet on purpose for whatever reason, same penalty.

Clearly, little reason for controversy here. Safety all the way.

The End of the Punt Block?

Well, maybe that’s overly dramatic. But an already hard task is even harder.

Simply, you can’t attempt to jump over a player when going after a punt. You can jump straight up. You can jump between two people. I assume you can still dive if you get a clean run. You just can’t jump over anybody.

Meaning the 3-man shield is stronger than ever.

I’m sure this will matter for some reason…

The definition of catch interference has changed somewhat, but won’t be an issue the majority of the time. The new rule:

Before the receiver touches the ball, if a member of the kicking team enters the area defined by the width of the receiver’s shoulders and extending one yard in front of him, it is a foul.

Small change.

 

All in all, things aren’t vastly different, and unless it’s explained, many football fans won’t notice anything outside the kickoffs. Is the game safer? Sure. Is it as “safe as possible.”

No.

And I hope we never get to that point. Because for that to happen, most of what makes college football safe will be gone from the game forever.

Long live kickoffs.

A player of the receiving team who is in position to receive the ball has the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven to the ground, strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of the ball kicked directly off the tee.


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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