Fixing the Football's Atrocious Overtime Rules

This past weekend I spent two wonderful days in Knoxville, Tennessee. I along with three of my other friends went on our somewhat-annual trip to Neyland Stadium and watched Tennessee take on new Southeastern Conference member Missouri. A side note to all of this, if you have never been to Neyland or have never heard the song “Rocky Top,” I promise you will have heard it at least 60 times by the time you leave. The game was rather entertaining as you can probably tell by the final score of 51-48.

Watching football in the south is an incredible experience that I will likely write about one of these days. While most of the game was rather enjoyable, the part that bothered me the most was overtime. I mostly prefer college’s football rules to those of the NFL because I like pure football without the blatant advantages given to the offense.

To summarize, in college football overtime starts with a coin toss to determine who will receive the ball first and which end of the field they will play at. Each team receives one possession in which to score and starting with the third overtime period teams are required to attempt a two-point conversion versus simply kicking a field goal. Both teams play at the same end of the field and start their possession at the 25-yard line. No game clock, but the 25-second play clock is used for each play from scrimmage.

Does anyone have a problem with those rules? I do. The picture above was taken from my seats at Neyland and is not zoomed. The four periods of overtime were played at the far end of the stadium. I know--buy better seats. Easier said than done. Would it be so hard for college football to alternate which end of the field they play on each period? No, but that is not even the biggest problem I have with overtime in college football.

Why do they start at the 25-yard line? The Canadian Football League, which uses the same “Kansas Playoff” format, starts each possession at the 35-yard line. I would prefer they started somewhere closer to the 50-yard line, but I am more than willing to accept the 35-yard line to force them to get at least two first downs before attempting a field goal.

Another issue, why do we need to continue playing until a team wins? Missouri and Tennessee played four overtime periods. Yes, it was fun to watch…if you were at home, and could go to bathroom and drink a beer. Neyland does not sell beer and it takes 10 minutes to walk to the closest bathroom. Solution: play two overtime periods. If neither team can figure it out, call it a tie and let us go home.

To be completely honest, I also do not like the overtime format the NFL uses. Sunday, I was out with fellow twitteres (is that a word?) Marcus (@seel_deal) and Becky (@reinhoren) watching the overtime game between St. Louis and San Francisco and the best part of the overtime was once we were into regular game mode. My point: the NFL should either play sudden death from the beginning or play an additional quarter.

Before I end, I would like to thank everyone for the excellent feedback you gave to Josh (@RailBirdJ) and I on our semi-impromptu college football podcast. We only planned to do about 20 minutes and ended up with 60 minutes of solid college football talk.

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